Games Review: Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom: Higgledy-Piggledy

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a phenomenally gorgeous game, playing host to some of the liveliest and most beautiful environments I’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling through. From a town controlled by the power of luck to dream lands filled with terrifying monsters, Ni No Kuni II takes you on an eye-opening adventure, introducing you to the struggles of King Evan of Ding Dong Dell and his faithful companions.

The story, though rough in places, does much to complement the journey of Evan, Roland and Tani through wild lands, watery worlds and cloud-spun peaks. Each character feels fresh and exciting, and moreover, Ni No Kuni II goes out of its way to make you care about them deeply.

Evan, with his initial meekness grows into a powerful and headstrong ruler throughout the game, supported by Roland (who has one of the wildest backstories of any video game character) and Tani, the daughter of a sky pirate. Each character feels nuanced and fully realised, and learning more about their personal journey throughout the game was a delight.

Lofty, a small sprite-like creature who vaguely resembles Lisa Simpson, but has the personality of the notoriously grating DC warlock John Constantine, become a quick favourite with his sarcasm and ridiculous humour. Much of the story in the game relied on this inherent character humour, providing some great moments of hilarity and relief from the often dark story.

For those who have yet to play the original Ni No Kuni title, never fear – Revenant Kingdom is only loosely tied into the original, featuring minor references to people and places, but nothing overtly necessary. While the action takes place in the same world as the original, there’s a gap of hundreds of years between the titles, and a brand new cast of characters to fall in love with.

After King Evan is ousted from his place on the throne of Ding Dong Dell and chances upon the perfect companion in fish-out-of-water Roland, he begins a long journey across the world of Ni No Kuni II on a quest to unite the world under a pact of peace. It’s a lofty and unrealistic goal, but with Evan’s naive confidence and commanding presence, he’s soon able to recruit others to his cause, building his way to his dreams.

While the original Ni No Kuni relied on classic turn-based combat, Revenant Kingdom implements an action combat system paired with long and short-range magic attacks. Along the way, players will also befriend small creatures known as Higgledies, each of which has their own special attack.

By combining the power of your Higgledies with well-timed attacks, even the most powerful enemies are a breeze to fight through. It’s there that a key problem with Ni No Kuni II’s combat arises – the ease of battling. Even tougher bosses later in the game are no trouble to beat with a combination of good timing and ranged moves.

If a player falls in battle, control switches to one of your two companions, each of which have their own power sets and moves. In my time throughout the game, this was a rare occurrence, and even when I encountered more powerful enemies, all it took was a little more patience. Part of this was because I was actively pursuing side quests and wandering the world between the main quest line. By exploring the world and meeting new people, you’re able to unlock more options for building up the kingdom of Evermore, and earn more money for the kingdom coffers.

It’s important to begin building up the kingdom of Evermore as soon as you unlock the option, as construction of certain workshops like the Spellworks will allow for discovery of new skills. The more influence that Evermore is able to accumulate, the higher the level of buildings you can then build. It also makes for a more powerful force when undertaking skirmish battles.

Skirmishes are alternative battles that take place on the chibi-fied overworld, and feature rotating armies taking on opposing bandit forces. These provide a welcome relief from the traditional battles of Revenant Kingdom and create a sense of tension between the burgeoning Evermore and its enemies.

The longer I played Ni No Kuni II, the more aware I became of just how simple and beautiful the visuals were. Each world is equally complex and beautiful, with the casino-themed Goldpaw being an early and obvious delight. The Studio Ghibli influence of the original title carries over into Revenant Kingdom, marking it out as one of the most stunning and accomplished anime titles I’ve had the joy to experience. My adventures were largely spurred on by an intrigue and a curiosity to learn more about the game world and discover all of its weird and wonderful characters.

With such dense and thoughtful world building, Ni No Kuni II carves out a unique and well realised story that is accessible, fun and engaging. It successfully avoids the pitfalls of tedium typically associated with modern JRPGs with a healthy balance between side quests and grinding, while providing relief in the form of skirmishes, item collecting and puzzle solving. With an average playtime of about 35+ hours, there’s plenty to see and do in Ni No Kuni II, but thankfully, it’s a brilliant and worthwhile journey.

Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Gorgeous world, realistic characters, deep story
Lowlights: Limited voice acting, some weak story moments
Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: Friday 23rd March
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows PC

Reviewed on PlayStation Pro with a retail code provided by the publisher.


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