So what do we think about Ni No Kuni 2?
Ni No Kuni must have had something hugely wrong with it because I don’t remember much about it, but it’s sequel is something I’ll never forget. As an avid jRPG gamer back when I didn’t have much else to do in school, I tend to fondly remember how they were like before it’s game design philosophies started experimenting with new ideas like multiplayer or DLC. Not really perfect or any of the sort, but the focus on a grand single player campaign with a vast array of content to find and unlock was something I usually found lacking with the current line up you find these days. Meeting Ni No Kuni 2 kind of felt like meeting an old friend I haven’t seen in a while, and wow did we have a lot of catching up to do.
Ni No Kuni 2 brings one question to the table in the most honest way possible: “If we made an old school jRPG for the current platform, would you play it?” So let’s get cracking to find our answer to that question, shall we?
Production (4.5 / 5)
Miyazaki’s art style was pretty much anime heavily influenced by the unforgettable classics of Disney and the game reflects heavily of this aesthetic. While they don’t look impressive on stills, many of them animate in a convincing manner and help make a setting come alive. Characters walk around, talk, sometimes are even capable of fighting and even have their own voiced dialogue. Things really pick up during combat when all the combat effects come into full swing, things become flashy as you cast more spells without turning the field into a chaotic mess.
Music on the other hand feels pretty well thought out, as the theming stays pretty consistent throughout the game. Not too invasive while being memorable, and plays a key role in completing a setting, making it more tense in dungeon raids and a bouncy calm tone in peaceful towns. Voice acting, even the English one, is pretty great on all fronts and kept the tone of the game pretty consistent.
Some issue I might find with Ni No Kuni 2’s presentation is how it renders objects in the distance, becoming blurry quite quickly and not in a nice way. This could be their workaround for keeping wide open maps smooth without demanding too much of the PlayStation 4, and in general it never really got in the way, it simply stuck out when you noticed it.
Mechanics (4 / 5)
The combat for this sequel is pretty fun and refreshing compared to its predecessor. The originally turn-based combat system is now a lot closer to kingdom hearts where you and 2 of your active allies run, attack, jump, block and dodge freely in an open area and sometimes on the actual field of the dungeon. But your allies aren’t the only ones helping you in the field, there are higgles too! These things are more or less minions that provide you with additional support, especially if you can protect them long enough so they can launch their own unique skills to either protect you and your friends or bombard your enemies. It’s also a generally big plus that the allied AI are capable enough to do some of the work for you but usually
But there’s also a second kind of combat you can do in Ni No Kuni 2, and that’s command an actual army. There’s probably those who have missed this kind of feature, especially if you’ve been a fan of the Suikoden series. And while it does appear to be simplified, it actually adds a few personal spins on the idea which I welcome wholeheartedly. Building on a basic rock-paper-scissors-style relationship, you build your own super army of 4 units and dominate wave upon wave of forces on the field.
Then there’s the kingdom management, which comes in as the last mechanic introduced to your playthrough. It really plays out more like a mobile game which is generally okay, considering there’s already plenty to do and being able to delegate tasks feels a lot more like managing an actual kingdom. Periodically gathering resources, building facilities, assigning appropriate staff to them and laying out tasks to be done is pretty much everything you do there.
These three major components pretty much dictate most of what you’ll be doing within Ni No Kuni 2 outside of the story. While they mostly appear simplified, it also makes it much easier to switch between hack-and-slash, tactical battles, and managerial tasks without feeling like the fun parts of this title are tilted towards one of these types of play.
Content (4 / 5)
The story opens up with a very chaotic setting for a kingdom and your protagonists. Evan, a young king, with Roland, a president who mysteriously got sent to their world with some younging up, stagger around to survive and try to make sense of the situation. You later find them trying to assert the boy’s right to be a king, and eventually going on a quest for world peace. Yes, really, world peace. It’s a game aimed at children, okay? One of the nation leaders of this game is a giant pug, so I suppose it’s not too radical that people start looking up to a young boy with cat ears. Wait, I think people already do that in this world, do we?
Anyway, the main quest and side quests blend pretty well into each other and most of the time, give you pretty substantial rewards. For one thing you’re really going to want to complete the ones that help you recruit people for your kingdom. You need citizens in it, after all. There are a total of 103 to collect but not all of them will have a unique quest line, a good amount of them can be recruited by an old penguin man if you’re willing to pay up his fee. However he doesn’t take money as payment but tokens you get from the same guy for completing MMO-esque quests requiring you to kill x amount of monsters or collect y amount of items.
The huge variety of to-do’s in Ni No Kuni 2 is what makes the amount of stuff to do really shine. Some quests span across several dungeons while others can be completed without even leaving a town. So if you think doing one thing is starting to get repetitive, you can switch to another quest type.
One thing I’d like to point out is the dependency on grind and the lack of difficulty. There’s a lot to do but no real efficient way to do it. Ideally you’d want to limit grinding to your immediate party. Instead, you find yourself grinding your kingdom’s skills as well as your every unit of your army. Farming items and money also becomes necessary if you wish to pursue forging and upgrading your gear. It wasn’t that the grind was painful but it either lacked in giving us information of where to find what we need or there wasn’t any way to make farming or grinding easier or more efficient. The fact that they all level up with some sort of grind directly done by you can make the idea tiring sometimes.
Features (4.5 / 5)
Ni No Kuni 2 doesn’t really have an online aspect and color me surprised when they applied a balance patch a few days later. It doesn’t seem to have any dlc, at least, for the moment. But what it does have is a lot of Quality of Life (QoL) features that makes travelling around the world, specializing builds, tracking quest progress, managing a growing kingdom and more very easy to do.
It does have a gallery and a sort of encyclopedia, and even made a pseudo-social media network which actually plays more as a journal to help you keep track of story events and as a hint of who you can recruit next within the game.
It also has a crazy amount of puns, jokes, and pop-culture references. And it’s entirely up to you if you see that as a positive or not.
It was pretty fun to catch up with the tropes of 90s jRPGs. I didn’t think I would fondly look at miniatures walking over a map and be delighted ever again, but here we are. It’s an honest child with a grand ambition, Ni No Kuni 2 provides so much to do and none of it feels half-baked.
The unfortunate part is it doesn’t capitalize that much with it’s main combat. Most of the flashy grandiose moments are designed to be cleared by anyone so if you’re like me who tried to clear a lot of side-quests you’ll end up clearing the big bad baddie of every chapter in a pretty anticlimactic minute or two. You can find challenge if you want to in the side-content, or generally intentionally put yourself in difficult situation that you’d actually block or roll to survive. But hey, I can get my toddler to play it and I won’t be too worried, so Ni No Kuni can be a kind-of babysitter.
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom would leave a mark on the map scoring 4.25 / 5
Available on PlayStation 4 and PC.