When Ni No Kuni came out, I was an excited man. The monster collection, the turn-based battles, and the perfectly nailed Ghibli aesthetic, everything was in line for it to be a favourite. What I found was a fun game, but a forgettable experience. Despite beating it, I struggle to remember much more than a thin outline of the plot. This meant I was a little apprehensive about the second game, could it be much more?
I was wrong to be apprehensive.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a game I didn’t know I needed right now, but merely hours in I was hooked. The game is a sequel in the lightest sense of the word, switching out the turn-based monster capturing combat, for real time action battles, with none of that monster capturing.
The actual combat isn’t overly unique. It uses all the classic real time trappings. You are in a circular area, run around and attack your enemies. You can use abilities which use mana, and every ally has multiple weapons, including a ranged one. This means you can specialise in one area or be a jack of all trades switching between close quarter combat or jumping back for ranged attacks.
What makes it special, is how it looks to the eye. Despite being a fully realised 2D environment, where you can swing the camera around at every angle, it keeps its beautiful cell shaded Studio Ghibli style. The whole game looks like a fantastic rendering of a Studio Ghibli film, but the fact that real time battles can have you swing the camera around, and maintain this, is exceptional to say the least.
What also helps keep relatively standard gameplay feel fresh and interesting is its story, and more importantly, King Evans attitude.
Evan is a young Grimalkin (human cat hybrid) boy who is thrown into his position as King of Ding Dong Dell because of his father’s passing. Instead of being mopey, he is immediately thinking of how best to serve his people, when Mausinger, a leader of the mice kind, launches an attack and takes control of Ding Dong Dell. This is done by breaking the kingsbond with the kingdoms kingmaker, which protects the kingdom, meaning the beast lost his alliance to Evan.
Thanks to a mysterious stranger who turns up in his world, King Evan escapes. It takes little time for him to gain a couple of allies with his insistence on helping people, and he soon finds himself with a chance to get a new kingmaker. Upon doing so he doesn’t even mention taking back Ding Dong Dell but starts building his own kingdom from scratch. The rest of the game then follows as he goes to kingdoms to get them to join his pact for peace and discovers them all being corrupted by a mysterious snake figure.
The gold snake man has been taking kingsbonds from kingdoms, and Evan helps keep each one from destruction, gaining allies, and more importantly, getting closer to stop this mysterious figure. Regardless of what challenges he faces, no matter what enemies or challenges arise, or times where he appears to be betrayed, Evan never gets bogged down in revenge, or ill will, instead remaining hopelessly optimistic. It’s a nice change of pace for video games for once, where most following a storyline like this would get all depressed or angsty.
The whole game is bright and colourful, which fits in with the vibe that Evan’s personality builds. Even dark and dingy areas use bold purples making it gorgeous to look at. But looks aren’t the same without the fantastic soundtrack that the game is equipped with.
One of the weirder aspects of the game are the Higgledies. These are little strange beings who help you out in battle. You gain your first ones early on, but as you play through the game, if you offer the correct items to the Higgledy stones you find, you gain more. They pop up in battles, and every so often let you launch a major support or offensive attack.
The voice acting is good, but it’s used weirdly infrequently. Dialogue is given in four ways. The first is acted during beautiful cut scenes. Secondly there are other scenes where it flicks between characters which doesn’t have the same production value, but still has voice acting. Thirdly are scenes which are the same, but don’t have voice acting, only text. This is fine, but it switches between the two, sometimes in one scene. Then fourth and last, there is dialogue in the open field that pops up on the bottom of the screen.
I can’t help but feel that the whole thing being voice acted would have helped, as even idle chit chat can help the connection with characters, which you may miss if you are too far from the screen. It also does an annoying thing where when dialogue pops up, scenes that aren’t voice acted will have a grunt, or “hey” exclaimed, which is more annoying when the word they say isn’t even in the text.
I’m nit-picking, but in a game this good, I feel I owe it.
There are also two other elements of the game, the kingdom building, and the skirmishes. The skirmishes put you in an isometric view as you perform a full-on battle. You take in up to four battalions and move around trying to defeat enemy forces. They auto attacks, so you only need to worry about strategy, healing and using special attacks. It’s fine, but far from a highlight of the game.
The Kingdom building, is linear. Basically, you are given an area and need to use money to build facilities for your kingdom. Buildings are placed in predesignated locations, and you decide where to spend the money at any given time. Building them either gives you the chance to research new abilities or perks for your characters, collects resources, or opens shops in your kingdom.
The biggest benefit the kingdom building aspect has is it gives real motivation for side-quests. Side-Quests involve finding people in the world, doing things for them and getting rewards, or more importantly, sometimes gaining them as citizens. Citizens are needed for research or running shops, so it’s well worth collecting them throughout the game.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an outstanding game with few weaknesses. You can’t help but enjoy watching the young King Evan have his optimism rewarded, as he tries to bring peace to his whole world. A delight to play, and a treat to look at, if you even remotely enjoy JRPGs, this is one to grab with both hands.