The Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch demo is out now on the PlayStation 3.  Set to be released in North America and Europe in January 2013, you play as a boy named Oliver who must set off to travel to a distant world in order to save his mother.  Originally released in Japan in 2011, there was every reason to bring Ni No Kuni to the rest of the world and it has all to do with pedigree.

First, it was developed by   (Professor Layton, White Knight Chronicles), so you know there will be strong RPG elements under the hood.  And after putting hands on it today, I can definitely say I’m looking forward to playing more once it is released.  Second, the art style is amazing, which was done by none other than Studio Ghibli.  You may have seen their work in full feature-length films Spirited Away or Ponyo.

LEVEL-5 did a really nice job on this demo.  You have two choices in the menu.  You can either play an early quest where they explain movement and battle mechanics in a forest area or you can get into a boss fight from slightly later on in a lava area.  Yes, the locales may seem a bit cliché, but the environments are so rich and beautiful, you really do not mind.

I played through both scenarios and at first glance, you don’t see the small subtleties in the strategy and tactics necessary to win battles, especially the boss battles.  As Oliver, you have the choice of either attacking as yourself using your staff or magic, or you can use a familiar you have caught along the way.  The familiars have a Pokemon sensibility to them (i.e. water familiars, fire familiars, etc.).  So, there is a rock-paper-scissors aspect of the battle, plus familiars can only be on the battlefield for a certain amount of time before they get tired.  I found myself not only analyzing the type of familiar to use on the battlefield, but also how long each familiar was out there and what combinations would yield me the greatest result.  It was very intriguing.

I look forward to getting my hands on Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch next month.  If you’d like to see more, be sure to check out my gameplay video and be sure to stay tuned to COIN-OP TV for more on Ni No Kuni as we get closer to the release date.