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Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch by Joe Hisaishi (Review)

posted Jan 30, 2013, 10:43 PM by Koray Savas

Ni No Kuni is not a new game. In fact, it was originally released for the Nintendo DS in Japan back in 2010, but was subsequently upgraded for the PlayStation 3 in 2011. This little gem finally found its way across the Pacific as a PS3 exclusive earlier this month. This JRPG is particularly unique in that Level 5 developed and designed it with the aid of Studio Ghibli, who are renowned for their animation work with director Hayao Miyazaki. One of the perks of working with such a highly respected and critically acclaimed animation studio is that you get the pleasure of using their resident composer, Joe Hisaishi.

What Hisaishi accomplishes here is an exciting and broad adventure score. The main theme starts us off and we are taken into the other world Oliver, the protagonist, visits in the game. The story of Ni No Kuni is rather simple in its thematic elements. Oliver, a young boy growing up in Motortown, a typical 1950s American town, loses his mother to heart failure. Left to live on his own, his tears bring his doll Mr. Drippy to life. Drippy informs Oliver that every person in this world has a soulmate in his parallel world, and that if they save his mother's soulmate in the alternate universe, she may just come back in Oliver's. Themes of love and loss as well as hope and redemption are ever present in the game, and Hisaishi gets at the heart of the wonderment and excitement the two characters experience on their journey. The music transports you to this other world, where things can be similar but are always different, and dangerous encounters lurk at every turn. "Incident Occurrence!" and "Battle" underscore the battles in the game with their rhythmic structure. "Shizuku" is a short but lovely theme for Drippy that showcases Hisaishi's more melodic approach. "Morning Of Beginning" is a great mood setter for Oliver's travels in Motortown and "Fields" really evokes the expanse of Oliver and Drippy's travels as they trek from town to town. 

Hisaishi completely nails the adventure aspect of Ni No Kuni, but what is very disappointing is the lack of character to the music to accent Oliver's despair. The score is always fun, but the emotional journey that underlies the action on the surface is absent. Oliver is left without a musical identity, and the score's lasting impact suffers because of it.