Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review
Ni no Kuni II is everything you would expect from a Japanese role-playing game. It's filling every trope you can imagine from an age old fude between cat and mouse people and adorable squeaky voiced characters, to a story that not only requires you to suspend your disbelief, but lose it all together.
While it may have inherited some of the more questionable traits from the JRPG genre, it has also taken the best parts of it too. The game's combat holds a great mix of third-person action with a blend of strategy and planning, the kingdom building aspect provides a different aspect to consider and manage, and the world is open and ready to explore.
NNK 2 is developed by Level-5 and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, and is set to release on 23 March 2018 for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4. It will be available for around the £44 mark in the UK, and around $59 in the US.
Pre-order Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom here.
We reviewed the game on PC, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find the performance was fantastic. While the machine I was playing it on was very beefy (8700k with a 1080 Ti) I had well over 150 FPS for the majority of game on the highest settings.
We've had a number of examples where the PC versions of games have been left behind when it comes to optimisation and performance, but we're glad to say that this isn't one of those.
Setting and Story
You're going to need to take a deep breath and follow me underwater for this one.
Ready? Here we go.
The game opens with the president of the USA watching a missle explode over New York City. He is then teleported into a different world and turned into an anime character, as he lands in the bedroom of a boy King who is currently on the receiving end of a coup. The cats are currently in power, but the rats are looking to change that, with the king's most trusted advisor being the one behind it all.
The president, being a man of constitution and action, takes all of this in stride, picks up the nearest sword and starts to deal with the would-be coup-ers. He then guides the boy King to safety from Ding Dong Dell, where the castle is located, through the Ding Dong Well (not making this up) sewer system.
Now, a sensational story is something we can all get on board with but you do need something to anchor you to the plot. After the first couple of hours, the characters we come across don't seem particularly unique and react to changing situations with some fairly wooden emotions.
Given that I've only played the first couple of hours, and the very considerable length of the game, there is certainly room for character development and the fleshing out of the story as we move forward. However, if the first act is anything to go from, we're not looking at anything overly special in his area.
The combat is fought from a third-person perspective, and has you hacking, slashing, dodging and blocking your way through groups of monsters. You can lock onto a specific target to focus your attacks, or stay free form to cleave in a certain direction. The whole thing feels like Dark Souls lite, it's not quite as slow or methodical, but the mechanics of avoiding the enemies attacks and counter attacking are the same.
As the game progresses you will add more characters to your party, which can be equipped with the loot you find from monsters and dungeons. Their spells and abilities can be customised, and the mechanic that charges up your melee weapons will augment your abillites causing additional effects.
The game does a very good job of introducing you to these mechanics, starting slow and gradually building them upon each other so as not to overwhelm the player.
One of the main focuses of the combat are around “Higgledies”. These are essentially cute, cuddly versions of elements and other forces that can be recruited to join your party. They have different abilities and traits, can be offensive or defensive, and even have different personalities.
The first time they're introduced to you, they'll help you defeat a particularly tough enemy. You'll see them jumping up and down, waiting to be activated. I ran over to them, and did just that. After turning away to attack the creature again, I glanced in their direction to see what they were up to.
They had summoned a cannon out of nowhere, and about 6 of them were manning it, shooting the monster as it flew around about my head. This helped to knock it out of the sky, so I could attack it on the ground.
The combination of characters that you can unlock, along with the Higgledies, helps you customise your party and keep the combat feeling fresh. Thinking about the set up of your party, and then executing a plan properly makes the combat feel rewarding which is always a great sign.
I'm sure as the game continues, you'll be introduced to more mechanics that will further spice the combat up as you move into boss fights. This is one of the areas that the game really shines.
Exploration and Progression
The game features an overworld, which is how you travel around and move from place to place. You're represented here in a 'chibi' form, displaying your character as you move across the map. Here you can look for treasure, and either attack or avoid monsters, which will then bring you into a battle mode where the action starts.
You can travel anywhere you like and explore, but the main story is linear and you'll be given quests to follow. Regardless, it's nice to be able to wonder off and find a dungeon should you so wish.
All of the monsters drop loot in the game, and there are chests and items on the ground that you can pick up along the way. For people who love collecting loot, this game would be a dream. There are itms everywhere, and in my opinion, perhaps it's a little too dense.
There are so many chests dotted around, they start to lose significance after you've opened your third one in the past 30 seconds, particularly when they start giving you different flavoured cups of tea.
Different weapons and armour you pick up will have stat bonuses and be effective at different things, which is another way in which you can customise your party. Personally I find this all a little overwhelming, as I can see managing the sheer about of items I pick up starting to be a problem, but this is very much a personal gripe as there are many people who love massing huge amounts of loot.
Your characters level up through the game and get stronger, unlocking more skills that you can use in combat. You can select which of these your character has readily available, so choosing wisely to complement the other members of your party should be first on your mind.
There is a Kingdom building element to the game which does sound very interesting, and again expands on the variety of gameplay that this game offers. Sadly I didn't manage to reach that part of the game in the few hours that I played, although it was hinted at several times. Constructing certain buildings in your kingdom will give you bonuses in combat, and allow you to unlock new features too.
SHOULD I BUY NI NO KUNI II: REVENANT KINGDOM?
NNK2 is very much a JRPG. It features all the notes and tropes you'd expect from a game of this genre, and isn't doing anything major to reinvent the wheel.
Having said that, it's not really trying to. It's attempting to build and refine upon the genre and make the things that are good about it, even better.
It's going to be grindy, there will be so much loot that you won't know what to do with it, and I personally find the story a little hard to get immersed in. However, the combat is great and the mechanics work well together, there is a huge world to explore and for people who love the genre, this will be one they don't want to miss.