Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is a beautiful JRPG from Level 5. Its combination of action combat, interesting world and kingdom building make it truly an amazing experience.
From the very first scene, Ni No Kuni 2 surprises. Without going into details it’s not something you’d expect from fantasy RPG. You are Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum – a child and the rightful heir to the throne of Ding Dong Dell. Your throne was taken from you, by a supposedly loyal adviser who killed your father and took over the kingdom and your mission is to build a better kingdom where everyone will live happily. It is quite a standard premise which normally would be very dull, but is thankfully backed up by amazing world-building. Despite some stereotypical characters, the story is good and satisfying overall.
The world of Ni No Kuni 2 is unique, filled with a great variety of characters that never cease to amaze. On your journey you will meet strange rat-like creatures, Disney-stylised anthropomorphic dogs, and pikmin rip-offs called higgledies. The Studio Ghibli influence from the first game is obvious, even though they were not directly involved in this sequel. It feels like one of Miyazaki’s films in a game form, and that only can be a compliment.
If Studio Ghibli’s art style in films like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle caught your eye, you will love the visuals of Ni No Kuni 2. Thanks to impressive cell shading, everything looks straight out of an anime film. Models look amazing in this art style, and shadows are represented in a realistic way. After many hours of play, I still remained mesmerised by finer details such as the movement of Evans cloak.
Enemies are by far my favourite thing to look at in this game, each having their own unique design. They are so strange and creative that I often would just circle around them during fights, just to have a better look. Backgrounds and landscapes were the least impressive part of the visuals, lacking detail, but still serving their purpose.
Combat is divisive, as it differs from its predecessor quite a bit. Ni No Kuni 2 drops the Pokémon-esque monster collection elements and replaces them with action-based battle mechanics. It’s a simple system with two type of melee attacks: quick and heavy, as well as one long ranged attack. As you successfully hit your enemies, the gauge percentage on your weapons increases, which allows a special attack at 100%.
This straightforward combat is enhanced by way of the higgledies, which you can find around the world by offering cream to statues (no, really that’s how you get them). There are three main types of higgledies, which aid you in battle in different ways. White higgledies (its such a fun word to say) spawn into battles with offensive weaponry, most noticeably cannons for a ranged attack. Green higgledies create healing areas, and purple ones create giant magical orbs which hurt any enemy in the area. It’s a fun and easy mechanic that can make tough battles a little more tolerable. Plus, they are so cute!
Apart from standard battles there are strategy battles, which take place on the world map. This is a type of mini-game where you battle whole armies, though its pretty lackluster. It does add some nice variety to the game, but it’s nothing to write home about.
Kingdom building is another mechanic that shares similarities to strategy games on smart phones, though a bit simplified and much less annoying. You use special in-game currency called KingsGuilders to build structures in your Kingdom. There is no way of purchasing KG for real world money at the time of this review. As usual in such games you have a specific plot of land on which you can construct your buildings. As you progress and upgrade your kingdom, you will gain additional land, which allows you to build more structures. These can be leveled up, which unlocks additional research and new personnel slots.
Structures produce specific items and conduct research, as well as give you KGs for upgrades and new structures. Every building requires personnel to run, which is where the real fun begins. Research requires set amount of IQ points which, more often than not, is more than a single member of personnel will have, meaning you will need multiple personnel per building. Citizens you find on your journey make up this personnel, and each have their own side-mission to complete before they join your proud nation.
This is a very important mechanic in the game, as items you gain from your structures will aid you in battle. New weapons, armour, and even higgledies can be researched. Plus it’s just fun to manage your own kingdom.
As with many other JRPGs, you will be showered with loot in ridiculous quantity. Most low level loot is simply sold for profit, which can help in the early game especially. Equipping clothing gear won’t affect your character’s appearance, which is a very popular way of saving money in Japanese games. It’s also usually an excuse to sell costumes as DLC, but thankfully Ni No Kuni 2 is not guilty of that. Yet.
The biggest and (for some) most annoying JRPG quirk is minimal voice acting. It comes and goes: some scenes are purely text-based, but others use voice lines for one or two sentences without any constancy. This could be caused by limits in a localisation budget, but none the less it means a lot of reading. With that being said, Ni No Kuni 2 is probably one of the most newbie-friendly JRPGs out there. It’s a perfect place to start if you’re looking to get into the genre.
Overall Ni No Kuni 2: The Revenant Kingdom is a great RPG. It looks beautiful, combat is satisfying and, as a bonus, the higgledies are cute. Surely it’s one the best RPGs of 2018 so far. It can be too easy in places, which might turn off hardcore fans, yet its world and atmosphere are good enough to make up for it.