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Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review: King Back

/ Apr 5th, 2018 No Comments

Ni no Kuni II Review

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was one of, if not, the finest JRPG of the last console cycle. A beautiful marriage between powerhouse developer Level-5 and animation juggernaut Studio Ghibli, the game won people over with its heart and delightful creature capture battle system.

Needless to say, when the sequel was announced, the anticipation was high. While taking place thousands of years into the future, many changes were made this time around. Fans were eager to see how the changes shook out.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom does not disappoint. It is a remarkable game with a story that is full of heart. It defies you not to like it. The gameplay changes are smart, creating a unique sequel that stands out on its own.

Watch the Throne

Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum’s life has been turned upside down. His father, the former king of Ding Dong Dell, has died. Now he awaits his ascension to the throne, but before he can take what is rightfully his, a coup breaks out.

The trusted advisor to his father, Mausinger seized the death of the king as a means to take the throne for himself and eliminate Evan’s claim to rule. Luckily, a mysterious man from another world, Roland, appears to help Evan escape, but not before a great loss is endured.

Evan gets out with his life, but he is now a king without a kingdom. With nothing to call his own, Evan and Roland set out to build a new kingdom, Evermore. The road ahead will be fraught with peril and certainly won’t be easy. A powerful menace lurks behind the scenes, pulling the strings in an attempt to send the world into chaos.
 

Ni no Kuni II Review

Evan and his friends must journey far across the world to enlist the aid of different leaders.

However, thanks to Evan’s inherent good nature and his friend’s trusty council, he hopes to make Evermore a kingdom where everyone can live happily ever after.

Much like the first game, the impetus for the protagonist’s journey is the loss of a loved one and a great tragedy. In Tildrum’s case, he gets a two-fer in the form of his father’s death, but that isn’t what drives his journey. Rather it is the loss of his beloved bodyguard, Aranella, that propels him to the great heights he later achieves. The promise he makes to her as she slowly fades away is what guides him and his decisions as he founds and builds Evermore.

Tragedy and death is a common device used to increase empathy. Whether that is effective often comes down to relatability. We can all identify what is sad about losing a parent, family member, friend or pet. Since we understand where the sorrow comes from, we feel for the protagonist in his or her loss.
 

Ni no Kuni II Review

Evan needs to find a way to save fellow kingdoms from a corruption.

Both of Evan’s losses feel significant to the player and important to Evan. Aranella is especially important because we see her give her life in order to protect Evan. When Evan makes his promise to her, it has weight.

The deaths of his father and Aranella are not wasted opportunities. Both are Evan’s motivation for moving forward, whether it is founding Evermore or trying to unite all of the kingdoms in the Declaration of Interdependence. The memories and loss of his father and Aranella guide him. It is also the source for his growth throughout the story.

Evan starts out as a very naive child who hasn’t had an opportunity to learn of the world outside or of how to rule. By the end of the game, he is extremely mature, making decisions and showing character traits far beyond his years, including forgiveness and mercy.

Ni no Kuni II is a marvelous story full of exciting and memorable moments and characters.

Down with the King

Ni no Kuni II is a departure from the gameplay of the first game, but it is similarly addictive. The biggest change is from turn-based creature combat to action RPG hack-n-slash combat. But that isn’t the only facet of gameplay. Ni no Kuni II also features many real-time strategy battles and a rather in-depth kingdom management sim. What this means is there is always something vying hard for your attention.

Whether exploring the overworld or the game’s dungeons, you’ll always know where enemies are coming from. Battles aren’t random — monsters appear on the world map or roam dungeons freely. This means you can pick your battles, but chances are you’ll choose to fight. Regardless of how you enter a fight, they are pretty seamless, which makes grinding feel effortless.

When in combat, you can freely switch between your three main party members. Each member can perform light and heavy attacks and has an ability to perform basic combos. When you take control of a character, he or she also has a long-range attack, the ability to dodge or block and perform special spells and skills.
 

Ni no Kuni II Review

Combat in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is fast and fluid.

Skills and spells use up a certain amount of MP, but performing these can make a huge difference in battle. You can give skills and spells a little boost by using charged weapons. Each character can equip three weapons, and over the course of battles, they earn a charge up to 100 percent by performing light and heavy strikes. Unleashing a spell or skill with a fully charged weapon can make these moves extremely potent. This especially comes in handy during boss fights.

As you make your way through the game’s nine chapters, you’ll stay on pace level wise with the monsters you encounter as long as you are diligent about completing side quests. This means grinding is a minimal necessity.

