Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a coming of age story. It’s the story of a young man learning about himself as well as the people around him, and the best way to lead. While Ni No Kuni II might not be as strong as its predecessor in a technical sense, I definitely think its strengths lie in how absolutely fun it is to play. Gone are the tactical fights, gone are the Familiars, and gone is Drippy, the most obnoxious part of Wrath of the White Witch. Before you get your pitchforks out, I’m aware that character was extremely divisive, but I stand by my statement and would put him up against Jar Jar Binks any day.
Despite some of these large differences, the core experience of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom remains largely the same. Our story follows Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, heir to the throne of Ding Dong Dell. Everything takes place well after the experience of Wrath of the White Witch, with loose ties to the first game. Luckily, anyone who wants to jump into the sequel won’t be missing out on much in terms of story, because Ni No Kuni II stands as its own experience. After the death of his father Evan takes over the throne and is quickly thrown into political turmoil when Otto Mausinger stages a coup to take over Ding Dong Dell. At the same time a large explosion near a city in the world of humans, Roland (the president of his world) is transported into Evan’s castle and they quickly form a friendship to aid Evan’s escape.
One thing noticeably absent from Ni No Kuni II are animated cutscenes. There are brief sections scattered throughout the storytelling where everything is fully animated, but none of these last more than ten or fifteen seconds. Most of the story is told through text appearing on the screen for players to read, which really works against it because of how beautiful and vibrant the world is. A lot of the dialogue isn’t even fully voiced either. Brief quips from different characters pop up whenever text does, and then the rest is up to the player to read. After a certain point in the story I did notice a lot more of the dialogue being fully voiced, but I’m not sure if this was a design choice or something that was just overlooked.
One thing I feel Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom definitely doesn’t explore enough are its characters. After Roland gets transported to this unknown world, he decides to stay. But why? Other than to help Evan, he has no real motivation to stay, and doesn’t even try to figure out a way home. Ni No Kuni II has a really strong cast of varied and interesting characters, but I never learned enough about them to care about them as much as I should. The world of Hydropolis, a large city set in the middle of a vast sea, had one of my favorite backstories in the game. Nerea, its leader, has set several policies in place in order to keep people from falling in love and procreating because of the balance in the city. Because of this Leander has committed to serving by her side despite his childhood love for her, in order to keep their city safe. It wasn’t until the end of Ni No Kuni II that more of the character narrative was explored and made me realize why I should care about some of these companions throughout the story. It’s an interesting storytelling dynamic, and a second playthrough should provide some interesting clues that I missed the first time around.
All of the worlds in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom are vastly different. The city of Hydropolis has unique beach architecture and surrounding islands of coral accent the city really well. The Forest of Niall forces Evan to climb and navigate large trees with glowing accents. The city of Broadleaf is a technologically advanced world with robot servants and inventor residents. There are even more worlds for players to explore, and Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is not a small game. There are tons of smaller dungeons in the overworld with powerful enemies to vanquish.
The biggest change from Wrath of the White Witch is the overhauled combat system. The tactical strategy fights from the first game are gone, and have been replaced with action RPG fights closer to the Tales of… series. Players will block and dodge in real time, and the fights are fast, fun, and fluid. The best part about all of this is how well everything controls. Controls are tight and responsive, even when I was fighting eight or nine enemies at a time, I never felt overwhelmed and was able to control most encounters. At one point in the story there was a noticeable level spike between my party and enemies though, and a brief bit of grinding got me back up to speed. There wasn’t much of a challenge here, as long as I cycled my weapons and kept an eye on my party member’s health bars, I didn’t have much of a problem defeating enemies and bosses 10+ levels above me.
For those that played Wrath of the White Witch, Level-5 replaced Familiars with small creatures called Higgledies. Higgledies are small elemental creatures that provide different benefits in battle. Instead of catching them, players can create them or find them in the field by offering up requested items. Green Higgledies can help heal Evan’s party, while the white, neutral Higgledies summon up a cannon that hurls projectiles at enemies. They complement battles, and can provide a tremendous amount of aid, making hunting and creating them crucial for battle.
Other than story quests, there are over 150 side quests for players to complete, as well as a ton of errands to do. Most of the time errands were pretty easy, and I was able to turn them in as soon as I accepted the quest since item drops were plentiful and I often already had the items I needed. Quests take up a bulk of the time players will put into Ni No Kuni II, but the other large portion of time will be into building Evan’s kingdom of Evermore. After the coup, Evan and his gang decide to start a new kingdom, and thus Evermore is born. It starts off with tents and only a few citizens, but things quickly begin to grow. Players will build facilities, and stock them with citizens best suited for different duties.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom also has a new feature called Skirmishes that sees Evan taking four groups of comrades into battle. Players will use R1 and L1 to rotate these groups around Evan to take advantage of different enemy weaknesses as they march across the overworld. If some of the side quests didn’t require me to do these missions, I may not have spent much time doing them, but I ended up participating in a number of these skirmishes in order to level up my units. Players are rewarded for completing side quests by new citizens for Evermore, providing a real reason to spend time completing them, even a lot of them are uninteresting.
There are a lot of systems at play in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, and most of them complement each other in distinct ways. The lack of fully animated cutscenes and true character depth are the main things that hold the whimsical and often fun story of self-discovery back, while the fast and responsive combat system push players forward. There is a lot of game here, with tons of side quests and a 35+ hour story. I still have plenty to do, like defeating all of the tainted monsters in the world and finish recruiting citizens to use in my city, as well as upgrading my kingdom. Level-5 has created a large varied world that never overused any one region too much, which says a lot considering how much time players will spend completing tasks.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is available now for Playstation 4 and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided by the publisher for that purpose.