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- Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
1. Pause, pause, pause.
Ni No Kuni's real-time battle system doesn't stop while you're flipping through commands, and sometimes the action can get so frantic that you may need to take a moment to compose yourself. Maybe the camera isn't centered or you haven't yet decided how to best counterattack a boss who is about to cast a devastating spell against your entire party. Whatever the case may be, the system pauses while you're selecting a spell or swapping a character, the latter of which is the better option of the two. Just tap L1 at any time, even if you aren't swapping familiars, to give yourself some breathing room and cancel out when you're ready. As you get accustomed to the battle system, you'll find that you won't need to pause as often… apart from boss battles perhaps.
2. Heal with healing stones, Healing Touch outside of battle, and HP-recovering items.
The first healing stone you'll encounter is near the entrance of the Deep Dark Woods, which serves an as the game's introductory dungeon. Since healing stones recover all of your party's HP and MP, these are perfect rest stops as well as localized grind areas where you can use magic liberally, especially early in the game when MP is scarce.
Once Oliver learns the instant transportation spell, Travel, there's little need to restore health by paying money at an inn. Instead, just teleport to the entrance of the Deep Dark Woods (or another location with a healing stone right at its start) to heal up your party. However, still go to the inn at every location at least once, as doing so helps fill the Regions of the World section of The Wizard's Compendium.
As for healing outside of battle, if there are no healing stones nearby, stick to Oliver's low-cost Healing Touch spell (only 3 MP). If you need a substantial heal in combat, it's usually better to save your MP and use healing items, particularly the Cheeseburger or Pixie Dew in fights near the end-game. Otherwise, the familiar-based abilities Healing Rain and Aurora Curealis (which also heals ailments) are strong choices for healing spells since they cover the entire field and have low charge time.
3. Conserve MP and MP-recovery itmes for tough battles.
Most bosses have a healing stone right before them, but you never know when you might need some MP to get out of trouble. As stated earlier, MP is a precious resource and MP-recovery items even more so. You'll be lucky to find strong coffees, cappuccinos, and espressos, so conserve them for when you need them during difficult boss battles. They're also quite expensive as vendors begin to offer them in their shops. One neat tip is to collect springwater near pools of water on the world map early in the game, and then purchase two iced coffees and create strong coffees from them using alchemy. This effectively reduces the cost of the strong coffee from 800 G to 400 G apiece.
That said, your familiars and other party members should have no trouble defeating enemies without using MP at all, by assigning "Don't Use Abilities" in the Tactics combat menu. Just remember to reassign their Tactics to "Keep Us Healthy" or "Do As You Like" during boss fights. Either that or make vigilant use out of the All-Out Attack command. Sometimes hitting fast and hard is the best defense, so you'll want all your support to have enough MP to cast high damage-dealing spells.
4. Gather a party of at least three familiars with both high offense and defense.
Even if you choose the Easy difficulty setting, you'll notice that every party member is fairly weak when it comes to defense, and several unlucky hits can put them out of commission in ten seconds flat. The main reason why familiars are important is because those with high offense and defense can keep battles short and ensure that you don't have to worry about your party members falling in battle often. Many parts of Ni no Kuni can feel like an endurance run due to the high number of fights in between healing points, so it's vital that everyone stays conscience until then.
Several favorites of mine are the Puss in Boats (who can say no to a pirate cat?) whose base form is the Purrloiner (found near Skull Mountain), the Steam-Man whose base form is a Tin-Man (found near Hamelin), the Underripe Buncher whose base form is the Green Buncher (found near Al Mamoon), and the Eldritch Empress whose base form is Ice Maiden (found near Yule). All of these have very strong offense as well as the defense to back it up.
The Puss in Boats, in particular, as an incredibly high attack speed and attack power once it's properly leveled. The Steam-Man and Underripe Buncher have strong overall physical and magical defense, so I recommend placing them as the first familiar for AI characters ("first familiar" means the leftmost assignment in a character's party of three familiars). Finally, make sure that Oliver and least one AI character has a familiar with spells that can heal the entire party: Healing Rain and Aurora Curealis are godsends.
5. Get as many back approaches as possible.
Approaching an enemy on the field while it has its back turned gives you a few seconds to thrash on the opponent team without repercussion. This makes it easy for your party to fight one fewer enemy, which means less healing and a much easier time surviving the onslaught of enemies between your party and the next healing point. Near the endgame, this allows Oliver to pull off powerful screen-clearing spells without fear right at the beginning of battle.
Most enemies on the field will detect you from a distance and rush in on your location, but in many instances, you can wait from a safe distance and sneak in while its back is turned away. Also note that immediately after a battle, there are a few seconds where the game doesn't detect a back approach. So if there is an enemy close by, wait a few seconds before attempting to get a back approach. Of course, this technique becomes much simpler if enemies start running away from you due to your party being at a much higher level than they are. Unless the enemy is particularly fast on the field, you should be able to catch it in a foot race.
