Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is the sequel to acclaimed title Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch from developer LEVEL-5. Ni no Kuni seeks to capture the glory of RPG days of yore and their often unabashedly “cute” surface. Rapidly expanding technologies in the realm of video games have pushed a faster paced and more immersive possible environment than the games Ni no Kuni draws inspiration from. Does LEVEL-5 balance modern demands with old school allure? As usual, we have the answers.
Developed by: LEVEL-5
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment (LEVEL-5 in Japan)
Release date: 3/23/2018
Platforms: PC, PS4 (review platform)
Price at time of review: $59.99 USD
Website: Bandai Namco – Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Ni no Kuni II Review
- From Bandai Namco
- All-star production: Music by Joe Hisaishi and character designs from Yoshiyuki Momose bring this LEVEL-5 production to life
- Captivating Story: A charming and tragic tale unfolds as Evan, a boy prince learns how to become a leader and build a kingdom
- Role Playing Mastery: New and traditional RPG elements expertly crafted and designed featuring dozens of locations to explore, hundreds of
creatures to battle and a wealth of quests and secrets to uncover throughout the sweeping journey
- Another World: Stunning visuals recreate the world of Ni no Kuni and immerses players into an incredibly vibrant, animated land fi lled
with a new cast of delightful characters to meet
- Dynamic Fights: Battle against fierce foes utilizing an exciting real-time battle system.
Story and Setting
A surprisingly modern looking world sets the stage as automobiles make their way to an important appointment. As President Roland prepares for what seems like a monumental meeting of the minds a missile strike sends his car reeling. Coming into the castle with a new hairstyle, he is met by our game’s protagonist Evan. The soon to be king (and a young one at that) is recognizable from the game’s cover art and introduces us to the land of Ding Dong Dell where a coup is underway. With the help of Roland and a long time friend, Evan escapes his former home.
The cutesy style is continuously contrasted by thematic elements that are a touch darker. Like regicide, war and social media. That last one isn’t a joke, as they use a parody of social media to spread news around the kingdom. Roughly speaking and without too many spoilers, Evan is tasked with starting a new kingdom from scratch with the assistance of numerous new friends. Older gamers such as myself will be reminded of Suikoden in that there is a tendency to collect many new allies to your growing kingdom. As your friends list expands, so do your options in game.
While the story doesn’t break new ground, it does do a good job of telling an old tale in compelling manner. The occasional idiosyncratic character responses here and there create speed bumps, but don’t drastically worsen the experience. Minor spoiler, the aforementioned Roland demonstrates a puzzling lack of desire to return to his own world at the beginning of the game. This creates an impression of what should be a major character becoming closer to a main part than perhaps he should.
The game revels in its quirkiness, which helps separate it from the pack. Small friends called “Higgledies” provide support to the party and can be customized to your liking to a large degree. The random cry of “HIIIIIGGGGLLLEEEE” will likely lead to a few smiles as they go to work.
The depth of gameplay is frankly astounding with several creative mechanics. For combat, each party member can equip up to three melee weapons, which allows for tactic swapping on the fly. What equates to a power meter ebbs and flows with combat and the use of skills, making frequent weapon swapping a good idea. The game allows this to be automated, manual or a mix (you can change when you want, but the game will force you to a better weapon at certain times). Each party member will also learn various skills that can be arranged according to your liking as well as having access to a ranged weapon. The Higgledies add yet another layer to combat. And then there’s an entire screen that looks like a mixing board at a recording studio that allows battle parameters to be tweaked across a wide variety of options.
Exploration occurs in standard RPG format using a world map with numerous contained areas creating “levels.” Encounters on the world map come in the form of visible enemy sprites that can be avoided (though not always easily). In the “levels” all enemies are visible with set groups attacking in a coordinated manner. Strategic group battles or “skirmishes” simulate battles to expand the kingdom. These use a highly stylized platform that often feels like something out of an arcade. They provide a completely different feel from the third person action style of the normal combat and break up the pace nicely. And if that weren’t enough, eventually the player is able to build their kingdom to their liking which will unlock even more things to do.
There’s a high potential for being overwhelmed with options and mastery is a lofty goal. However, button mashing and rudimentary skills will see most players safely through the game. The advanced options help out more with tougher challenges. They also allow players that seek more depth to find new ways to enjoy combat. LEVEL-5 gradually introduces new mechanics and options which helps the player get familiar with the complex mechanics. It also helps alleviate excruciatingly long explanations that bog down too many RPGs to name. The bite size feeding of new information is incredibly well paced.
The biggest flaw for gameplay surrounds the sheer volume of loot. Items and gear drop at such a rapid rate right from the start that I found myself starting to tune out what I was picking up. Players with the habit of checking out that new sword will find themselves in the menu all the time. Eventually I settled into a pattern of only periodically checking out what I found. This has the unfortunate result of making loot drops far less special, which is generally a major component of the thrill of RPGs. I would find myself thinking “I have a new gun for Roland that’s way better than what I’ve been using? When did this happen?”
Audio and Visual
Music is constant but not obnoxious. The song and tone generally support the events on screen quite well. The score isn’t necessarily one rife with stand out tracks, but it successfully conveys the atmosphere and is almost always charming. Little details such as the Higgledies vocalizing add plenty of life to the world. Voice actors typically sell their parts well. The use of various accents add personality to a robust cast of characters.
Visually the game relies on a cartoon like appearance that is not ashamed to venture into “adorbs.” Anthropomorphic animals are common place. Higgledies are essentially blobs of color representing various elements turned somewhat humanoid. The game is mostly vibrant and full of color. While somewhat simplistic at first glance, details such as cloth movement show good depth of detail. Some inaccessible areas are so fully rendered, you’ll likely try to walk over to them despite their status of being no more than decoration.
Finally, while this could be covered in gameplay, a common visual item of “load screens” are pleasantly inconspicuous. Battles and changes of scenery are near constant. LEVEL-5 makes these transitions quick and smooth. Easily floating between battle and exploration goes a long way to recapturing the magic of the genre.