Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, beautiful game by the dream team of Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, is coming to US shores January 22, 2013. I've already preordered my collector's edition and am more than ready to play and review it, but I thought I would check it out at SDCC as a teaser to myself. I was not disappointed.
The graphics are hands down gorgeous. The art style and choices made by Level-5/Studio Ghibli make Ni no Kuni look like a strange hybrid between a game and a Miyazaki film. I love it. Beyond that, many elements harken back to traditional RPGs that make me smile, since you rarely see them these days. Having the characters run around on the world map and be disproportionally big in comparison to cities and landmarks was something I didn't feel was broken, but RPG makers were hellbent to fix. Since Final Fantasy X, all I've wanted in a AAA RPG is to fly around the world map in my airship. That's it. Very simple request. But I haven't gotten it as I suppose many developers don't appreciate the same things I do, perhaps valuing size context and continuous worlds over the world map paradigm. The city was also beautiful, and felt like a fully realized area instead of a location I needed to be in for quest purposes.
But I digress, the battles are also interesting; they feel like a cross between a traditional RPG and Pokemon. There's a bit of active time battle action in the fights, but also the concept of choosing different creatures to fight for you. I rather like that as well, since it gives me a larger palate of fighters to choose from. I also find it beneficial that if my helper is knocked out, I can switch to my other character and her partner.
This game looks to harken back to older RPGs while providing world class visuals in the way only Studio Ghibli can. I am more than excited about Ni no Kuni's impending release and I hope to ring in the new year (albeit a bit late) the way I've always wanted to -- by driving around in a virtual boat for 4 hours occasionally kicking my legs up and squealing like I do when I'm gifted chocolates.