The GWJ JRPG Club - Q1 2022 - Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

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Fellow JRPG enthusiasts, we're kicking 2022 off with a big, beautiful, storybook of a game: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. I've been excited to play this one for years. And, just like Ys VIII before it, this game is a whopper:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/mOCJxbS.png?1)

I have to admit that, when the votes all came in on the first day of our voting, I read the writing on the wall, bought this while it was still on sale (on my PS5), and played the first few hours. I'm out of town now, so I'll get back to playing, and posting about it, after Christmas. Happy gaming and happy holidays, everyone!

I really need to finish up Ys because I am really looking forward to this.

Enjoy this amazing game guys! I beat it already but i WILL FOLLOW the thread to see how you guys enjoy it

Oh ya? Hmmmmmmmmm. Could do a run through on Switch.

As good a reason as any to finally replay this gem.

Yeah I have an abandoned run on PS3 from years ago. It was fun but boy was it long. Good luck everyone. Pace yourselves.

I still had the game downloaded on my Switch from the last time it was on sale and looked like it might by the club pick for the quarter. Played the first hour or so of it last night.

It's hardly a problem unique to this game, but am I the only one who is seriously over big elaborate cinematic intros to games? I remember when games got you into the action very quickly. Link to the Past: take this sword and shield, rescue the princess, there'll be time for plot later. Final Fantasy 7: quick cut scene, hop off train, fight guards, blow up the reactor, we'll explain who you are and why you're doing this later.

I don't care about this idyllic sleepy Ghibli town or this dumb kid's hot rod, and my eyes are glazing over at this expodump from the lord high kingly lordly royal fairy lord of lords. Put me into a battle, give me a feel for the mechanics, give me an idea what this game is going to play like, and I'll be more invested in the plot later.

I like the intro. Idyllic sleepy Ghibli town is part of what I signed up for when I first played it on release. I'm not sure why you would want to play the one JRPG Ghibli had such a strong hand in and not have them do their own brand of world building. If you're looking for mechanics forward JRPG, I am not sure this is it. I would argue that the opening to the game actually is introducing you to mechanics, though, as much of the game is all about establishing relationships with other characters.

As for Mr Drippy, he really is a love him or hate him character and I think I might be on both sides of that divide.

That's fair, Ghibli movies do tend to have slow starts too-- and a lot of them never do get going, but just carry on with that same sleepy pace for two hours before calling it a day-- but the best Ghibli movie starts by dropping you into the middle of a fight between an Ainu prince and a tentacle-covered demon boar.

I think the needs of a video game are inherently different than a non-interactive medium, though. There's value in letting you actually interact with the game in a meaningful way sooner rather than later.

This is a very good game.. VERY.... i would reply it if my backlog was not that big.... id rather play unplayed games that i am very interested than replaying a game

hbi2k wrote:

I still had the game downloaded on my Switch from the last time it was on sale and looked like it might by the club pick for the quarter. Played the first hour or so of it last night.

It's hardly a problem unique to this game, but am I the only one who is seriously over big elaborate cinematic intros to games? I remember when games got you into the action very quickly. Link to the Past: take this sword and shield, rescue the princess, there'll be time for plot later. Final Fantasy 7: quick cut scene, hop off train, fight guards, blow up the reactor, we'll explain who you are and why you're doing this later.

I don't care about this idyllic sleepy Ghibli town or this dumb kid's hot rod, and my eyes are glazing over at this expodump from the lord high kingly lordly royal fairy lord of lords. Put me into a battle, give me a feel for the mechanics, give me an idea what this game is going to play like, and I'll be more invested in the plot later.

I'm with you in part. I really liked the very first opening scene and the overture -- I wish more games would feature overtures with a big theme song. It made me feel like I was at the theatre! And I liked the initial story bits and cut scenes; I didn't feel like the that went on too long.

But what started to get to me was the excessive tutorializing after getting to the other world. Even the most basic things -- fighting with a single party member, visiting a shop -- needed to be spelled out and practiced. But I guess the audience for this game might feature a lot of young players who are new to JRPGs.

I definitely found the first scene with Drippy really interesting.

Spoiler:

Anyone else find the "we might be able to save your mom" speech unconvincing, and notice how shortly after, in a different conversation, Drippy admitted that faeries are liars?

hbi2k wrote:

That's fair, Ghibli movies do tend to have slow starts too-- and a lot of them never do get going, but just carry on with that same sleepy pace for two hours before calling it a day-- but the best Ghibli movie starts by dropping you into the middle of a fight between an Ainu prince and a tentacle-covered demon boar.