Several merit badges make back approaches easier to obtain. The Jack-in-the-Box, which costs 2 merit cards, increases the radius at which the enemy won't be able to detect you, effectively widening any attempts. To catch enemies while they are running away, the Jack Be Nimble merit award will help you close the gap for a measly 1 merit award.
6. Exploit Chart Chests, Seek Fortune, and Levitate for back approaches.
Using this trick is somewhat unfair since it games the system, but all's well that ends well. If you follow the side quest line with Horace, the ghostly spirit who can be first found near the monastery grave in Ding Dong Dell, Oliver will earn the Chart Chests spell. The Seek Fortune spell has a similar effect while on the world map. Later on, he'll also learn the Levitate spell. These spells have useful functions, the former two allowing Oliver to see all of the chests in an area, and the latter allowing the party to float in the air to avoid traps.
If you use any of these spells, you'll notice that all enemies on the field will pause while the effect text scrolls. During this time, Oliver can run around the enemy and wait at its back, or he can flee away from the enemy if you prefer. Thus, for a small amount of mana, you can nail nearly every back approach every time. If you want to exploit this further, you can slow down the text scroll speed to its lowest setting in the options, giving Oliver ample time to do whatever he wants. You can even avoid every enemy if you wish, though it's not recommended (you'll need some experience, right?).
7. Items, items everywhere.
The world is full of items Oliver can find strewn about with little effort. Towns hold pots for gold and minor items that regenerate over time; the pots in Perdida have fairly strong treats for free. The world map has golden glints that hide alchemic materials and also regenerate over time. If you're looking for some rarer materials, Oliver can discover golden glints in areas unreachable on foot or by ship through some "air travel" (I'm keeping this vague so as not to spoil it… though it's kind of obvious if you look at screenshots). You can, of course, use the Seek Fortune and Chart Chests spells to locate every last chest in the game.
Oliver can open red chests liberally, but will need the Spring Lock spell to open blue chests. Once you find your third party member, green chests can be opened. And once Oliver has his magic wand fully powered and assembled, he'll be able to unlock purple chests, which hold some of the rarest items in the game. Last but not least, return to the oak tree in the Deep Dark Woods in between story points and it will give Oliver even more items for free.
8. Stick to "two wins in a row" pattern in blackjack at the Casino.
Once Oliver and company reach Skull Mountain, you'll receive notice from a messenger that the casino is now open. While we don't condone underage children to gamble, this is a video game, so who cares? Among all of the casino mini-games, blackjack remains one of the most consistent money-raisers as long as you keep to the "two wins in a row" technique.
If you win a hand, the dealer will allow you to double your winnings. Since winning blackjack is close to 50/50, the number of times you'll win twice in a row is fairly common and you'll receive at least 800 chips every time you nail two in a row. Compare this to only losing 200 chips if you lose twice in a row. Now, of course the calculation is more complicated than this, but the overall result is that the odds are in your favor to win over the long haul if you play by the book. Just make sure you quit after two rounds of winning or else the odds will begin to turn against you.
That said, it may be better to spend your time leveling up, getting money the old-fashioned way. Hey, you might as well earn experience, obtain loot, and capture familiars if you really need gilders.
9. For the endgame, concentrate on Thunderstorm and the last merit award.
Thunderstorm is a spectacular spell that inflicts storm damage on all opponents. Oliver's Windfall summon has a similar effect, but Thunderstorm has a ridiculously short charge time. For Oliver to learn it, he'll need to complete the side quest line with Horace, first encountered behind the massive grave in Ding Dong Dell. Horace will hop from town to town and ask Oliver to solve various riddles (I won't spoil the answers), awarding him with fantastic spells, the last of which is Thunderstorm.
Luckily, the final party character has access to Thunderstorm too, right from the moment he joins the team. Between him and Oliver casting Thunderstorm, alternating one after the other, the final story boss is no sweat. It gets even easier if either of them has a familiar that has Hocus Pocus, which raises magical attack.
The final merit award, Jack The Giant Killer, grants a ridiculous bonus to Oliver that dramatically improves his staying power and mana pool. Once you unlock the third tier of merit awards, by earning all the merit awards in the first and second tiers, save all the merit cards you can so that you can afford this 8-card bonus. It's a permanent boost to which no weapon or piece equipment can compare.
10. Defeat familiars with "toko" in their name, no matter how cute they are.
The "toko" family of familiars is comprised of four adorable little critters, but like the Metal Slimes in Dragon Quest, they award huge experience points as long as you can defeat them before they run away from battle.
Once you've secured "air travel" across the lands, you will find the city of Perdida hidden amongst the top of the mountains on the continent Autumnia. The valley beneath the city is called the Billy Goat's Bluff, a habitat where the Tokotoko resides. They have a low encounter rate, but if you manage to strike the killing blow on them, you'll earn a whopping 9,000+ EXP, enough to advance your entire party a few levels a time.
Last but not least, you can find one of its evolved forms called Tokotocold in the dungeon of the final story boss. Defeating this critter awards a whopping 27,000+ experience points! So if you ever feel the need to grind for levels, these are without a doubt the best places to do so.
Need some additional help with the game? Write it in the comments below. Maybe I'll answer.