Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom Review

The original Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on the PlayStation 3 was a game I really wanted to like.  It had a whimsical premise. Some great characters and was buoyed by some fantastic production design. Especially, with the visuals and audio done by Studio Ghibli.  Except I only made it like eight or so hours into the game. Mainly due to the extremely awkward battle system and its heavy focus on grinding. However, I played and finished Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom, not only because I had it for review, but I actually enjoyed playing it.

Review: Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Title:   Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
Platform: PS4 [Reviewed], PC
Genre: Japanese RPG
Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Players: 1
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Price: $59.99

An Introduction

Ni No Kuni 2

Ni No Kuni 2 is a rare game that is both better and worse than its predecessor.  Ideally, a game sequel should improve everything the first game did before it. Think of the switch between Assassin’s Creed 1 to 2.  Sometimes, this doesn’t work at all, like when Red Faction went from Guerilla to Armageddon, which completely ruined what Guerilla did to make it a fun game.

Ni No Kuni 2 takes an odd path.  From a pure gameplay perspective, it is a vastly better game.  Combat is actually fun and functional. There’s also the whole castle upgrading/citizens recruitment system. Plus, there’s the positive that you are not collecting monsters anymore as well.  This is all in addition to numerous other improvements and new systems that make it very serviceable.

Ni No Kuni 2

The other shoe drops with the actual production values of the game.  While some people from Studio Ghibli did work on this game, the entire studio’s weight wasn’t behind it. Thus showing some wear.  There is a real lack of anime sequences, characters with personality, and most of all, voice acting in the game.  The actual form and function of Ni No Kuni 2 is there. However, it is missing the heart that made the first game special.  It’s honestly a rather weird problem. Something that I’ll explain later.

The Basic Story

The story in Ni No Kuni 2 is decent without being exemplary.  You nominally play as Evan, a “Grimalkin” (cat/human hybrid). Evan has just become the king, after his father’s recent passing.  However, in another reality, Roland, the president of an unnamed country gets his limo attacked and his country bombed.  He is thrown into Evan’s reality just as Evan is facing a coup from the mouse people in his country.  On the run, Evan and Roland decide to form their own kingdom where everyone can join and be happy.  Evan’s ultimate goal is to unite all the other kingdoms under his banner.  Oh, there’s also a bad guy that is trying to kill everyone through some dastardly plan, as is the usual for RPG’s.

Superficially, the story in Ni No Kuni 2 is kind of cute.  But, it’s only when you realize that Evan is unknowingly plotting world domination does it get a bit strange.  Evan is a completely earnest character, and the other kingdoms you run into have numerous sets of problems that you have to repair. Not to mention, their leaders are usually insane. However, there are definitely some imperialist tendencies in Evan. Especially since the game makes no observation of this. Ultimately, it is something I noticed and it made me chuckle as the story played out.

Tales of Suikoden

In RPG terms, Ni No Kuni 2 is almost a fusion of a Tales game and a Suikoden game.  The fighting system really evokes what Tales does. While almost everything else is Suikoden-related. Including a kind of wonky strategy mini-game.

Combat works really well in Ni No Kuni 2.  You control a single character while you have two AI’s helping you out.  You can also jump, and have a light and heavy attack that you can combo together. There’s also a ranged attack, roll (or block, depending if it’s held down or not). A button to quick-select skills, another to change weapons, and finally a button to activate your Higgledies.

The skill system is pretty basic but is way more functional than in most Tales games.  You hold down the quick-select button and your face buttons turn into your different skills.  You then press said button to use a skill, which uses some of your MP.  It’s not the weird direction-pad style system that Tales uses, but that’s a good thing since most of those games are a tad awkward.

Higgledies Galore

My earlier point that the Pokemon-style gameplay from the first game was removed isn’t entirely true.  It’s instead been reworked into the Higgledy system.  Basically, you can create special “Higgledy” creatures. These are elemental creatures that aid you on the battlefield.  Usually, they either heal you or deal damage to the enemies automatically.  Occasionally though, a circle appears under them which requires you to run up and press X.  This activates their special ability, letting them do more damage or heal more of your party’s health.

