Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
is all about wizardry, but not the shoot-to-kill wizardry of the Harry Potter
universe. Instead, most of your magic will be used for truly good deeds. Shadar's influence over the people in the other world causes them to be brokenhearted. But it's not the kind of brokenheartedness that afflicts people in love. Certain positive emotions are stripped clean away from certain people, leaving them bereft of courage, enthusiasm, kindness, and other valued qualities. Oliver's magic allows him to recognize individuals who are overflowing with these qualities and borrow just enough of it to bring balance to a brokenhearted individual's soul.
Your travels will invariably bring Oliver and his friends into peril, but your options for fighting back are many. The battle system is unique and familiar at the same time. All the action occurs in quasi-real time; you have complete control over your movement, but once you issue a command, the game takes over while the command is carried out. It works well; enemy attacks can be avoided by running away (unlike in most games that crib elements from MMO combat systems) or even canceled with a well-timed attack. It can feel very cumbersome at first; the circular menu that contains all of your actions can be tough to navigate while running around trying to get into a good position.
Oliver and his companions are equipped to defend themselves, but that's a task you'll usually leave up to your familiars. Taming, growing, and caring for familiars makes up a large part of Ni no Kuni, and it's probably the most rewarding mechanic in the game. Some people have likened it to Pokémon. While many of these comparisons are valid, they do this game a disservice. Ni no Kuni is much deeper and much more involving. You can build their attributes (and their rapport with you) by feeding them treats, and once they level up enough, you can feed them a special gem to initiate a metamorphosis. There's a small risk element here; once you metamorphose your familiar, its level is reset to 1. But it's not that bad; experience earned from each battle is applied to every person and familiar in your party, and it doesn't take much time to get them back into fighting shape.
A few hours into Ni no Kuni, Oliver meets a girl named Esther. She has the ability to tame wild familiars with her magical harp. Actually taming familiars requires a bit of luck, but as long as you get into fights on a regular basis, your Familiar Retreat will eventually rival the Audubon or San Diego Zoo. It's as simple as beating the crap out of them and waiting to see if they get back up with hearts over their heads. Then, all you need to do is switch to Esther and Serenade them before they run away. Collecting and growing familiars is a joy, and it may even distract you from the main quest.
Do you have fond memories of the Golden Age of JRPGs? Are you a fan of Studio Ghibli's work? If you own a PlayStation 3 and can answer either of those questions in the affirmative, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a must-own.