I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it a thousand more times: I kind of love living in the age of remakes and remasters. These games were classics for a reason and it’s always pleasant to return to an experience I originally enjoyed, often in vastly improved kinds of ways. While remastering PS1-era gems like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro makes perfect sense, what about more recent games that have, for whatever reason, have been more difficult to revisit?
Level-5’s anime-tastic Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is a solid example of this; it’s a great game that’s fallen by the wayside in recent years due to being trapped on PlayStation 3 hardware since its original release back in 2011. Without the joys of backwards-comparability trying to play this one has been tough, but our long nightmare is finally over. Now it’s back and better than ever before, and still definitely worth your time. Heck, there’s always time for Ni no Kuni!
After his mother is killed in an accident, young Oliver is unsure what to do. That’s when the doll Drippy comes to life, claiming that it’s the King of the Fairies, and tells Oliver that as the Pure-Hearted One it’s his job to save the denizens of another world from the evil Dark Djinn. In return, Drippy believes that Oliver might have a chance to bring his mother back. Things aren’t always as straightforward as they seem, of course, and the quest to save Drippy’s world turns out to be much more grand than either of them expect.
Unlike its sequel, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, the original game plays like a combination of Dragon Quest and the Pokémon series. Oliver and the friends he eventually makes are capable of recruiting monsters to battle for them. Collecting, training and evolving monsters are all key to victory. Additionally, Oliver, as a wizard, is capable of using a wide variety of magic spells that can damage enemies and aid allies. Later, you’ll also work with an Alchemy system that’s essentially the same as the modern Dragon Quest titles, combining items to make newer and more impressive results.
This is all well and good and makes for a solid foundation, but where Ni no Kuni shines is its flavor. You know all those monsters and spells that you collect throughout the game? Well, you’ve got a book called the Wizard’s Companion that’s loaded with flavor text all about them. That’s a great touch and can make for hours of enjoyment. The writing in general also shines, to say nothing of the environment and setting design. Ni no Kuni was clearly a labor of love, which is unsurprising given its pedigree as a Studio Ghibli product.
That love is especially clear in this remastered version. It’s mindblowing how good this game looks when it’s given a little freedom to stretch its legs. You’re also not going to need a very powerful rig to run it; this was originally a PS3 game – really, a DS game – after all. Regardless what newer platform running it the game looks and plays better than ever, and the enhanced clarity and detail are such that some little gaffes and Easter eggs show up here and there.
It’s impressive and goes to show what a great experience this game can be. Combat and exploration might become a little tough later on, but Ni no Kuni rewards patient players with a surprisingly involved battle system and plenty of charm to go around. It’s also incredibly beautiful, those anime-styled visuals aging like fine wine. If you managed to miss the original release or if you were a fan the first time around, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is a fantastic way to return to another world.