Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is one of the best works from Level 5, alongside Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy. They have outdone themselves and given players an immersive world to get experience. That said, Ni no Kuni 2 still has the potential to be greater.
The story follows Evan Pettiwhisker, the future King of Ding Dong Dell. However, a coup by the Mousekind forces him to escape the kingdom. Evan has no time to mourn his loss as he resolves to forge a new kingdom. One where everyone can live happily ever after. An honourable goal, even if it is a little cliche and cheesy.
There’s a good story here, no doubt. The biggest problem is the light-hearted tone that Level 5 has chosen to implement. There’s nothing wrong with having a lighter story but it doesn’t always work. It tries to mix a coming-of-age theme with a war story about betrayal and conquest. The story of Ni no Kuni 2 should have a more serious tone.
A simple case is the city of Ding Dong Dell. There are two races who live there, the Grimalkins (cat people) and the Mousekind. In the first Ni no Kuni, we saw the social divide between the two races. The latter would live in sewers and were the lower class citizens. This racial divide should have been further built upon in Ni no Kuni 2. Show us the frustration of the Mousekind and their hatred of Grimalkins. Give them a good reason to rise up and revolt against Evan.
The characters of Ni no Kuni 2 are decently written. At times, they can feel flat but they are always enjoyable to be around. The main protagonist, Evan, comes across as a typical naive child. This is true to a certain extent as his beliefs are too idealistic. Yet, he isn’t as annoying as other characters who follow the stereotype. Evan has some excellent character moments and is a decisive ruler.
The supporting members are more interesting. Roland is Evan’s advisor who comes from another world (read: our world). He was the President of a nation and assists the young King with the hardships of leadership. Tani is a young sky pirate girl who brings a lot of energy and assertiveness to the party. She’s a no-nonsense kind of girl who doesn’t hesitate to act. Both of them add a ton of personality to the game and are excellent characters.
The voice acting for these characters is not as consistent. The quality of the voice acting seems to vary a fair amount. It can be off-putting at times where a good sounding character feels off. It’s not a bad effort by any means, but they should have given it a once over before launch. Do note that the entire script does not feature voice acting. About 60% of the dialogue is written text without any voices.
While the story may disappoint in some regards, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Level 5 has gone with an action-based combat system for Ni no Kuni 2. It’s a basic system with light and heavy attacks that you combine for combos. You can also use ranged attacks and skills which vary for each character. Both of these attacks use MP which you can restore through regular attacks.
Fighting in Ni no Kuni 2 is fun and exciting. There’s enough variety in your actions to keep things fresh for a long time. Movement is smooth and the controls are responsive. Dodge rolling gives you invincibility frames which reward skilful play. There’s also an interesting “Zing” mechanic. As you attack with your main weapon, it builds up a charge. When it reaches 100% your next skill gets a powerful buff. You have to time your skills to get the most out of them.
Other than the party members you have Higgledies, which are cute little creatures. You can have four with you at once and they support you through healing and buffs. They don’t do it so often that they feel overpowered and unbalanced. Each of them has different abilities and it’s fun to experiment with this feature.
There is an unfortunate issue with the combat in Ni no Kuni 2. It lacks a meaningful level of difficulty and challenge. The game suffers from typical JRPG progression: stats rather than skill. You can overpower enemies by buying better gear or levelling up. It’s a shame that they put so little care into balancing the combat system to make it challenging.
There are a number of easy solutions for this. A hard mode where enemies deal more damage makes a world of difference. Or they could be less generous with the weapons and armour you receive for free. You won’t have to buy new weapons as you get what you need from enemy drops or chests.
When Evan isn’t fighting, he must manage his brand new kingdom. This is reminiscent of the Suikoden series where you have ownership of a grand castle. In Ni no Kuni 2 you gradually build up your city with useful facilities. This is where you can upgrade your weapons and magic through their specific shops.
To make the most out of your kingdom you need to recruit citizens. Some will join you during the main story but others require side quests. This makes the side quests in Ni no Kuni 2 worth doing. Without villagers, you can’t make use of your kingdom’s facilities. The side quests themselves are of varying quality. Some will have you complete unique tasks that add to the world’s lore. Others are basic fetch quests but at least the rewards are worth the effort.
The strongest aspect of Ni no Kuni 2 is its phenomenal world. Level 5 are excellent world builders and this is the best they’ve ever done. The graphics and art style are stunning. Environments are gorgeous and an absolute pleasure to explore. The fantastical beauty of Ni no Kuni 2 will be the greatest motivator for you to play finish this game.
One of the earliest towns you visit is a charming town by the name of the Goldpaw. It’s a Chinatown themed city with neon lights and cultural architecture. There’s also a casino full of your typical gambling shenanigans. If Ni no Kuni 2 could get a higher rating, this is the town where you’d see a few drunkards rolling around. It’s a great atmosphere that extends to the rest of the world.
For the soundtrack, Ni no Kuni 2 retains the Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi. As you may expect, he brings that same level of energy and emotion to this game. The music is orchestral and serves as the perfect backdrop for a kingly adventure. For players who aren’t fans of orchestral arrangements, don’t worry as the music has more to it than grandiose orchestral themes. Going back to Goldpaw, the city has a slight jazz feel to it which complements the chill mood.
Ni no Kuni 2 does have its downfalls but is still a huge success for Level 5. They have shown improvement and ambition in their latest home console title. It is a shame they continue to disappoint in the story-telling aspect. Despite this, Ni no Kuni 2 is one of the better JRPGs of this generation. A magical world to lose yourself in for hours upon hours.