Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was released on the PlayStation 3 in 2013 as a collaboration between Studio Ghibli and Level-5. The game met with generally positive reviews, but suffered from excessive hand holding and a story that went on a bit too long due to extra content that was added to the original Nintendo DS release. Level-5 are going it alone for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, still have the talent of the returning character designer Yoshiyuki Momose, and composer Joe Hisaishi.
The plot opens quite strangely with Roland, the President of a nation, being teleported to the world of Ni no Kuni after he is caught on the edge of an explosion that has destroyed the city to which he was traveling. Appearing in the bedroom of Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the young king of Ding Dong Dell, the two must escape the castle when the chancellor attempts to usurp the throne. With nothing but the equipment they are carrying, the two set out to build a new kingdom for Evan to rule over. The plot leads to Even meeting Lofty, the substitute for Mr. Drippy, early on, but thankfully he does not constantly shout advice in the middle of the battle.
The battle system for Ni no Kuni II has changed significantly. Gone is the system that saw Oliver throwing out commands on a cool down to his minions. Instead, Evan and friends all take part in classic action-based combat. Early on this can mean battles are fought simply by locking on to an enemy and mashing the attack button until all foes are defeated, but bosses and later battles require a little more thought with evading attacks. There is a dodge roll to avoid incoming damage and a ranged attack that relies on using MP that is built up from dealing melee damage. Up to three melee weapons can be used during combat and each builds up a power meter. When at one hundred percent the equipped weapon will boost the power of the next magic spell the character casts. Weapons are switched at the touch of a button, but can be set to automatic so that the player is automatically using the weapon closest to max.
The player is able to take part is large-scale skirmishes once Evan has founded his new kingdom. These involved picking up to four units to take into battle and leading them against enemy forces. Melee units use one of the three weapon types in the game, and these form a weapon triangle for skirmishes. Evan is the central point around which the units are rotated for optimal placement. The trick is trying to keep melee units in combat whilst protecting ranged from the opponent. If a squad suffers casualties the can be replaced by spending might, a currency limited to the battle that also allows Evan to use a squads special ability. Units are leveled up through skirmishes so that greater challenges can be assaulted later.
Having touched on the subject of Evan’s new kingdom, it is here that players will be spending a fair amount of time. Once established, players are responsible for constructing new buildings and upgrading existing ones. These are required for progressing smoothly through the game and take some effort to flesh out. For example, the outfitter is where new armor can be made and existing pieces improved, but new armor must be researched. Later researches require having citizens with certain skills assigned to the building. Developing the kingdom requires its own form of currency, the kingsguilder, earned by the kingdom over time based on how developed it has become. Returning to the kingdom periodically is required to collect the kingsguilders or else they will reach the treasury limit and no longer accumulate.
Acquiring new citizens for the kingdom is an important job as well and form the majority of the side quests in the game. Each person has a building they specialise in that will receive bonuses from them. For example, putting a farmer in a farm will provide a boost to vegetable gathering. There are many different materials in the world of Ni no Kuni II, and most can be collected through the kingdom. The materials can also be collected in various places across the world, but is open to a lot of randomness.
Replacing the monster collecting of Ni no Kuni are the higgledies. Up to four can be taken into battle with the party and provide combat support. This comes in the form of healing, buffing, or offensive spells and attacks. Higgledies can be brewed up in the kingdom after some research, or they can be found a various higgledy stone throughout the world. Each stone requires an offering and players are given a hint as to what may be required. Giving higgledies their favourite items will level them up so that they become stronger in battle.
If the game did not already have enough going on, Level-5 decided to add some random dungeons into the mix as well. As port of the story the player will be given the opportunity to enter dreamer’s doors and explore the maze within. Each door has a set number of floors with a boss waiting on the final floor. As time pass within the maze, so do does the danger level and thus the monsters within become stronger also. There are no maps within the maze, so the player has to stumble around until a door to the next level is found. A building can be constructed within the kingdom to ease the challenge somewhat.
The world of Ni no Kuni II is a gorgeous one. Cities are full of life and represent the culture of its peoples. The world map is full of interesting places to visit and alters the lighting as you travel around the globe. A minor complain is that some areas are reused. For example, if one considers a section of a forest to be a tile, then that same tile could be seen in every forest in the game. The same can be said of the different dungeon biomes the players visits, albeit with some slight colour variations.
Audio is generally of a very high quality. The game is full of sweeping orchestral tracks. Characters call out to each other during combat. Like the graphic design of each city, the sound design is matched up rather well. Many scenes are voiced, but not as many as one would expect. Most have the characters use an acknowledgement or outburst that can be heard several times throughout the game.
Ni no Kuni II only has a few issues and they are all rather minor. The game excels over its predecessor and will no doubt be in the running for game of the year. To top it off, Level-5 have given us the Suikoden game that was missing from the last console generation. Ni no Kuni II will appeal to fans of the genre as may even be worth picking up for people who do not normally play RPGs. The story is well paced and does not exceed its welcome like the last game, but there is a fair amount of post-game content that can be completed if the player is willing to put in the significant effort to do so. There is a season pass for the game, but as of writing the additional content has not been announced.
Title: Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Genre: Action Role-playing Game
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Release Date: 23 March 2018