Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is more Ni No Kuni and less Pokemon
A Brief History of Ni No Kuni
Ni No Kuni is a relatively new franchise in the JRPG world. Developed by Level-5, the first game in the series was Ni No Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn for the 3DS in 2010. In 2011 an enhanced version was released – the one we all know and love: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. A localized version was published in Western regions in 2013.
Two mobile games were also developed: Hotroit Stories in 2010 and Daibouken Monsters in 2012.
With very little to carry the Ni No Kuni name, Bandai Namco and Level-5 set out to release a proper sequel to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Though not a direct sequel, there are small mentions of our brave hero Oliver and a few throw-backs that will bring out a little nostalgia for fans of the franchise.
So, if it’s not a direct sequel, what can we expect in terms of story in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom?
Let’s Talk Music – Some Familiar Territory Ahead
Once I started the application, I was greeted with familiar theme music. It was fun to hear that music coming from my speakers again and reminded me of my experience with the first installment. The theme song was mostly the same with very little deviation, which at first I liked, but it got old pretty quick. It wasn’t so bad until I got the world map, but the song played over and over until even my wife would hum the tune to herself. It’s not a bad tune, but all I’m saying is a little diversity would have been nice. It wouldn’t have killed the game to keep the theme song to the title screen and wrote new music for the world map. Aside from that gripe, the music is great and is full of light-hearted music we all have come to enjoy from JRPG’s.
The Story – With no Spoilers
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s spoilers, so don’t expect me to give you much of a run-down on story details at all. In fact, I won’t go too far beyond telling you it involves two different worlds (surprised? I wasn’t either) and that there’s some mess about saving the world.
I will be honest, I didn’t read much about Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. This was a purposeful strategy. As said above, I don’t like spoilers, so I was content knowing there was a sequel coming (I first found out when I attended the PlayStation Experience in San Francisco 2015). I didn’t need details on what it was about, how the battle system would evolve, what the music was going to be like. I put my faith in the developers to deliver a quality game that would be reminiscent of my experiences with the first game. Since you’re itching to know, I’ll tell you right now that they delivered…but not without some minor snags.
Not knowing much about this game, I popped it into my PS4 and began downloading the data and update while I ate dinner. I was excited to play this game as I had been in the mood for an RPG lately, so this game came just in time. I started it up and jumped right in.
Sadly, it didn’t start too well. The intro scene jumped about way too much and way too fast. We are given at least three settings in under three minutes and are introduced to too many characters all to quickly to know who’s who or what’s what. I feel like they had a lot more they wanted to do but had to trim out much of the scenes in the cutting room. The result was a tumultuous jump back and forth that felt worse than plane turbulence in the middle of a hurricane.
Once out of that storm, the game settled down a bit and began to pace itself a little better.
As you finally gain control of Roland – a mysterious character that’s from a modern world (earth?) who somehow found himself transported to the rooms of King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum. Both Evan and Roland are surprised at his magical arrival, but before they can contemplate how it happened, something even more pressing begins to take shape. King Evan is cast from his throne by one of his father’s most trusted advisers. Roland, being one of our good-hearted playable characters, decides to risk his life to save Evan from a sure death at the hands of the usurper.
After their escape to safety (come on, did you really think they would die?), they decide the first thing to do is get a new kingmaker – beings that deem worthy one of being a king. Evan needs a kingmaker if he is going to fight the one that dethroned him.
Like just about every game before it, you run through a series of tutorials that teach you how to play the game. These are evenly paced throughout the first portions of the game so as not to overload players. As soon as you gain control of Roland you are pitted against enemies and are taught the battle system. This is one of the first areas that Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom differs from its predecessor.
Instead of controlling monsters you catch out on the battlefield, you directly control Roland, Evan and any other party member you feel you want to play as. You can equip up to three melee weapons and one ranged weapon. But not all characters can equip the same items. Roland can equip guns, Evan has wands, and others have bows. Roland and Evan can also carry swords while others can only equip hammers/axes or spears. Armor is less proprietary as it seems to be up for grabs for anyone. Roland can wear slippers while Tani can wear a pair of bosses boots.
