Step into another world
Tragedy turns into wonder in Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on PlayStation 3. When young Oliver loses his mother after a hobby goes terribly wrong, little does he know the adventure of a lifetime is just around the corner.
Tinkering away on a home-made car with his best friend, 13-year-old Oliver has no idea of the chain reaction they are about to set off. After firing it up for the first time, the car plummets into the local river with Oliver at the wheel and his mother, Allie, swims to the rescue. Yet Allie's weak heart gives up on her seconds after pulling her son ashore and Oliver is plunged into despair.
Somehow, the grief-ridden boy's tears bring his favourite cuddly toy, Drippy, to life. And that's not all – the lantern-nosed doll is from a parallel world that might hold the key to bringing Allie back from the dead.
One thing stands in Oliver's way: an evil spirit named Shadar threatens to destroy Drippy's world. If Oliver is to stand any chance of seeing his mother again, he must first save his new friend's home.
Ever sat, open-jawed, through a Studio Ghibli movie and thought, "I'd love to play a video game that looked like that"? Well, now you can. The Japanese animation studio behind magical tales such as Ponyo and Spirited Away has teamed up with developer LEVEL-5 for this PS3 adventure, and the results are spellbinding.
Enchanted forests, proud castles, bustling cities and strange creatures bring this fairy tale land to life. Wherever you look, charm and heart-warming detail fizz on-screen thanks to the artists at what many call Japan's equivalent of The Walt Disney Studios. It's there in the imps and beasts you befriend, the sense of no horizon being too far away to explore and even the gigantic monsters sent to crush you, not to mention the swirling orchestral score by Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi.
There's so much to discover, in fact, that you won't even notice the hours whizz by. With the promise of a spectacular confrontation with a lava-spewing giant just beyond the next mountain, or a town full of interesting new people to meet – complete with regional accents – a short trek away, you'd be forgiven for ignoring the next inn and spending a few more minutes out on the road.
Leave the sleepy town of Motorville behind and follow a star-shaped marker to places such as Ding Dong Dell, Castaway Cove and the exotic island of Teeheeti. However, arriving in one piece means fighting and sometimes befriending the creatures you'll run into using Ni No Kuni's clever combat system.
Big or small, snarling or sniggering, every enemy you confront acts differently in battle. Get the better of them with brute force and dazzling magic, while making sure you and your party stay fighting fit. Take the Green Buncher, a lumbering enemy that uses its bulk to squish victims early in the game. You'll meet it while your skills are still raw – how will you defeat it?
That's where your familiars come in. These are the critters that join you after you defeat them in battle, each with different abilities. Picking one with the power to reduce the Green Buncher's defence makes it easier for you to land that decisive blow, and you can mix and match your army of familiars in a flash to pack the perfect punch.
Explore the land to find new weapons, people to help and bounties to hunt. If a monster is too tough, simply give a few smaller beasts a good hiding and use your rewards to buy more powerful equipment. There's a way around every problem, thanks to your weapons and your wits.