Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is a stunning JRPG that will easily win over fans of the first game. The delays we had to endure turned out to be the best thing for the game. Although it suffers from wonky animations and a story that falters every now and again, Ni no Kuni 2 delivers a fantastic JRPG experience.
As a massive fan of the art direction and audio quality of the first game, I was a bit nervous about the sequel. After spending some time with Ni no Kuni 2, I'm happy to report that the visuals are just as gorgeous as the original game. The same cel-shaded anime-ish art style was used, but somehow Level-5 managed to make it even more attractive. Rolling hills, murky dungeons, deserts, busy cities and even the sky, all of the environments look great and feels like they belong in the fantasy world.
The story, in short - Evan is thrown out of his kingdom by a rival faction. He sets out to create his own kingdom, but he first needs a Kingmaker and well...a kingdom. While on his journey, Evan uncovers a deviant presence that is corrupting the world leaders and their Kingmakers. At times, the various story arcs may seem to lose sight of the overall story, but in the end, it all comes together for a proper conclusion.
Although the story is a bit more mature, the game retains its colorful color pallet. Speaking of mature, the game's score also seemed to have matured since the first game. Hisaishi has poured his heart into the score and the results are fantastic. As expected, the score is sweeping, fitting and beautiful. If you enjoyed Joe Hisaishi's score in the first game, you'll definitely love this.
On the subject of sound and audio; surprisingly, there is very little voice acting in Ni no Kuni 2. I would have loved to see more voice acting instead of reading through walls of text. With Level-5's talent, it's hard to understand why there are so little voiced sections in the game. If I had to assign figures to it, I'd say it contains about 25% voiced scenes. This is a shame as there are such a variety of characters that it would have been amazing to hear them, instead of reading their dialogue. When you're not reading or listening to your voiced characters, you'll be whacking things with your weapon. This is where Ni no Kuni 2 truly shines, in its fluid and responsive combat.
No longer do you need to wait your turn to attack your opponent. Revenant Kingdom has replaced the turn-based combat of its predecessor with real-time action fighting. During combat, you can perform fast attacks, strong attacks, spells, blocks, and rolls. When I saw the real-time combat for the first time, I was a bit skeptical. Surprisingly, the combat is tight and responsive. All the actions can be executed with ease, leading to taking on more enemies than in traditional turn-based JRPG's. On top of the combat, there is a gauge that gradually fills up every time you hit an opponent. When the gauge fills all the way up, you can use it to deal more basic damage or charge up your strong attack.
If you want to tweak your combat experience further, you can dive into the Tactics Tweaker. This feature allows you to change your combat prowess, changing how much damage you deal to certain enemy types, change the kind of loot you gain, and what kind of elemental damage you do. Higgledies, the cute, oddly shaped creatures seen in many trailers, also play a part in the game's combat. You can equip four at a time, these cute little creatures passively attack your enemies. Every now and again, the Higgledies will spread out and glow, which means they can be activated. When activated, they will either perform a powerful attack or provide a buff.
Other than smacking creatures around, Ni no Kuni 2 also includes two other distinct features. One of them is the ability to build your own kingdom and manage it. Evan sets out to build his own kingdom called Evermore. The buildings you get to build in Evermore have a greater effect on the overall game. Some buildings will affect your item drop rate, amount of experience gained and some can even alter your character's speed.
The other feature that ties into the kingdom management system is, of course, military battles. These skirmish battles place Evan and four groups on the battlefield. You can rotate the troops to fight your enemies in a rock-paper-scissors style battle. In all honesty, that's about as complicated as the military battles get. I only spent time with it when I had to, which is not a lot (just don't neglect it completely). You can use different units to help you fight and call in support during the skirmish. The system has huge potential but never truly reaches its hight. All these features would barely matter if there was not a decent story to hold everything together.
Better weapons and armor can also be researched at some buildings, giving you a possible edge in your next combat encounter. Some buildings will give you basic items. These items might seem useless on the surface but, they have an important purpose in Evermore's citizen recruitment plan. To convince people to live in Evermore, they might need a specific item. That's where the loop starts, build buildings - gain items - give items to potential citizens - use convinced citizens to build better shops - repeat. It might sound repetitive, and to some, it might be, but I spent a large amount of time managing my kingdom and enjoyed every minute of it.
Level-5 also transported current, real-world problems into their game, issues such as surveillance and freedom, corrupt leaders and worker's protests. While these scenarios fit into the world they created, I would have loved Level-5 to create problems which would have been specific to their game world. Sometimes it felt a bit too political for a fantasy JRPG. With this in mind, the story never really reaches the height of Wrath of the White Witch, but it tells a memorable tale with valuable lessons woven into it.
With fantastic visuals, a sweeping score and fun game mechanics, Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom delivers a decent JRPG experience. Sometimes the story struggles and the animations look a bit wonky, but a great combat system and a fun Kingdom Builder make up for this. Although it doesn't reach the heights of its predecessor, Ni no Kuni 2 is a solid JRPG and will please fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Kingdom Hearts devotee, From Software fanboy and aspiring Audiophile (the good kind that believes in FLAC files). Vincent enjoys writing about games almost as much as playing them.
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23 March 2018
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