Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was easily one of the best JRPG experiences on the PlayStation 3 when it was released five years ago, with its mix of a beautiful animation style, a unique and fun battle system that kept you powering up your familiars, and a rich story that kept you interested from start to finish. Rather than being content by following the same path as the very well received first installment, Level-5 changes the formula with Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, and does a great job of keeping the series fun and exciting even while falling short on some areas.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is set a few hundred years after the events of the first game. While there are a few details of the first game spread around this one, you don’t need to be familiar with the story of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch to know what’s happening (but it is still worth playing anyway). The story is centered around Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, a young Grimalkin (half cat, half human) boy who only recently inherited the kingdom of Ding Dong Dell after his father passed away and soon after finds himself running away for his life as his father’s former adviser has staged a coup. At this moment, Roland appears before Evan, a president from our world, and he find himself transported to another world much younger and after a misunderstanding, helps Evan escape with his life. Evan then decides to build a new kingdom, with his ultimate goal to unite all kingdoms and bring piece to the world. Quite a big goal for a young king with no kingdom.
While the game as a whole is a great experience and has a lot more depth in terms of gameplay, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in the lack of character growth overall. Evan is thrust into the world with only a man he just met after losing his father and someone very precious to him. Instead, he just starts his journey to bring peace to the world and the game never really does much more than that for Evan. Even at a very crucial point towards the end, he has a moment to bring closure to himself but just stays silent. Roland on the other hand plays a very important role as a mentor and friend to Evan, but aside from a few mentions and a scene towards the end, we know and learn very little about him. The same goes for the rest of the cast, they all fail to shine outside the first time you meet them, and after that they just blend in. It’s a bit of a shame. Even Lofty, Evan’s Kingmaker, is proof that he is a king that doesn’t have much going for him. He has his moments, but just fades into the background unless needed.
One of the biggest departures from the first game is the battle system, no more need to capture and raise Familiars. This is a very welcome change in my opinion, because while I liked it in the first game, instead you control of one three characters in battle for much smoother and faster-paced battles. In battle, you are able to attack using a combination of light and heavy attacks, ranged attacks, activate various skills by expending MP linked to the R2 button, block incoming attacks, and dodge roll to avoid enemies. The fact that you can instantly switch between characters by pressing up or down on the d-pad and items by pressing the touchpad makes it really simple to use. You also have the ability to tweak battles in your favor thanks to the Tactics Tweaker. By using the points you gain by leveling up, you can influence various things in battle, including choosing what attributes or enemy type you are stronger against, buff your attacks and ranged attacks as well as adjust how much experience, money, or items you get per battle. It’s great to use especially if you are having trouble with a certain enemy or boss.
You aren’t alone, as Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom also introduces little mysterious creatures known as Higgledies. Small Pikmin-like creatures that play a huge supporting role in battle. Higgledies fight with you and based on their abilities will cast buffs on your party and help you attack enemies. Choosing ones with useful abilities is extremely helpful, especially as you level them up. There are two ways to obtain more Higgledies: first is by finding them in various locations as they inhabit Higgledies stones and require a certain item before they accompany you. Second is to cook them up in town using various resources and a little bit of money. This along with the Tactics Tweaker adds a nice level of depth to take down stronger enemies in the later half of the game.
It’s not just regular battles, as Level-5 adds a touch of strategy battles with Skirmishes. Evan is tasked with leading a army of four unit types into battle, it’s a fun change of pace as each unit is strong against one type of unit and weak against others (similar to Fire Emblem). If you start to lose fighters, you are able to summon new ones at the cost of your military might. You can also use your military might to rebuild towers and cannons your enemy previously held to provide extra support, but if you use up all your military might, you may just find yourself in trouble without a way to summon more troops to aid you. Skirmishes don’t actually take up a lot of the game, story-wise. Even though you’ll only have to do it a few times, it’s actually something fun I liked to do.
What is a king without a kingdom? After settling down in Evermore, you are tasked with growing and building your Kingdom. The new Kingdom Builder mechanic, has you manage how your kingdom grows as you are tasked with recruiting new citizens, building shops, and having your citizens research new methods to improve not only the city but also equipment, spells and various other things that will help you in game. It’s important to spend a lot of your time in your kingdom, quickly spending the money you get building and improving buildings including how much money and items you can hold at the start. It’s honestly one of the more addictive aspects of the game, something I didn’t focus on until much later and still spending on time even after completing the game.
While it took me around 35 hours to complete, I still have quite a bit to look forward to doing. Finishing building my kingdom, recruiting more citizens, and leveling up my army in more skirmishes are just a few of the things I need to do. In truth, the majority of the game can be pretty easy, but thanks to the Tactics Tweaker, researching better equipment and being able to strengthen it as well as ways to acquire more EXP in battles and in skirmishes proved very valuable. One of the game’s most interesting sidequests is the Dreamer’s Mazes, special dungeons where your goal is to defeat the dungeon boss, but the catch is the longer you are in the dungeon, the more dangerous it gets as each time the counter reaches 100%. Though you can also decrease the danger level by collecting and using purple orbs and statues.
It’s hard not to impressed with how Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom looks visually. Even without the help of Studio Ghibli, the world and characters of the game are breathtaking. Level-5 did a wonderful job of creating a beautiful world you can explore at your leisure by various methods and filling it with events, missions and areas that you actually want to spend time exploring. Not just that, but you also have two different perspective to enjoy. As you explore the world in a top-down perspective, your characters become chibi while in dungeons and towns, and then you have your standard third person perspective. While the game has a few issues, nothing takes away the fact that Revenant Kingdom is still a wonderful adventure filled with so much to do from start to finish with a story that, while fails to shine at key moments, is still touching and wonderful tale.