Woo boy do I disagree there. I think Mononoke is supremely overrated but that's for a different thread.

Personally I enjoy the focus on cutscenes in Level-5 games because they're generally quite well done. Is this game's intro a tad long? Absolutely. But the music is stellar!

The entire intro of the game is at a stately pace, which is another Level-5 thing. Their games are all so damn long and sometimes I just want them to shut up so I can get my other 30 fetch quests over with to move the story forward.

Just like Ys last quarter, we picked another game I grabbed the collector's edition for back when it came out. They called this one the Wizard's Edition which includes: The Wizard's Companion Hardcover Book, Drippy Plush Doll, Exclusive "golden mite" and "golden drongo" DLC familiars, Special Music Seleciton CD, 5 Artwork cards, Wizard's Edition Coin, and the game software.

I actually picked it up for the hard cover book since it had amazing artwork in it and reminded me of the old Pokémon stuff. I did buy the PS4 version on sale since it looked like it was going to win and will probably play that version rather than my PS3 copy. I guess that means I will miss out on my two exclusive golden familiars unless they were bundled in the remastered versions.

Box with view of the two primary items:

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/892914841772240926/925111323572981800/20211227_112528.jpg)

All items minus game.

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/892914841772240926/925111323807858749/20211227_112705.jpg)

Drippy Plush:

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/892914841772240926/925111324021764106/20211227_112724.jpg)

The Art Cards:

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/892914841772240926/925111324399263814/20211227_113002.jpg)

Wizard's Coin:

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/892914841772240926/925112729675640952/20211227_114727.jpg)

Front page of Wizard's Companion Book:

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/892914841772240926/925111324759957596/20211227_113419.jpg)

Beautiful!

And I think the remastered version includes several DLC familiars. I noticed them when I was going through my inventory, but haven’t looked more closely (and may not use them).

This afternoon, I cleared the Ding Dong Well, and -- at about 4 hours in -- Mr. Drippy told me that our adventure begins in earnest. Feels a little ridiculous at 4 hours in, but also a little epic, like when crossing that bridge north of Cornelia in Final Fantasy.

I got that second familiar at the entrance to Ding Dong Well, tried using it, and . . . promptly wiped. Note to self: this game will kill you, especially with new, L1 familiars. Also, I love that the game is willing to do that, and that the penalty is not too great (10% of my guilders).

I'm trying to clean up all the sidequests as I go, and I've had a little trouble with the one that requires collecting items from the overworld. It seems like there aren't too many collection spots accessible in & around Ding Dong Dell.

From what I remember that 4 hours statement is accurate.

My wife went from oh that game is beautiful, maybe I'll watch you play it...

... when do you get to more story parts...

... oh you're still playing that?

At which point she lost interest and never wanted to see it again.

And then I burned out.

Last night, made it to Al Mamoon, and then hit one tough boss that took me multiple attempts to beat:

Spoiler:

Rusty's nightmare. This one felt a bit unfair to me. The game clearly wanted me to have either gotten good at using the defend command when a big hit was incoming, or to be able to interrupt the enemy's big attack with an attack, a powerful skill, or "go wild." But the timing is so tight that it's really difficult to make this happen. Only one of my familiars can actually defend, so if I was using a different one, I didn't have enough time to recognize the enemy's animation, toggle over to it (or to Oliver), and then choose to defend.

When I beat it, I felt like I had gotten really lucky on the timing and wouldn't be able to duplicate what I had just achieved. We'll see if this is an issue with other boss fights.

I'm just a little past that and hit another boss fight that was actually even tougher. I don't remember that being such a speed bump my first time through years ago, but I'm also not stopping to explore/grind as much as I did back then until I round out the party more. I haven't wiped to a boss yet, but I came really close on the one you noted LastSurprise, and the next one.

I watched a YouTube video of a guy playing that boss (the one that gave me trouble), and the video got me thinking that I've been doing combat wrong. That moves are on a cool-down timer, and that I can just rumble through most normal encounters, has me treating the game like a Final Fantasy, ATB battle system. But this guy did better than me with lower-level characters, and clearly spent much more time running around, trying to avoid attacks, collecting glims, and time his moves. And so I actually think I should be paying much more attention to this than to making sure my character's always performing an action. I should be treating this battle system -- at least for bosses -- like an ARPG that features some light menuing to get to the special moves.

