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Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom review

Ni-no-Kuni 2
Ni no Kuni was a really cool game on PS3. The collaboration with Studio Ghibli was brilliant. The visuals were absolutely amazing, alongside the anime cutscenes animated by Studio Ghibli themselves.

This is a follow-up where Ghibli has no involvement (some people who worked on the original game did though), but clearly there’s a different feel to it.

So I played through it, did a lot but not all of the side quests, and spent around 28 hours on.

Let’s go!

Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Date of Release: March 23rd 2018
Platform: PC, PS4 (PC version reviewed)
Genre: Console-style Action RPG

Rated T for Teen

Presentation

Visually the game is very pretty. It is missing the gorgeous anime scenes from Studio Ghibli, but the characters do retain that Ghibli style to them. The character designs are definitely great. The environments are also very pretty and varied, with all the towns being completely different and having cool unique concepts. I have no problem with anything visually… except for the lack of Ghibli anime scenes, and the pretty low amount of enemy variety.

Musically it’s pretty great, I’ll leave it at that. The voice acting in english is pretty good? I find that some of the performances lack feeling, King Evan will be making a generic, badly-written “rousing speech” and there won’t even be a bit of emotion in it. But then in other moments he’ll be acceptable. So not bad overall, there’s just some weird moments.

The story is… weird. Might be part of the lack of Studio Ghibli’s involvement, but it’s not super great. I predicted pretty much all the story beats long before they happened (some of which I predicted at the start of the game that paid off almost at the end).

So you play mainly as Roland (you can play as anyone in your party but I stayed with Roland, and that worked out). He’s the president of somewhere (I figure America, I don’t know). He’s being driven to a big meeting in hopes of getting countries to sign up for world peace. A missile passes by them and blows up the city they’re driving to, killing everyone. Roland is then transported to the other world from Ni no Kuni 1, but he’s younger here. He saves King Evan, the current young king of Ding Dong Dell, as his main advisor is planning on murdering him and taking over the throne. They run away, then Roland and Evan decide to just found a new kingdom, bonding to a new Kingmaker (a creature that confirms that someone is king-worthy) and then try to unite all the knigdoms. So that’s about it. There’s a bad guy stealing the bonds to the kingmakers for other kingdoms (not really explained), and that’s that.

Did you notice the one thing that’s really out of place here? Roland, the president from the real world, could be cut out ENTIRELY. His existence in this world could’ve been filled by literally anyone else in the world who might have ended up saving Evan. By the end there’s one really tiny element where it almost becomes important that he comes from the real world, but it literally ends up being meaningless. Which is weird because connection to the real world is actually a HUGE plot element in the original game. Very odd.

So the story isn’t bad, just extremely generic, predictable, and it lacks the emotional core the first game had (the main character’s mother dying). I don’t know how much Studio Ghibli was involved in the original game’s story, but it felt a lot more like something they would make than this sequel does.

Gameplay

Ni no Kuni 2 is an action-RPG. The original had an action-RPG sort of style to it, but it was more similar to the active-time battle in certain Final Fantasy games. This is basically a more straightforward action game, you can attack, dodge, block and use special attacks. I’ll talk a bit more about combat later though.

Outside of combat there’s a few things to do. You can walk around the world map where you’ll find glowy spots that give you materials, chests for items and enemies. No random battles anywhere. Enemies on the world map are always set up in a big clump right in front of you, so you can start all battles with a special attack that will hit all the enemies, very odd. Then in your kingdom you can gather the money and materials your citizens generated, build or upgrade buildings, assign citizens to buildings, start research in buildings. In other kingdoms there’s shops and NPCs with nothing to say and task-givers, alongside some NPCs that might give you sidequests.

There’s a handful of small, boring dungeons that are all designed the same. There’s not much to do in those unless there’s a sidequest that requires you to go there. There’s one big sidequest that does require to go to several of them, as some might have a dreamer door and those lead to multi-level mini-dungeons that are identical to all the others (with a bit more difficulty to them).

So sidequests… for the most part they’re all really simple. The game puts a checkpoint somewhere, you go there, probably fight something, go back to the NPC, get the rewards. Some require finding specific items (sometimes without telling you exactly what specific item to find, you just need to figure it out). Some sidequests give you citizens, sidequests from your kingdom give you king-money or whatever it’s called to upgrade your kingdom, the rest don’t quite matter unless they have good items as rewards. Tasks give you tokens that you can redeem for more citizens or some materials.

Some sidequests (and like 2 or 3 main quests) end up being something called skirmishes. Those are real time strategy battles where you move King Evan around, surrounded by up to 4 squads. They can be ranged attackers, hammer users, spear users and sword users. There’s some weakness triangle here. You can use might points to recover units in the squads or use special skills (attacks, stunning, buffs), and there’s a guts gauge that constantly refills which you can expand for stronger attacks and faster movement… Skirmishes kinda suck, but you gotta do enough of them to be able to finish the game.

So back to battles. It’s really quite simple. You have a block button (if you press a direction first ), a quick attack button, a strong attack button, jumping, and 4 special equipped skills. You can equip up to 3 weapons, and switch between them either manually or automatically. The point of that is a meter each weapon has. When you’re at 100%, using a super move with that weapon may cause enemies to fall down (for bigger monsters they need to be in a part of their attack pattern which enables them to actually fall down, smaller monsters pretty much always will).

Replacing the monster taming there’s little spirit creatures called Higgledies. You can have 4 of them in your party at once alongside the 3 party members. They don’t level up through use, but through feeding them stuff in the Higglery you’ll build in your kingdom. In battle higgledies… do stuff? Maybe? I didn’t really dig into this element. I put 4 higgledies in my party, got them to level 10, and left them pretty much as-is (you can make your own higgledies, or find some in the dungeons, maybe it helps out to do so, I don’t know). Sometimes they’d have a circle around them to launch some kind of special attack move. Elemental shields, cannons and spells. Also Lofty, who is Evan’s Kingmaker, sometimes gives you healing orbs or launches a golden orb that gives you infinite mana for a limited time (which means infinite shooting or infinite skill usage). Eh.

Quickly, the PC version mostly ran well, with some minor framerate drops from time to time which is weird (might be badly optimized, it should never run slowly on my PC), worked fine with a PS4 controller, loading times are quite short, no problems here.

Overall

Ni no Kuni 2 changes a LOT from the first one, and not really to its advantage. The new battle system is okay, but the first one was more interesting if you ask me. The lack of the monster training aspect is a bit disappointing and is what made the combat more interesting. The lack of Studio Ghibli is definitely felt here, though thankfully the visuals are still pretty good. The kingdom-building doesn’t feel like it amounts to much (though you do need to do it for one part near the end of the game). There’s a lot fewer areas than in the first game, and much fewer towns. There’s the 5 kingdoms and 2 extra-small mini-towns, but very few of those matter. There’s not even a lot of dungeons (not counting the copy-paste mini-dungeons), and a few places you can go to aren’t… useful? Maybe there’s a 100% true ending thing here that makes some of the pointless areas actually useful, I didn’t look into it and don’t care to.

If you still have your PS3 around, I’d recommend playing Ni no Kuni on there. Ni no Kuni 2 is good and fun, but it’s nowhere near the level of the original. I’d give it a pretty mild recommendation, it’s not a must-play or anything.

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