You can’t say anyone saw a Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch demo hitting Playstation Network, considering the chances. It didn’t get one for its Japanese release over a year ago, and most companies don’t like to provide demos for RPGs because of how unrepresentative of the final product they tend to be. But here we are, with one being provided for western audiences to give them a taste of what’s in store come January. Well, two tastes, really, since the demo includes two vastly different sections, both ending with two bosses.
Before jumping in, you’ll want to be aware of its restrictions. Both demos are timed at 25 minutes; dying and restarting at a checkpoint is included in that tally. That’s an unfortunate decision, because it’s the kind of demo that begs for every nook and cranny to be explored. It’s one you’ll want to get plenty of time out of upon realizing it takes up a whopping 2.6GB of hard drive space. The timer is usually a restriction for demo stations in trade shows, to give everyone a fair amount of time to spend with both sections. To have this remain in a public demo, though, is incredibly annoying.
And said annoyance is quadrupled because of the lack of tutorials. The game gives you some advice on what to do in battle, but there’s plenty of basic information left up to you to figure out. You can move freely during battles and pick commands for regular attacks, magic, and defense, similar to Final Fantasy XII and Level 5’s own White Knight Chronicles. And you’ll find uses for every action, because the demo, for some strange reason, throws you into a boss battle for your first experience. Don’t expect to win on your first try, though you’ll already have a better chance than most if you’ve read this far. And be prepared to play the demo section again, since every retry counts against the 25 minute total.
Though protagonist Oliver can perform actions and magic by himself, you’ll need to use the familiars for physical attacks. They both share HP and MP though, so holding L1 to switch back to Oliver to heal is recommended. The demo offers plenty of items for when you run out of MP, so it’s not too difficult to get the hang of when you know what to do.
After finishing the boss, you’ll get to explore the beautiful overworld and fight battles. You can see the enemy before they come in contact with you, but it’s a little difficult to escape them when they’re alerted. The demo could have eased the player into the game much better if it started off with this, but they assumingly thought it wouldn’t be a big enough spectacle. This section of the demo will end when you arrive in town, regardless of how much time is left.
After finishing the first section, you won’t have too much of a problem with the second, which has you travelling through a lava-infested volcanic area. Oliver is joined by a companion named Esther here, who comes with her own A.I. controlled familiar. You’ll have to run to the top within 90 seconds, which thankfully doesn’t count your time in battles. The boss of this area is a little tougher to deal with, but you have a choice of three familiars this time. You’ll also have to keep an eye on Esther and her familiar, since they apparently can’t use items themselves. The battle will go fine as long as you’re watching for cues for whether you should attack or defend.
Once you adjust to the flow of battles, the demo will actually end up being too easy. Word around the internet is that the final game a bit tougher, but includes the “Easy” difficulty option added to the All-in-One Edition released in Japan in July.
It’s tough to gauge how much depth the battle system could potentially have, which depends on which familiars you’ll collect, focus on, and level up throughout the game. This is an RPG demo, though, meaning it should only be taken as a very small sampling of what’s to come. The game releases in the west in late January.