This is so counterintuitive for me in an RPG that's heavily stats-based, because I carry an expectation that damage mitigation should depend on my stats rather than controller work. Reminds me of playing Dragon Age II where -- all of a sudden -- I had to play the Rock Wraith and Arishok fights with a radically different strategy.

I started this last night and made it to Ding Dong Well today. I enjoyed the "sleepy" opening of Motorville and getting you acquainted with the new world. I am currently indifferent on Mr. Drippy other than I hate his looks, especially that lantern hanging off his nose. There are better and worse tutorial companions I have encountered in games, and other than the one exception when you first arrive in Ding Dong Dell he has not been annoying. He tells you to explore the town but when I tried to explore he said I had to go to the palace, so there is a little bit of miscommunication there.

The story has not really grabbed me in earnest yet, mostly due to my lack of enthusiasm around child or naive protagonists these days. It is very much a children's storybook adventure so far and that is enjoyable, but not to the point where I am desperate to keep charging ahead. I am hoping the tutorial gloves come off soon, because Oliver not being able to put two and two together and Mr. Drippy having to spell out the plot points to this point will get old quickly.

Pre Ding Dong Well spoilers:

Spoiler:

The idea of soulmates is a really interesting idea, and I originally wondered if Mr. Drippy was lying to Oliver to get him to "become the hero", but they pay the truth of that off fairly quickly with the missing king and his soulmate back in Motorville. So at least even though Mr. Drippy said fairies are capable of lying and do it a lot, he seems on the up and up so far.

When I got to the first combat and saw it was real-time for the most part I was kind of off-put and just wished they had made it turn based, especially since when you issue the attack command, you can't control the character until the timer runs out. I made a lot more sense during the first boss when I figured you could cancel commands before their timer runs through (like to use defend when the boss is casting his big move), and even more so during the first hunt, where I completed it by sending in my familiar, let is get low, swap to Oliver to run around and cast heals and gather glims, then swap back to the familiar for damage. As LastSurprise said, it was less like typical JRPG combat and more about ARPG combat, which will hopefully not get stale by the end of the game.

I did that collecting items from the overworld sidequest and was getting fairly annoyed about it. Decided my first Merit card turn in will be the speed boost, since the enemies continued to chase me and force combats even though I could literally one-shot them, and only got 2-5 exp, which was not helping me level at all. I managed to find two gather points for the spring water and flowers though. Water was at the lake SE of Deep Dark Forest and another pond between there and DDD. Flowers were in mountains east or ENE of DDD and then east of the first lake I mentioned (I think, don't remember the second point well).

While I had originally beat the game some ten years ago, by my reckoning, I still have the pending post-game content to complete. Gotta get that Platinum, I tell myself. Additionally, I got the game for my daughter on the switch and we've started playing it together. I'll be following along, for sure.

Haven't made any more progress (because I'm fusing demons in SMT V!), but there's something else I've been thinking about.

I really like the way that this game incorporates a number of spells into questing and puzzle solving. The expanding spell repertoire gives a sense of growth as a wizard. And so far, many more of the spells are for non-combat purposes than for combat purposes. They integrate into the story well, and serve a gameplay function, and I think that makes magic more interesting--and the world more alive--than when magic's just another combat ability.

But I don't always like the way it's implemented. There are plenty of times where it is 100% clear what spell I need to cast to solve a puzzle. But it seems like frequently, when I open the menu and pick a spell to cast -- especially Give Heart -- I'll get a "Nothing Happens" message. And that's true even if I'm standing close enough to the person to be able to press X to talk. Instead, I need to talk to the NPC, and then have Drippy explicitly tell me what spell to cast, then have the spellcasting window forced open as part of the conversation, then cast the spell. It's totally cumbersome, and unnecessary, and detracts from the sense of immersion and wonder.

This is all true of Take Heart as well, though it bothers me less because the need to obtain consent provides a story reason to talk with the NPC first.

Anyway, I hope that the game will do less of this as I go along.

LastSurprise wrote:

...But I don't always like the way it's implemented. There are plenty of times where it is 100% clear what spell I need to cast to solve a puzzle. But it seems like frequently, when I open the menu and pick a spell to cast -- especially Give Heart -- I'll get a "Nothing Happens" message. And that's true even if I'm standing close enough to the person to be able to press X to talk. Instead, I need to talk to the NPC, and then have Drippy explicitly tell me what spell to cast, then have the spellcasting window forced open as part of the conversation, then cast the spell. It's totally cumbersome, and unnecessary, and detracts from the sense of immersion and wonder.

