Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is set centuries after the events of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The new game stars the recently deposed King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum who is on a coming of age quest to bring peace to the world. Filled with youthful optimism, King Evan will build his new kingdom with the help of new friends from far and wide.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom kicks off with a violent coup at Ding Dong Dell that sends King Evan fleeing into the countryside. Now homeless, young Evan chooses to grieve the loss of his family by building a new kingdom founded on everlasting peace. Although his unlikely quest soon finds success, a new threat is emerging from the shadows that will only be stopped by a united front led by Evan.
Like many animated children films, Ni no Kuni II plot is unrealistic and a bit straight forward. Most villains are never truly evil, but only good people who have lost their way. Evan himself is so sweet and naïve that he can give anyone a cavity. Yet Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a refreshing change. Game plots have matured along with the generation of gamers who grew up playing video games. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom bucks the trend with Disney-like storytelling that will warm the heart. Even the most challenging of themes like death are handled with a light touch and a hopeful, positive message. Although the violence in the game may be a bit much for young kids, the Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom will make gamers feel young again.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an action RPG at its core. Players choose three characters and four Higgledies to take into combat. Although players control one character at a time, players can cycle between all three in the course of combat. Each character can equip three melee weapons and one ranged weapon. Melee weapons can chain combo attacks using a mix of light and heavy attacks. Mana regenerates with every melee strike and can be expended on spells or ranged attacks. Incoming damage is either completely negated by dodging out of the way or partially negated by blocking. As combat progresses, Higgledies can be activated to trigger a variety of special abilities.
Combat generally feels fluid and responsive for the most part. Dodging and attacking feel great, but the block mechanic is a bit too strict. A successful block requires players to react quite early in the telegraphed animation and for the character to be facing the incoming attack. As such, dodging tends to be more effective as it negates all damage and is more forgiving. The AI can’t be issued commands, but they generally perform well enough to be left to their own devices. Certain boss fights requiring dodging mechanics or specific targeting can sometimes be a little more than the AI can handle, but these fights tend to be rare enough to not cause an issue. The wide range of spells and character types means players can choose a playstyle they like then fill out their party with AI characters to cover their weaknesses. The mana regeneration system is goes a long way in giving the spells some meat, as players can use spells to their hearts content instead of hording skills for the dreaded boss fight. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom also offers a tactics tweaker that lets players boost certain elements, stats, and enemy weaknesses. I found that the tweaks that gave flat boosts were more effective than those that favoured certain enemies or elements at the cost of penalties against others, as the latter often requires tweaking between zones.
Outside of combat is a large world to explore. The level design is solid, with plenty of areas off the beaten path filled with rewards for explorers. The game has plenty of side quests to complete. For the most part, there are enough side activities to keep players from having to grind monsters to hit the recommended level for the story missions. There is a short period between Hydropolis and Broadleaf where the side quests dried up a little, making it harder to keep the pace without a bit of a grind. Once that hump was passed, I found the game was back to its usual pacing.
The kingdom management side activity is similar to city sims found on mobile games. Players who put in the effort of tracking down every citizen for their kingdom will be given access to research that will provide new items and quality of life services. Luckily for those who are not interested, the kingdom management is mostly optional save for a few parts on the story mission.
The strategic battle mini-game is probably the weaker of the two mini-games. Players take four units into a rock-paper-scissors strategy game. The four units will encircle Evan, and players need to rotate the units around to ensure they battle an enemy unit that is at a disadvantage. Players have amount of resources to call in reinforcements and use special abilities, which adds another strategic layer to the game. While the mini-game itself is an entertaining distraction, players do need to do a little bit of grinding to keep the army leveled up for story missions. Finding these missions can be a bit of a pain and require some exploration. I think having all the battles accessible from the kingdom management menu would have been a better solution.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom’s PC port is decent. While the controller is spot on, the mouse and keyboard controls are no slouch either. It’s refreshing to see a JRPG PC port that actually supports the mouse cursor, even if the actual application is a bit off due to the cursor having a sticking effect on buttons. On the graphics side of things, Ni no Kuni II’s manages to offer much needed PC oriented options like borderless window mode, FPS caps, and plenty of visual settings.
Unfortunately, Level-5 opted to not renew their partnership with the legendary Studio Ghibli for the Ni no Kuni sequel. However, they have done a fine job on their own. The art style is gorgeous. Each kingdom has a distinct look that leans heavily on real life inspirations. Coming upon a new kingdom is always a treat as taking my first steps in a new city never fails to fill me with awe and wonder. The chibi-style overworld screen is adorable and emphasizes the game’s light-hearted nature. Caves are the game’s one weak point, they all use the same set of assets.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom’s audio experience is very good, but a little lacking in quantity. The sound effects are enjoyable. The game is partially voice acted in Japanese and English, with major plot points and cutscenes having full voice acting. The rest of the game’s dialogue will have a few simple lines like “hello” or “hmm” for each character’s written dialogue. These filler lines to be a bit out of place, and I would have preferred full voice acting or none at all. The English voice acting is fantastic, with plenty of care paid to characters big and small. The soundtrack is excellent, but when songs are played need to be tweaked. There are some areas where the game constantly plays very tense, horror-style music normally used when an enemy is nearby. Some lower key music would be helpful for dialing down the tension in these areas.
It is not often I can say that a playing a video game is good for the soul, but Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is one of those games that always leaves me feeling happier after a gameplay session. It’s lighthearted, Disney-like atmosphere is a joy to experience. While there are some small issues that could use ironing out, the gameplay is well executed overall. The audio/visual experience is solid, though there are some areas that need a little more variety. But don’t let these small issues distract from the fact that Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
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