- Game: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
- Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), PC
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developer: Level-5
A Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom review code was provided by the publisher.
Level-5 was definitely onto something when it released Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It garnered plenty of praise from fans and critics alike due to its gorgeous animated visuals and deeply emotional story. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom offers up most of the elements that made the first game so satisfying while including fresh ideas that deliver improved results. While Studio Ghibli may not be directly involved with this sequel, its presence can still be felt in a number of ways. Most notable are the crisply animated visuals that are a staple of the celebrated studio’s films. The anime-inspired sheen makes everything look all the more beautiful in motion – the game’s towns, battle areas, main characters, various enemies, and cutesy Higgledies are a perfect visual representation of this sequel’s light-hearted nature. Thankfully, the striking visual design is backed up by an impressive soundtrack full of mood-changing tunes.
On the story front, your adventure centers around Evan, a young prince who seeks to develop his own peaceful kingdom after his former home falls to a coup d’état. Evan comes into contact with a host of interesting characters that look to help him realize his grandiose dream. Evan’s good-natured personality meshes well with the more stern attitude of Roland, a mysterious man who finds himself transported to Evan’s world from a more modern dimension. They eventually come into contact with two pirates, Tani and Batu, who offer up their own memorable story threads and aid to Evan’s kingdom building goals. Evan’s journey is full of political intrigue, heartwarming moments, shocking revelations, and sorrowful developments. The opening hours crescendo quite nicely into more intriguing moments full of shocking twists and turns. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you mistook this game for being a non-serious affair due to its graphics – there’s a deep plot worth exploring here.
The battle mechanics at play here are far more-action packed than the systems featured in the first game. When it comes time to vanquish a few baddies, Evan and his motley crew employ more active tactics on their way to victory. The combat is a lot more fun due to that system change up – you can take control of a sole character and dish out damage via light/heavy attacks and special abilities. Each character has access to one of three weapons, so it’s essential to switch out to each one and make proper usage of their full strength. Evan, Roland, Tani and Batu rely on different combat styles, which offers a nice change of pace to each enemy skirmish. Fighting alongside your human companions are elemental spirits called Higgledies. These helpful little buddies add another wrinkle to the battles as they can be called upon to land big attacks and heal your party. As you unlock new abilities and more Higgledies, your combat strategies open up and give you more novel ways of defeating your enemies.
The best parts of the game’s combat involves boss encounters. These big set piece battles throw everything you’ve learned about previous conflicts all into one major clash. Taking on massive beasts and other types of intimidating opponents is certainly challenging. This increased difficulty factor is a non-issue, though. The game does a great job of making each boss fight an entertaining, nail biting affair full of ever changing elements. Overall, the action-RPG gameplay systems implemented for this sequel are vastly superior to the ones featured in its predecessor.
Evan and his cohorts are in the business of kingdom building, which happens to be a part of the game you’ll be heavily involved in. As you run into denizens from neighboring towns and other assorted locations, they’ll eventually gravitate towards your new home. As king, you’ll decide the roles of several members of your blossoming kingdom. As a city building/management simulator, this part of the game isn’t all that thrilling. To go from exploring the massive open world and fending off an assortment of creatures to tedious resource management is kind of a drag. Finding new citizens to inhabit your kingdom means you’ll be hopping into a lot of side quests. These missions rely on tired RPG tropes that aren’t as interesting as the main story tasks handed down to you. While this portion of the game is a bit weak in execution, it still feels immensely gratifying to watch your kingdom grow and see the fruits of your labor yield positive results.
Another big system that’s implemented into Evan’s kingdom building goals is army battling. As you amass a squad of capable warriors, you’ll hop into skirmishes against rival troops. These instances add another dose of pleasing enemy encounters – witnessing your miniature sized fighters get into formation, circle the battlefield, take down barriers, and push back their foes never grows tiresome. These fun side battles do more to bring Evan’s dreams to a reality. While the cuter rendition of Evan and his batch of warriors may be off-putting at first, it quickly grows on you after some time. The chibi-design of your three-person crew and army fits quite nicely with the varied environments that make up the game’s overworld. This change in visual style doesn’t take away from the game in any way and provides a a more welcome playful tone at times.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Takeways
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a massive step-up when compared to the game that came before it. Following along with Evan’s desire to build a kingdom that thrives off of peace is compelling. Moments that are full of sadness and exuberance are sprinkled throughout – these instances push the game along and keep you enthralled the entire way through. A more action-RPG centered battle system, wondrous world exploring, and an gorgeous anime sheen make this JRPG shine. However, the kingdom management portion sticks out as one of the weaker aspects of this lengthy experience. When judged as a whole, Level-5’s latest project should still be judged as a triumph.
Our Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review Score: 9 out of 10