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Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a game that I have been waiting to play for a very long time. Its predecessor is one of my favourite games of the previous console generation. Up until its official announcement, Ni no Kuni II was always at the top of my wish list for unrevealed titles.
Now that time is finally here. Ni no Kuni II features some pretty steep departures from the first entry in the series however. Does it hold the same charm this time around?
Platform: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Action role-playing game
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
A brand new story
While Ni no Kuni II takes place in the same universe as the original, it is not a direct continuation of the story. Instead it takes place centuries after the events of Ni no Kuni. Nevertheless, Ni no Kuni II retains the same style of whimsical animated storytelling.
This time around a young prince named Evan has his impending throne usurped on the cusp of his kinghood. Along with a growing band of fellow adventurers, Evan sets out to build a new kingdom of his own.
Famed animation house Studio Ghibli, who co-developed the story for the first game, are not on board this time around. Ni no Kuni II does not quite hit the same zenith of narrative impact as it did when in partnership with Studio Ghibli, but it does a satisfactory job in its own right. Evan’s story does manage to invoke some deep emotion and feelings of compassion and hope.
Gorgeous settings and environments
The backdrop for the story itself is very well-crafted. The overworld map is lush and vibrant, making traversal between areas enjoyable. It’s a more fleshed-out version of the typical lined “point A-to-B” overworld map in many similar games.
The locales that you will visit are even more vibrant and full of life. I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere in “Goldpaw”, a casino-filled gambling town blended with an Eastern aesthetic encountered early in the game.
Here residents thrive or suffer based on the foll of the dice. Flavour chat from the townsfolk fills out the backstory nicely, and the beautiful set pieces really set the mood for a unique environmental experience. Goldpaw is just one of the many immersive locations that highlight Ni no Kuni II.
Overhauled combat system
As a sequel, where Ni no Kuni II really begins to lack familiarity is in the combat system. Gone is the time-based tactical strategy aspect. Also absent is the primary battle method of collecting, leveling, and battling with captured “Familiars”. Instead Ni no Kuni II focuses on live combat.
Evan and his party engaged in a hack-and-slash combination of melee strikes mixed in with ranged and skill attacks. This makes for much faster-paced combat that will appeal to more aggro-minded players. That said, there is certainly still a level of tactical strategy involved in mastering these mechanics and timing modes of attack correctly.
New creatures called Higgledies replace the monster-like familiars to an extent. These creatures are somewhat reminiscent of Pikmin—large groups of colour-coded minions that assist in battle with an assortment of active and passive skills.
There was a divisiveness to the combat mechanics in the original Ni no Kuni, and many will see the revamped system as a bonus. While I find the new combat in Ni no Kuni II to be very enjoyable, I nevertheless fall into the opposite camp.
I truly enjoyed both the time-based combat and the familiar-collection aspect of Ni no Kuni. They were easily my favourite aspects of the game, and I’m sorry to see them abandoned.
New overworld mechanic
One of the hallmarks of the Ni no Kuni series is its stylized travelling overworld. Previously this area was used primarily for travel and traditional combat initiation alone. Ni No Kuni II however has introduced a new way to interact with the map.
“Skirmishes” are events discovered in the overworld map that result in real-time strategy battles. Here you will command armies against kingdom-invading forces, using troop and resource management skills to achieve victory.
The results of your prowess in Skirmishes is cumulative, and you will carry your success through your military career. Participating in Skirmishes will allow you to level up your armies and gradually take on larger and stronger threats. Skirmishes are an addictive and fun supplement to the core gameplay of Ni no Kuni II.
Build your own kingdom
Ni no Kuni II incorporates an excellent town management system that allows you to develop your own growing kingdom. Once Evan decides to put down stakes, he will have the option to begin completing random side quests throughout the world. The people he helps in the course of these tasks will then become recruits, populating the growing kingdom.
Different citizens have different skills, and the management aspect of the game comes into play with how you manage them. You will be able to construct different types of buildings, and put your citizens to work. Working an armoury will help you create new gear, a farm will provide food, and so on. Every type of building and worker will provide you with some kind of skill or resource that will translate to success in the primary campaign.
Of course the resources put to use in developing your kingdom are limited. A special currency called “Kingsguilder” is required for building and research, and is generated by citizens in limited quantities. You will have do decide which benefits are most important to focus on.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has a strong reputation to live up to. The story doesn’t quite achieve the same height of excellence as the original, but is still endearing. New gameplay mechanics are fun, and there is a lot to do throughout the campaign. The new combat system is much faster paced, and will impress those more interested in hack-and slash action gameplay—although some may still miss the previous time-based combat system.
+ Beautiful art direction
+ Fun new “Skirmish” and town management mechanics
+ Faster paced combat
– A less impactful story that the original
– Higgledies not complex or fun replacement for Familiars
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5 (80%)