I agree on this point as well. I was doing the sidequests posts Ding Dong Well and was like "Okay, cast Give Heart" and got the nothing happens message. It is one of those things that as an adult bothers me since I know what to do but a young kid probably appreciates so they don't go wasting time/MP. I also like that the spells each have some flavor to them when you look at them in your Wizard's Companion. Like they Spring Lock spell mentions not using it for personal gain as there is punishment for the greedy. Magic feels like a part of the world as you said, not just an ability.

And speaking of Spring Lock, I was at the boss of Golden Grove when I remembered I forgot to go back to Deep Dark Woods and grab that blue chest. So I trekked all the way through both areas to open it, and do I wish these enemies would not be quite so aggressive about initiating combat.

Yes! I like having monsters visible, but if they can outrun me, and the corridors are narrow enough that I can’t dodge them, it just feels like a visual representation of a random encounter.

Yeah, that's my criticism of many games that put encounters as "mobs" while adventuring -- too often I find that it really doesn't cut down on the actual encounter rate. In those cases, I actually prefer to just do "passive random" encounters the old-fashioned way and give me items I can buy and use to reduce the encounter rate.

I made it to that mid-point of Al Mamoon that LastSurprise mentioned as a very tough boss. I failed my first fight against it as well and had to redo it which seemed to have a much worse start to the fight but managed to work through it. I basically jumped between Mitey (the Mite familiar) and Oliver for the entire fight, not using the other two. That way I always had a defend option available and I could just avoid damage on Oliver and Mitey has good defenses. That monkey familiar when I swapped to it just got decimated by damage.

The combat feels really awkward to me. Supposedly you can get counterattacks by timing your attacks correctly, and while I have seen the bubble turn blue, the window is so small it's impossible to hit the confirm button while it is blue, so all my counter attacks have been pure chance. And attacking an enemy to interrupt their skills also seems to basically not work 90% of the time, you're better off Defending or Evading, which is difficult because outside boss attacks they execute so quickly. I also don't see much point to the spell casting familiar as the only unique skill it has is the sleep one since Oliver already has access to a water spell and healing. Seems silly to make a spell casting class of familiars when your infinite stamina character is himself a spellcaster.

Post heart-mending in Al Mamoon:

Spoiler:

The went outside and did the fight with Ester helping you and the game had me take control of her to introduce you to tactics. Well, I left Oliver on "Do what you want" and the AI spent all his MP on doing something throughout the fight, but it did not feel any easier than if it has just let Mitey auto attack. So the companion AI is incredibly stupid in this game and I currently have both of them set to "Support Us" hoping they will make good decisions on when to spend their MP. I wish there was an option for like "conserve your MP" or some way to indicate they can do some amount of attacking but to reserve a chunk of MP for healing. In general though, I just hate AI party members, which is one reason I vastly prefer turn based combat.

I had also hoped with Ester being a familiar master or whatever they called her that I would finally be able to expand my roster of familiars, but all they did was give me a 4th one so I am still stuck with my rather lackluster party. I think leafing through the Wizard's Companion I saw something about "Tamed Monsters" so I assume at some point they will give me the ability to tame the creatures we fight. Thought it would be that Puppet Strings spell but that is apparently only for inanimate objects.

Spoiler:

Esther gets a monster taming skill, I believe. My guess is that it comes after the Sage’s Trial.

Spoiler:

Completed the Sage's Trials and sure enough they gave me familiar taming and evolution (metamorphosis). I ended up choosing the Lagoon Naiad as the free familiar, will see how that one works out. Being forced to evolve my Mite when I can see skills still to be learned (at levels 30 and 50) hurts me a bit, but those skills are hopefully learned by the Mighty Mite or aren't like some secret OP skill.

It was kind of weird right before the trial seeing Esther and Oliver have a pretty heavy conversation about the loss of his mom and their reasons for seeking Shadar. Not really something you expect 8-10 year olds to talk about, even in games.

Completed Old Smokey and I am now apparently off to Hamelin which is on a different continent, so once I wrap up the new sidequests, its time to find a boat!

