Ni No Kuni II: The Revenant Kingdom from Level-5, is not only improving upon its original concept, but doubling down. And it’s paying off. Ni No Kuni II takes everything it learned from the first game and runs with it. The story being a completely different take on already familiar world (even if it’s not the same).
The story follows young prince-king Evan, promptly taking leave from his kingdom of Ding-dong-dell after a coup against him. Evan isn’t alone on his quest though and friends from all walks of life will stand by his side (Roland is my dude). Players will have direct control of who will join them on their quest for proving Evan is worthy of being a king. The cast of characters is extensive, granting players more than enough social interaction in game. These characters aren’t just stand-ins though, they will have their own stories to tell, that will lead Evan down paths of relationship he never saw coming.
Level-5 is drawing heavily from Studio Ghibli after all. And, why not? They have two Ghibli vets in their midst. Yoshiyuki Momose, art director, who has worked on titles such as, Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away. The music composed by, Joe Hisaishi having worked on Kiki’s Delivery Service and Nausicaa. That’s more than enough to pull on anyone’s Ghibli heart-strings.
The most exciting take away is what Ni No Kuni II is striving to be and most certainly succeeding at. Level-5 wants players to understand this is not a JRPG but an RPG, nothing more, nothing less. This is an important distinction and it’s obvious once you see the game in action. The lack of menus is apparent and Ni No Kuni II never seems to pause but flow. It gives off the impression of watching a Ghibli film, without sacrificing the game. Which means, it’s also a great game for playing with literally anyone around. They will probably enjoy it just as much as you.
One specific thing that distinguishes Ni No Kuni II from being a JRPG, is the combat system. Its combat isn’t driven by turn based combat or even real-time combat that has hooks still in it. Evan is free to move about the battle field, even switching between characters as he does so, on the fly. This means, no menus. No menus allows for less down time, and Ni No Kuni II doesn’t want the player to have any down time. Level-5 made sure the game never drags. Combat can feel static in JPRGs — having Evan move freely about the battlefield gives purpose to action.
Of course, what’s up with those pik…higgledies? The higgledies are spirits in the world of Ni No Kuni II. Evan will encounter different types of higgledies along his journey, allowing him to power up and buff the party in different ways while in combat. Not only looking cute but kicking butt while they do it. For instance, the fire higgledies can leap onto Evans weapon while he’s attacking creating a massive fire slash. The higgledies can also gather and once the right prompt is available, players can give their party a buff. Higgledies are basically just one more rad addition to the game, that also insert narrative.
Ni No Kuni II, has so much on its plate but finds room to manage it all and make it look good. The care and detail going into this game are obvious and this will certainly be one to keep on the radar. If you’ve still yet to play the first Ni No Kuni, now’s the time to revisit, it might be from another system and even a different style of game, but it’s worth it.