Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch arrives on Switch, bringing its magical, colorful adventure to life on the console.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a colorful storybook adventure that first debuted in 2013 on PlayStation 3 from Level-5 as a collaboration with legendary animation outfit Studio Ghibli. It found success (and later spawned a sequel), but Switch owners had been without a way to experience the tale – until now. The original game (not the remastered versions that also hit PlayStation 4 and PC) is now available on the handheld-console hybrid, and it's just as engaging as it was when it released six years ago.
The story begins in the quaint little town of Motorville, where protagonist Oliver finds himself in a precarious position. After a harrowing turn of events that would shake any young boy to their core, he must travel to a strange new world if he wishes to save his mother's life. Thus, he becomes the "pure-hearted one" and sets off on a journey to defeat the malevolent Djinn Shadar.
Along with his stuffed animal Drippy, who oddly enough springs to life, Oliver accepts a quest that's not unlike the other fantastic Studio Ghibli stories out in the wild in a bid to recover his mother as well as save the world as he knows it from impending disaster. This well-paced story takes plenty of twists and turns along the way (with emotional revelations sprinkled throughout) and wears its heartfelt intentions and poignancy on its sleeve.
Players will jump into a vibrant world made even more impressive with the rustic visuals. Where some of the cel-shaded graphics of the original game left a bit to be desired, this iteration is absolutely gorgeous from top to bottom. While the Switch game hasn’t been remastered in the way the PlayStation 4 and PC versions have, it still shines despite being the same game you may remember from 2011.
There's much more to the game than marveling over the visuals, though. Ni no Kuni features action-oriented combat that intertwines with an entertaining "Familiar" system. Much like Pokémon or similar monster-collecting titles, players can recruit creatures all across the world to help in battle. There's a wide variety of Familiars found throughout the world, from adorable catlike creatures to mischievous devils that wander around the world.
Oliver can travel with three Familiars at his side, and they come with their own unique set of traits, weapons, and items. Raising these monsters is nearly like a metagame in itself, and colors what's actually a lengthy set of side quests in the game. It's exciting to capture Familiars and line out a complete collection of them.
Using Familiars in combat is as simple as adapting to the game's fairly standard JRPG battle system. Oliver and company will move around the field during battle, making positioning and movement important, as staying further away from enemies can mitigate damage. The party and enemies will trade blows in real time, with physical attack, spell options, defense, and items to be used each turn.
In some situations Oliver can run away while in the wild, but obviously for boss encounters that isn't an option. It can be likened to a Tales game in practice, with pauses for quick strategic decisions. It's satisfying yet still challenging, and makes for some intriguing battles. There's a familiar grind that comes along with combat as well, and the gameplay loop that comes with it is reminiscent of traditional role-playing game mainstays: exit the dungeon, restock and heal up at towns, and level up to go through it all again.
Beyond collecting Familiars and leveling them up, there's plenty to do in the game, with bounty hunts and a crafting system adding more variety to an already diverse offering of things to do. Bounty hunts find players battling formidable Familiars, while crafting can be utilized to augment Familiars so that they're ready for battle. In addition to these upgrades for Familiars, players can complete side quests as Oliver as he works to put a smile on the townsfolk's faces. Between major plot points, there are opportunities to head off on said quests that can be found waiting within the world.
This whimsical tale is brought to life with the help of an excellent English and Japanese voice cast, as well as a dazzling instrumental score helped along to sound effervescent and memorable with the help of Joe Hisaishi and the Tokyo Philharmonic. Every minute detail of the game, especially its visuals, works together to craft a wholly believable fairy tale that could have been a theatrical Studio Ghibli presentation.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on Switch may not be the remastered version seen on other consoles, but this RPG is memorable and touching, exciting and fantastical, and most of all – feels great on the Switch. Level-5's 2013 game debut is still just as exciting as it was when it first debuted, and a must-play for Switch owners.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch debuts on PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch on September 20. While the PlayStation 4 and PC versions have been remastered, the Switch version is a port of the original game. A digital Nintendo Switch code was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.