Higgledies are found in the game world or by creating them in a special store. In the game world, Higgledies usually require an object from your inventory. A Higgledy might say “I want a cold prism”, then you go in your inventory and select “Icy Prism” to give to it, and he’ll be happy and join you.

Creating them from the store is more akin to crafting. Basically, you fill out an ingredient sheet and it creates a certain Higgledy.  Higgledies also have certain innate attributes, attacks, personalities, etc.  You can only have four in your party at once. Not to mention, you have to be under a certain number budget, so you have to balance between stronger and weaker ones.

Castle Building and Upgrading

Aside from combat and going through the story, the main activity that you do is build and upgrade your castle.  Initially, you only have the castle itself and a few scant buildings. An armorer, weapon store, spell store, and the Higgledy crafter.  You’ll also notice open spaces in the area. This is where you can invest in things like a general store, restaurant, farms, boat dock, mining camp, and more.  Some of these buildings provide passive bonuses. While others are more active.

For example, the bazaar randomly gathers cloth, thread, cotton, string, and buttons for you.  Then, You can use these parts to fulfill side quests. These parts also upgrade your armor, craft Higgledies, or you can just outright sell the stuff it collects. You’ll continue collecting this as a passive bonus, so long as there is room in your castle inventory for it.

Ni No Kuni 2

The flip side of this would be something like the Explorers Guild.  The guild can let you increase your storehouse so that passive buildings like the bazaar have more room to gather stuff. While also letting you obtain other things such as food buff time, walking speed in the game world, and gaining more money by destroying pots in dungeons. However, to actually unlock these upgrades you need to research them and spend “Kingsguilders.”

When is a Free to Play game not Free to Play?

You have two main currencies in this game, guilders, and KingsguildersGuilders is the typical gold equivalent in any RPG. You use it to buy new weapons, items, armor, etc.  Kingsguilders are what you need to actually buy new buildings. Then, you use the same currency to upgrade them (each building typically has four different levels) and purchase research.  Kingsguilders accumulates based on an hourly rate of how much influence your castle has. More influence means, more Kingsguilders per hour. 

For example, if you have 10,000 influence you’ll accumulate 1000 KG per hour. However, if you have 100,000 influence, you may get like 10,000 per hour.  These aren’t exact figures at all but just giving an idea of what the system is.

Ni No Kuni 2

So what do you do while you wait for your Kingsguilders to replenish?  Ideally, you should be playing the game, doing side quests, unlocking new characters, etc., but a lot of the time you just have to idle the game and do something else.  I usually fill the time watching DVDs on my computer, but others might clean or exercise, or play their Switch, etc. Also, while building or upgrading buildings are instantaneous, research is not.  Research can take anywhere from five minutes for a minor upgrade, to upwards of an hour and a half for certain high-level upgrades.  Again, you can play the game, or just let it sit there while this occurs.

This system feels partially like a Farmville clone.  I really like the whole idea of it, but having to wait for your Kingsguilders to accumulate, or for your research project to finish, feels somewhat exploitative.  It almost made me wish there was an option to purchase a coin doubler or something that let me bypass this part altogether.

Recruitment Drive

Aside from constructing shops and buildings in your kingdom, you also have to actually fill them up with people.  This is the closest Ni No Kuni 2 comes in terms of paralleling Suikoden.  You’ll come across loads of people in the game you can recruit to your kingdom.  Almost all of them have certain requirements. Although most either break into two categories “Kill this monster” or “Bring me this item.”  Once you fulfill their request they join up with your kingdom.

Each recruit has different affinities and abilities.  One person might be a really good armorer. While another might excel at boosting production in the fish market.  You can manually tell people where they should work, or you can have the game automatically do it for you.  The game might make some odd decisions with certain characters, but most of the time gets it right.  Each character you recruit can level up twice increasing their stats and their innate ability.

Certain research topics also require certain abilities.  For example, researching “Level 6 Ranged Weapon Development” Means you’ll need a character who is a master of the skill “True Brilliance.”

