Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PS4, PC via Steam
Release Date: March 23, 2018
*This review is based on 10 hours of gameplay
It’s been over 5 years since the release of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch in the United States, a true masterpiece in itself. It’s successor, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, is just as great even though it’s a standalone. Ni no Kuni II follows a young king of Ding Dong Dell named Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who is half-human, half-Gimalkin. Evan was set to become king on the day of his coronation but was ousted by his father’s most trusted adviser, Chancellor Mausinger, who started a coup. Luckily, Evan met Roland who magically appeared from his world to the world of Ni no Kuni and later saved him from the coup. Rowan also helps him in his quest to create his own kingdom and unite the world.
The graphics and visuals of Ni no Kuni II are absolutely stunning, a huge step up from the first series. The over-world is still similar to the first series in terms of style but the map/geography is completely different, even though we have a returning kingdom, Ding Dong Dell. That’s great because it allows us to discover new places, as opposed to keeping the same map but with a new plot. One other thing that is new is that you become a chibi character, instead of a miniature, when walking around the over-world. Some found that off-putting but I had no issues with it. Although Studio Ghibli did not participate in adding animated cutscenes, Level-5 still did an amazing job with in-game cutscenes.
The plot-line of Ni no Kuni II isn’t too complicated or hard to understand. It reminds me of the animated series The Heroic Legend of Arslan in some ways; its protagonist was in a similar situation as Evan. I personally felt that the pacing was just right, except for the beginning. I also felt like, story-wise, they could’ve gone deeper but it was great nonetheless. Now for the length of gameplay, apparently, it should take about 40-50 hours to finish the main quests and 80 hours including the side quests. That’s awesome because some JRPGs really drag out the gameplay and story to a point where it’s not enjoyable.
The battle system in Ni no Kuni II is completely different from the first. It discards both turn-based combat as well as the familiars. Instead, it now uses real-time combat which puts more emphasis on the action. But what I loved about the first series, that the second one doesn’t have, was the ability to equip and find weapons like swords, bow and arrows, and guns, along with magic special moves. They also got rid of the familiars which were highly popular in the first series, similar to Pokemon. Now we get these cute creatures, called Higgledies, that assist you during battles, whether it is for defense or to attack. However, one change I’m grateful for was the battle transitions — you no longer have time-consuming cutscenes. When you are in close proximity to monsters/enemies, you are automatically in the battle!
The soundtrack for Ni No Kuni II is just as great as the first and is composed by Joe Hisaishi. He is known for making many soundtracks to Studio Ghibli films from Princess Mononoke to Ponyo. The style of music hasn’t changed much for Ni no Kuni II in general. But we get to hear new music in specific regions, like the Sky Pirate’s Base or at Goldpaw. The soundtrack, included in the music CD in the premium/collectors edition, was beautifully composed, particularly track 2. It has such a playful beat yet an adventurous power to it — I highly recommend listening to it!
Skirmish battles and kingdom management are both new concepts to the series and are two qualities mostly found in mobile gaming. The skirmish battles took me a while to understand how everything works but it’s quite fun once you get the hang of it. I’m not sure how it contributes to the story or if it is just a mini-game though. Kingdom management is integrated into the plot as you have to build the kingdom and grow its population through recruiting citizens. So far, I’m in the beginning stages of the kingdom but I look forward to expanding it.
After two delays back in November and January, Ni no Kuni II has finally made its release to the world. Even though it’s a standalone, it’s an amazing successor to the first series with better gameplay and visuals. There is a season pass to Ni no Kuni II so it’ll be interesting to see if they’ll expand the story somehow. Let me know your thoughts on the game if you’ve played it down in the comment section below. And to buy it, you can find it on Bandai Namco’s Ni no Kuni II page.