Ni no Kuni for the DS vs. PS3 – What’s the Difference?

As a big fan of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for the PS3, it was only a matter of time before I discovered that there was actually an earlier version of the game for the DS called Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn.  Unfortunately, this version of the game was only released in Japan, with the reasoning I had heard being the fact that this game requires a physical copy of the Wizard’s Companion, a book that is included in a digital format with the PS3 release.  On the upside, fans have created an English translation of the game, which I recently watched on YouTube thanks to YouTuber Alice N Asgard.  So what’s the difference between the two games, you might be asking?  Well, you’re in luck, because that’s the exact focus of today’s post!

In a lot of ways, these games are more or less the same.  Sure, the characters’ names are different, and there is more of a turn-based battle system in the DS version, where Mr. Drippy (or Shizuku) is actually playable earlier on.  (I can’t comment too much on the gameplay because, again, I didn’t actually play the game.  I just watched it.  And I skimmed over the battles because they’re a bit dull to watch.)  But story-wise, both games follow the same general events, though these events do sometimes play out a bit differently, which I will be expanding upon below.  And this, dear readers, is where I must warn you about spoilers for both games.

One thing I found rather surprising about these games is that the PS3 version almost feels like a scaled back version of the DS game.  I know, I’d really expect the opposite to be true.  The DS game has plenty of unique locations that the “enhanced” version of the game lacks.  For example, the DS game lets you visit Xanadu (or Haven), which was destroyed by Shadar in the PS3 version.  Also, on your way to Hamelin (the Boarg Empire), you are stopped by the Eye of the Storm (which appears after fighting Shadar in the PS3 version), and the only way to move it is to visit the city of Del Mokahl and get the biggest fireworks you can find to launch it at the storm.  (This is also the place where Swaine and Esther have a very amusing argument that puts their bickering in the PS3 version to shame!)  In fact, the pyro technicians here, Flint and Tamara, happen to be the very same people you see after defeating Shadar in the PS3 version, who can be seen discussing fireworks in Ding Dong Dell.  (I thought these random characters were getting a suspicious amount of attention.  Turns out, they weren’t so random, after all.)

Lots of areas are expanded in the DS version, including the lair of Kublai the sky pirate (or Viper), and in the DS version, there is even a battle between Oliver and Kublai that takes place on cloud sweepers, a flying vehicle only mentioned in the PS3 version, but never seen.  Even Oliver’s hometown of Motorville (Hotroit) is much bigger in the DS version, and I really have to question why such an important location had to be so scaled back in the game’s console release.

Not to mention there are also plenty of events that play out differently.  In Yule (Eisburg), Pip the mouse (or Marcel in this version) nearly succeeds in killing Oliver with Cat Killer poison!  In fact, the mouse is actively working with Shadar (known as Jabou in this game) and even steals the Clarion at the end, which is, strangely enough, not used to get rid of the miasma in the Miasma Marshes (Corpse Lake)!  Also, when you sneak into the palace in Hamelin to meet Marcassin (known as Porcus Maximus), you are given the pig armor only after you promise to meet up with a guy named Micah and retrieve medicine for a little girl named Luca.

Oh, and one very confusing detail was the fact that the Wizard King’s name in the DS version of the game is Shadaar.  Which is awfully similar to the villain’s name in the PS3 version.  Shadar.  Man, did I get confused sometimes.

So, does the PS3 version have anything the DS version lacks?  Well, yes, and some of the missing elements were pretty darn important, too, because they expanded on the backstories of Mr. Drippy and Swaine.  The Fairygrounds, Mr. Drippy’s home, is nowhere to be found in the DS version.  And my favorite part of the game, when you time travel 15 years into the past, is also missing.  So you never see Swaine and Marcassin’s father, the former Emperor of Hamelin, nor do you meet Gascon (Swaine’s real name) and Marcassin as children.

The last major thing missing from the DS version is actually something I’d prefer was also absent from the PS3 version, the White Witch.  Even before I knew about the DS version of the game, which ends upon defeating Shadar (or Jabou), I felt the White Witch herself and the little girl Pea felt very out of place.  Whenever Pea shows up throughout the PS3 version, she never really adds anything, and the whole manna stuff was super weird, too.  Plus, all the cut scenes where the White Witch and her council basically scold Shadar for failing to stop Oliver yet again really undermines how menacing of a villain he could have otherwise been.

To summarize, I really loved the PS3 version of Ni no Kuni, and I was pleased to learn that the DS version was more than worthy of my time, as well.  I can’t really say one version of the game is better than the other.  The DS version has expanded locations that the PS3 version lacks and doesn’t downplay Shadar, while the PS3 version gives us more backstory for two of the major characters, Mr. Drippy and Swaine.  So in general, I think their pros and cons balance each other out quite nicely.  Before I go, I want to give a special thanks to the people who translated the game into English, without which this comparison would not have been possible!

This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on February 19, 2021.

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