Regardless of your level, boss fights provide a good challenge. There are multiple parts to these fights, requiring you to stay focused on the battle. To defeat bosses, you must be vigilant about using your charged skills or spells and keeping you and your teammates healthy.

Whether you are fighting low level mobs or a Kingmaker, the combat always feels good and satisfying. In fact, you’ll hardly miss the familiars.
 

Ni no Kuni II Review

The dream mazes are a highlight in terms of dungeon exploration.

What takes the place of familiars in combat are the higgledies, which are little spirits that follow you into battle. They can heal, attack and support you, and can activate special attacks during combat. You can equip up to four higgledies to aid you in a fight. To find the best loadout, you should mix and match higgledies.

For an extra challenge, there are tainted monsters scattered across the world. These creatures are more powerful versions of monsters you’ll encounter in the game. In a lot of ways, fighting tainted monsters functions as optional boss fights. Besting them nets you guilders, good equipment and items.

Dream mazes are additional fun challenges. These are roguelike dungeons where you need to climb multiple floors to face a boss monster. In the dream mazes, you can’t use navigating tools, meaning you’ll have to explore each floor to find the exit. As you explore, the danger level rises.

The higher the danger level rises, the stronger the monsters get. There is a lot more to it — like randos hanging out in the mazes, gathering orbs to unlock chests, praying to statues, and treasure galore. It is a lot of fun, and while optional, it is essential to the full Ni no Kuni II experience.

Ready for War

We haven’t even talked about the real-time strategy skirmishes found all across the world. They provide a nice change of pace from the hack-n-slash combat.

Unlike normal combat, battles are fought by the citizens of your kingdom (they level up over time by participating and winning battles). Four different battalions surround Evan on the battlefield. You can rotate the four battalions around him to take advantage of weapon strengths in the rock-paper-scissor advantage and weakness system.

These RTS battles are fast paced. A might gauge indicates an army’s power and chance of surviving. If you aren’t moving units to better positions, you can easily get wiped out. Figuring out the perfect strategy, unit layout and key moments to employ shock tactics is fun.

There is a good amount of depth to explore as you play this robust side quest.

Build an Empire

The kingdom management sim has you physically build Evermore from the ground up. You’ll construct buildings and level them up, assign citizens to work in buildings where their talents suit them, collect resources, and perform research. There are a lot of perks for investing in building up your kingdom.

Before you can do anything, you’ll need kingsguilders, currency specifically for building, upgrading and researching in Evermore. Kingsguilders can be earned by performing requests for your citizens, but it is also earned passively over time as you play the game. You earn kingsguilders every hour the game is running, with how much you earn depending on your coifer level. It pays to leave the game running and constantly withdrawing the maximum amount of accrued kingsguilders.
 

Ni no Kuni II Review

The Kingdom Management aspect is deep and offers plenty of good rewards.

There is a lot of time needed to make Evermore great. A lot of that time is spent recruiting citizens to Evermore. Doing so involves performing side quests, earning errand tokens to scout new citizens, and completing story missions. You’ll need to be motivated to recruit all the citizens to your cause.

Once you’ve constructed buildings — such as barracks, an armory and a weaponsmith — you can start doing research. Any research you perform benefits how you play the game. For instance, you may be craft new weapons or armor, improve your magic and upgrade higgledies depending on how your kingdom is built.

The payoff is worth the time investment.

Overall

Despite changing up the gameplay style, Ni no Kuni II retains all of the same charm of its predecessor. The game oozes with style and heart. It is hard not to find yourself empathizing with King Evan and his retinue.

There is never a dull moment in Ni no Kuni II. Whether you are perfecting your combat technique, participating in skirmishes with your army, or recruiting citizens to rebuild your kingdom, you always have something exciting to do.

It is too early to tell, but Ni no Kuni II may be the finest JRPG of this generation.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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NI NO KUNI II: REVENANT KINGDOM REVIEW: KING BACK

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall96%

GAMEPLAY9.5

There is a lot of different styles of gameplay to enjoy in Ni no Kuni II. While the action RPG combat is a departure from the first game, it is hard to get mad at the change when the combat feels so good.

GRAPHICS9.5

Ni no Kuni II is sublimely beautiful with amazing character designs and cut scenes that look like a major animated movie come to life. The chibi overworks aesthetic precious and gives the visual look a good contrast to the combat and story style.

SOUND10

From the charming voice acting to the swelling, orchestral score that perfectly matches the mood of every location you visit, you’ll be hard press not to love it.

STORY9.5

Evan’s journey from overthrown king-in-waiting to mature and capable monarch is full of pathos and growth. It is a joy to watch Evan become the king he was always meant to be yet not hold onto the tumult of his past.

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