Old Smokey:

Spoiler:

Had some difficulties with this area and the boss. I had given the Lemur to Esther as it was a good attacker and leveled already, but she seemed to take a lot of damage. Maybe AI controlled characters need to have familiars with Defend and Evade so they can try and mitigate that damage. For the boss I ended up swapping her familiars around a bit and she was able to actually survive the fight which is good since the boss' weak point is its tail. This dungeon was actually quite long and I had to spend some of my consumable to heal before I reached the halfway point rest stone.

I am really mad with Drippy currently. He lies to you that there's only 3 minutes until the volcano erupts, but as soon as you reach the summit he's all "Oh, that was just an estimate. It's fine to stop now." I didn't double back to check an area I missed because there was an on-screen timer pushing me forward, that was apparently false. I checked the Telling Stone after the boss and it looks like I grabbed all the red and blue chests there, so it was either nothing or a purple or green chest I missed which is fine for now.

I'm right behind you, Malkroth (feels right)! I just finished the Sage's Trials and picked the same one you did.

Re: the Sage's trials:

Spoiler:

Loved the puzzles in the test of wits, though the last one felt really obtuse. This also felt like the sort of thing you'd see in a SMT game; those always seem to feature at least one dungeon with some weird spatial or logic puzzle.

Really, really enjoyed the test of friendship. I thought it was kind of awkward and disorienting, but in a good way, and it was fun to try to move the characters simultaneously. I'd love to see more of this, or of creative puzzles, later in the game!

The coliseum boss was tough but I adapted my style and had an easier time with it than the Nightmare. Like Malkroth with the nightmare, I just stuck with the Mite and Oliver. I managed to defend sometimes; other times, I didn't get there in time (and very nearly died). Esther went down pretty quickly; her AI was useless, here. But I found that as Oliver, I could avoid one of the boss's big attacks by circling around the coliseum exterior, and I also found that the boss was vulnerable to the Frostbite spell. So I bided my time, waited for MP orbs to drop, and kept firing from a distance.

Also, I'm kind of surprised by how much I love the Supreme Sage and his attitude.

Re: when to evolve familiars (spoilers for my internet research):

Spoiler:

After being forced to evolve the Mite, I looked around a bit for internet guidance on the best time to evolve. Seems like there are two things to keep in mind:

  • The skills you can get (but each familiar can only hold 8 at a time), and
  • When you evolve, familiars inherit a bonus of 10% of the old, un-evolved familiar's stats

So, point #2 is the reason to wait until max level to evolve. But it seems like this is totally unnecessary for beating the game, and may only be necessary for evolving certain specific, "best" familiars if you want to beat the post-game bosses. General guidance is to evolve after you get all the skills.

It also looks like each familiar can be re-obtained elsewhere. I think, for instance, that you'll be able to find mites in the world. From what I've read, one of the most time-consuming, grindiest trophies involves getting 250 species of familiars over the course of the game (there are more than 300 species total). Each evolution counts as a species, and each the 3rd and 4th versions of any familiar are actually alternate evolution paths. So, any completionist who wants that trophy will need to capture 2 versions of many of the game's monsters, so they can pursue both paths.

In other words, don't worry, you're not locked out of anything.

On to Old Smokey!

On the Trials:

Spoiler:

The test of Friendship was really disorienting for me, having to move them simultaneously but independently. I failed quite a few times when I moved one person the wrong direction and they would fall off the platforms. Afterwards I though that a 6-8 year old would probably have an extremely difficult time with this trial and they would need the help of a parent or friend to complete it.

I wish when you first enter each of the Trial of Wits stages it would tell you what to do. Having to go to the NPC and ask for a "hint" made it feel like I was missing something and would get a lower score. I enjoyed the puzzles once I figured out I had to talk to the NPC, and at least for me the final trial was pretty clear cut what to do.

I figured out the point of the caster familiars though. At least on the Seed Sprite, it has higher MAtk than Oliver and its water spell only costs 4 rather than 6, so it's more efficient. I assume Oliver's strength will be that he can cast any element and spell (plus infinite slots).

Familiar evolution:

Spoiler:

Good to know about the stat inheiritence, I will probably let a couple I really like max out while using others to get cheap power boosts to get through earlier portions of the game easier. I thought I saw somewhere that the Mite was not available elsewhere, only from Oliver's Form Familiar spell. I probably won't go for the trophy since I saw that taming rates are like .2-12% depending on the enemy.

Count me in! This one has been on my pile of shame for far too long. I have it on PS3 already. Are there significant differences that warrant playing the Switch version instead?

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