British movie-goers and TV viewers have got used to a decreasing wait between the date a film or series is shown in its country of origin and the time it hits our screens. But gamers are not so fortunate. Titles are often released in Japan years before they make it into shops in the UK.
Such is the case with the highly-anticipated Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a joint production between acclaimed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli — the makers of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away — and games developer Level 5, whose role-playing series Inazuma Eleven spawned an anime series, before their Professor Layton game was turned into a feature film.
Wrath of the White Witch has been available in Japan since 2009 but is only now, on 1 February, to get a European release (American gamers have been enjoying the game since last week). The wait can be attributed to the lengths that both Level 5 and Studio Ghibli are known to go to when translating their work for international audiences.
Japanese role-playing games often blend simple elements such as combat and exploration with a much stronger narrative than is traditionally found in western games. They command interest from a strong international fanbase, often made up of anime fans.
Ni No Kuni appears to be no different in that regard, but coming from the animation team behind such imaginative films as My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo and Spirited Away, it is also visually stunning — less than a month into 2013 some reviewers are already claimed it as the most beautiful game of the year.