Japanese RPGs are quite different from their Western counterparts. They tend to be less gory, with a whimsical setting and push the limits of imagination. However, on the down side, they often follow the same old cliches and stick to the tried and tested formula of saving the world while playing as a law abiding, virtuous protagonist, painfully predictable to a fault. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is another JRPG that to sticks to that Eastern video game trope, highlighting its appeal and at the same time bringing out the flaws.
The game takes place in a world, one where humans aren’t the only sentient beings. You’ve got cat-folk, dog-folk, rat-folk and even fish-folk. For someone not used to the fairy tale setting of JRPGs or childish games in general, it may be hard to take Ni no Kuni II seriously, but if you can get past that it’s fairly entertaining.
Ni no Kuni II: Plot
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom follows Evan Tildrum, a young King who is deposed in a coup and looses his closest friend in the aftermath. Now, what is the first thing a ousted ruler would work towards? Getting their throne back and punishing the usurper, right? Evan on the other hand decides that all is well and good and runs off to start a new kingdom of his own where everyone can live in peace and happiness. To further cement his naivety, he names his kingdom Evermore.
The next objective of his newly formed nation instead of expansion and fortification turns out to be signing peace treaties with all the major powers of the world to prevent war and destruction. This all sounds nice and noble on paper, but any level-minded individual knows that isn’t achievable in the real world. Luckily, Ni no Kuni II is so detached from reality, once you get immersed in its world, it doesn’t really bother you (except when the cringe level exceeds 10,000).
Art-style and Characters
What really makes Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom worth playing is its art-style and the atmosphere. While the landscape and the architecture have a high visual fidelity with a decent polygon count and ample detail, the character models are cartoon-y and anime-ish, most likely cell shaded. This contrast works well in favor of the game and contributes greatly to an already charming world.
You’ve got a country of factory workers living in a fully automated tower-city, another where everything, from regional laws and court rulings to business transactions as well as taxes are governed by luck, and to be more specific the roll of a dice. The third nation lies smack-dab in the middle of the open sea, one where getting sick is forbidden and making love lands you in prison. Lastly the birth-kingdom of our starry eyed protagonist looks just like toy-town. In the end, it’s quirks like these that keep the game going, despite the mediocre story and the blandish characters.
Almost all JRPGs have one overly used theme—i.e., saving the world from some ancient evil, but the story usually has enough twists and turns to keep the player immersed. Ni no Kuni II is no different, but the plot here is quite straight-forward and predictable without any intricate twists. The characters too as mentioned earlier fail to impress and the goody two shoes protagonist that is Evan tends to get somewhat over-bearing with his nativity and kindness at times.
The most interesting character or perhaps the only one worth mentioning would be the secondary protagonist, Roland. He acts as his mentor and keeps Evan from going overboard in his pious endeavors. He has the maturity of a veteran leader and at the same time the allure of a revolutionary. Thanks to his diplomacy and experience, Evan’s newly born kingdom has an able administrator.
Kingdom Management Simulator
Speaking of administration, Ni no Kuni II features a base building simulator of sorts. You are given the task of maintaining and expanding your castle using the revenue generated by the citizens. This includes armor and weapon shops, as well as ranches, mines, farms and pretty much anything you’ll ever need in a kingdom. Citizens need to be recruited from all over the world to upgrade the main castle. These citizens usually ask you to fetch something for them from some remote corner of the map.
This is another part of the game that gets on my nerves. All the side quests are literally the same, just the item that requires fetching is different. Plus, many times the game doesn’t even tell you where you’ll find them. You just have to look out for them as you explore. The fact that the main campaign is also quite dreary does little to justify this.
The story is divided into roughly three parts, or acts if you may. Completing a particular act requires leveling up the castle which in turn needs the completion of a ton of those monotonous fetch quests to get enough civilians to move to your new kingdom. This made the completing the boring side quests a serious headache. To be honest, I enjoyed exploring the fairy tale world of Ni no Kuni II and beating the dungeons and the tainted monsters present within, but the side quests and even the main story at times felt like a tedious chore that needed completing just for the sake of progression.
Now moving onto the combat. Ni no Kuni II has a deeply satisfying combat system. It’s quite similar to Bandai Namco’s newer “Tales of” games, but the difficulty is lower. Each character uses separate weapons and each of them can be upgraded back at Evermore. Crafting new weapons and armor is also possible. One unique aspect of the combat is the presence of higgledies- cute, teddy bear like beings that aid you in combat. They perform healing as well as attacks depending on their element affinity.
The game has something called a strategy tweaker that lets you modify your characters’ weaknesses and strengths in combat and also lets you choose if you prefer to receive additional exp over quality gear in battles or vice versa, etc. There are also top-down battles called skirmishes involving Evan’s troops that feel like an under-cooked mechanic. In the beginning, they are too easy, but the difficulty spikes suddenly as there aren’t many chances to upgrade your skirmish teams. Furthermore, for the most part you just move your squads around on the battlefield and the actual fighting is handled by the game automatically, so it gets real boring, fast. Fortunately the the number of these skirmishes in the game is quite limited.
Dialogs and Voice Acting
Ni no Kuni II may be far from a technological marvel, but it wouldn’t be unfair to expect animations and voice acting that don’t break the immersion. Being a $60 game, one can expect at least that much. Unfortunately, while the passive animations used during combat and exploration are fairly impressive, the same can’t be said for dialogs.
The game has full-fledged voice acting only during cut-scenes and the characters re-use the same phrases over and over again during other conversations. This is further aggravated by the the lousy animations used during dialogs. At first, they come off as comedic, but after a while they start getting annoying and make it hard to take whatever the characters are saying seriously.
Ni no Kuni II: Conclusion
As long as you’re a fan of JRPGs, Ni no Kuni II should keep you entertained. A pretty and colorful world with tons of bizarre locations, along with dozens of dungeons and bosses will keep seasoned players immersed. However, if you’re a new-comer to the genre or simply not interested in childish games with fairy tale tones, then you should look towards western RPGs for a darker setting.
For original 4K screenshots, click here.