Here’s a helpful tip: never sell anything you get in the game, ever.   There are hundreds of different items in the game.  Typically, each item has eight different variants. Along with eight different types of crystals, tree sap, or silk.  Never sell any of it.  You’ll never know when a side quest requires three pieces of Spectral Silk, or when a new character wants you to fetch them four Maelstrom Shells.

Rock, Paper, Scissors and uh…what beats yellow?

The other gameplay system used in Ni No Kuni 2 that takes from Suikoden is a strategy game called a Skirmish reminiscent of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  You control Evan from a top-down perspective while four units encircle him.  You can rotate these units to deal with threats from different directions.  Units are somewhat color-coded: green units are effective against blue ones. Blues are effective against reds. While reds are effective against greens.  There are also yellow units that don’t fit into this trifecta but can usually be taken out by any color. As well as, a somewhat neutral purple color.

Red and green units are melee focused. Reds have swords and greens have hammers.  Blue units are spell casters and attack with ranged weapons. Yellow units are also ranged but have bows and arrows. Each unit also has their own special ability that spends a currency called Might. the currency of these fights to do a damaging attack, or some other beneficial battle status.

Getting Down to It

Prior to the battle, you can spend some Kingsguilders to upgrade abilities/health of your units, which is a big recommendation.  In battle, there are a few other things you can do, one is a dash which spends a portion of your power bar.  You can also tell your units to enter a powered-up state where they attack quicker, but this drains the bar more.  Don’t worry, the bar recharges after a few seconds. There’s also a couple of kingdom upgrades available that extend it out by quite a bit as well.  You can also spawn in more troops if your’s get destroyed.  This also spends some might but is generally worth it.

The strategy game is honestly kind of easy and can be cheesed to a certain degree.  Basically, just pick one unit of each color (red, blue, green and yellow) and you can win almost every fight.  Retreat if you get overwhelmed, pick up the resources the enemy drops, replenish your troops if you need to, etc.

Arguably, the biggest problem with the strategy game is that there isn’t a gradual difficulty curve for battles.  I had level 17 troops trying to take on a level 31 army because that’s all that was available to me, at the time.  Alongside this, your troops don’t actually get experience that often.  I finished the game with level 37-38 troops and was taking on level 50+ armies with them.  There’s a very weird imbalance with this system.

Finally, a small compliment and a minor complaint

One good thing Ni no Kuni 2 does is letting you fast travel around the world with ease.  Except for some specific story points, and hidden dungeons, you can always travel back to your kingdom with the press of a few buttons. Letting you collect kingdom loot, buy health items, get new gear, etc.  Most story-based dungeons also have multiple fast travel checkpoints. So, while you might not be able to transport to your exact spot, you’ll be able to get close enough.

On the flip side, I have a minor complaint. Ni No Kuni 2 is maybe too easy.  I did occasionally game over a few times if something in the strategy game went bad. However, I don’t think I ever hit a game over during my main playthrough of the game.  You’ll routinely be under-leveled for most dungeons but never really have a problem.  I was level 52 and the final boss is level 70, and I was able to trounce him into oblivion.  There are some post-ending areas to unlock that are way harder, but for most of the game, it is a total cakewalk.

Pros:

  • The battle system is vastly improved and combat is actually fun
  • Upgrading your castle and finding new people to live there is enjoyable
  • The overall look of the game is pleasant

Cons:

  • There is a lack of heart in the game, with lackluster production values
  • The strategy game isn’t much fun to play
  • Timers in the kingdom section draw out the game and feel like padding.
  • Main game may be too easy

Final Thoughts

Overall Score: 7.0 Out of 10 Ni No Kuni 2 is a game with a lot of good-to-great fundamentals. However, it is missing the special ingredient that makes it really memorable.  It’s, in a way, depressing, since the first game was a very unique game that bungled the execution almost completely.  I’d say grab Ni No Kuni 2 if you want a “good” RPG, but not a great one.  The sad thing is, it’s about the closest we may get to a Suikoden 6 game.

This game was reviewed using a retail copy purchased by W2Mnet.com for review purposes