The loot system is pretty awesome. In Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch you needed to buy new weapons or create them in the cauldron. This left little in the way of equipping yourself and your monsters and much to be desired. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom changes this as item drops in battle are quite common and the best way to get better gear. Items also have rarity, and the higher the rarity the better attributes they contain. My first red drop made my heart skip because at that point I didn’t know weapons had rarities. To be fair, I had gone on ahead an explored further out than I should have, but it paid off. I’m still using a bow I got early on that dropped with such high attack stats that after 15 hours since I got it, I still use it. The lesson I learned here is to grind, even if just to get better gear. Grind and battle your ass off. It will pay off.
The battle system can get pretty button-mashey, but there’s a system to keep in mind. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom introduces what is called ‘zing’. Next to each equipped weapon is a percentage meter called zing. You want it to get to 100% before using magic abilities as a 100% zing on a weapon means a more powerful or even different type of magic attack. You also have the ability to set the weapon-switching to automatic where your character will always switch to the weapon with the highest zing and/or best weapon to use against a specific enemy. You can go semi-auto where it will switch for you, but you also have control of what weapon you want to use, or you can go manual. Equipped with a 0% zing water based weapon against an electric enemy? Who cares, go for it! Or you can switch to a weapon that is better suited against that enemy and kill it quickly. It’s all up to you. I started on semi-auto then changed to manual once I got a handle on things. I found it more fun to have that control, but others might find more enjoyment when not having to think about such things. Play whichever way suits you best.
Leveling up is pretty standard fare, the main difference is you also gain Battle Points (BP). BP is used to unlock parameters in the Tactic Tweaker – an item that has the potential to change up the battlefield.
The Tactic Tweaker allows you to change certain aspect and affinities in the game. Of which there are four areas to adjust. Monster Affinities allows you to tune your defense or offense against specific types of monsters. Be careful though, as increasing one parameter decreases another, so keep in mind the types of monsters you’re fighting and tweak accordingly. Elemental Attacks is similar to Monster Affinities. Raise your elemental attacks and defense, but keep in mind this decreases a different elements stats. Spoil Settings allows you to dictate how much more of a type of loot you are likely to get, like gold, items or EXP. Arts of War allows you to increase overall defense, evade charge time for power attacks and so on. As you level each section up, you can increase parameters more. Use it wisely because it can help tremendously, but also hinder if you forget what you have it currently set to.
In Depth Battle System – Higgledies And Their Purpose
The battle system doesn’t stop with zing and going manual either. I did state above that Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was a little less Pokemon…I didn’t say it was NO Pokemon. Well, actually, that’s not really accurate. Change Pokemon to Pikmin and you have a good idea where this is going.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom does away with the need to capture monsters and nurture them (thank God!). While capturing monsters and leveling them up wasn’t so bad, it got really tedious if you were going for trophies or achievements. In Revenant Kingdom, you don’t capture monsters to use in battle. You either find, or cook up Higgledies. Think Pikmin in the form of elements. They are these cute little personified beings made up of light, darkness, fire, water and so on. You can either recruit them by finding Higgledy stones and offering them an item they are asking for, or cooking them up. I’ll get to how you cook a Higgledy in a bit. And no, I checked…no steak Higgledy.
You do still need to level them up, however. This isn’t as daunting a task as the original game made it. In fact, it’s easy, and since Higgledies aren’t the main focus of battle, you can get away with ignoring them for some time. I would advise you to level them up quickly, though, as they come in very handy – especially in boss battles. Higgledies can assist with healing, fighting and other measures of support, so it will only hinder you to completely ignore them. Go about however which way you want, just remember to give your Higgledies love on a regular basis.
During battle, the Higgledies will begin to pop up. As soon as enough gather, a ring will appear around them. If you elect to use them, you enter the ring and press ‘X’ and they will do what they do best. There are a lot of Higgledies in the game that do different things, so mix it up to see what kinds of things they can do. You can only bring three Higgledies into battle at a time.
Skirmishes! Mini Games With A Different Twist On Battling In The Field
Thought the battle system ended with zing and Higgledies? So did I.
Skirmishes are a type of battle you can partake in that is completely different than anything else. There’s no zing to keep an eye on and no Higgledies to help you out. Instead, you control King Evan on the battlefield flanked by up to four groups of troops pitted against another army. Like Higgledies, you can go into battle with different types of troops that have different abilities. Play around with the different ones you have to see what you can accomplish.
Like a health bar, you have a Might meter. This might indicates your prowess in battle. As you lose troops, you can hold circle to regroup, but this costs might. You also have special abilities that cost might. If you run out of might, you lose. You can increase your might by defeating enemies, claiming and rebuilding enemy structures you take over.
Once you get far enough into the game, you can replay skirmishes on hard mode. I haven’t been brave enough to try this out yet, but I’ve played a few skirmishes. They are a great way to take a step back from the game as a whole and focus on something else for a little bit of time. They are also just fun as fuck, so I suggest completing them whenever you can.
Maintain Your Kingdom – The Real Draw To Complete Side Quests
Speaking of taking a step back from the grind, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom draws in a bit on city building that brings to mind mobile games and even Animal Crossing.
As King Evan is cast out of his kingdom of Ding Dong Dell, he decides to build a new one instead of taking his old one back. It doesn’t take long to get to this point, so I suggest getting there as soon as possible. While building your new kingdom, you build certain stores and places that offer special services that will help you out in the world. There’s the Higgledy shop where you can cook new Higgldies and level them up. I suggest focusing on this as much as you can.
It’s not as easy as building the structures though. You also need to recruit new citizens and put them to work in order to make use of the services. Be mindful of who you place where, as they all have a specialty that you can take advantage of. For instance, I don’t want to place Tani, who’s good at foraging for supplies, at the magic shop. It’s a waste of her talents.
How do you get more citizens for your new country? This is where the bulk of the side quests come in. As you complete these side quests, the people you help out will decide to come live in your new kingdom. This was quite odd as I felt at times that I was taking all the citizens of Gold Paw, leaving them with nary a worker to man their own shops. Others felt too quick to abandon their lives to live somewhere new just because I did them a small favor. It’s not a big deal, but I guess if anyone can recruit a subject for life just by bringing them a well cooked dish it would be King Evan.
Overall, my experience with Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was largely favorable. I still have many more hours to put into this game and I look forward to each one. The battle system feels fresh and new, and the addition of Skirmishes brings a whole different aspect to battling if you get a little bored with the main storyline. Building your kingdom and upgrading adds hours of time to be spent outside of exploring the massive world. Exploring the world itself adds more than what Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch offered. The massive amounts of weapon and armor drops made sure I was constantly getting stronger and allowed me to play around with different strategies.
All this praise doesn’t mean the game came out unscathed. I noticed a few frame-rate drops while playing, but nothing too horrible. At about 20 hours in I even experienced some audio pops. A quick google searched revealed I wasn’t the only one. Luckily it seemed a quick shut down and reboot of my system fixed the problem. The storyline isn’t the best, which is a let-down as I had hoped for more adult themes than what we got in Oliver’s story. Maybe more political undertones with some treachery and murder involved (not bloody or overly violent; I am mindful of the game I’m playing), but halfway into chapter 5, I found myself not emotionally attached to any the characters. Some of the decisions the characters make seem contrary to their personalities and even outright stupid. Roland spent barely 30 minutes in the mystery world before deciding he was going to stay for good, completely abandoning his own world. I haven’t beaten the game yet, so maybe his backstory comes in to play here in a way I don’t foresee, but it’s taking too long and I no longer care about his world. In fact, I sometimes forget about it all together. Oh, and why is it that someone who isn’t even from this world is the one giving history lessons to everyone else?
I can look past these small infractions, however, as the game as a whole is pretty damn fun. It scratches my itch to play a very classic style RPG while offering some new things to keep players interested. If you were a fan of Oliver and Drippy, you will surely be a fan of Evan and Roland, or at least their adventure, if not the reasons for it.
Review copy provided by the publisher.