There’s a real charm to seeing something with a Miyazaki-like visual aesthetic play out before your eyes, as it’s always associated with beautiful visuals and great story-telling. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom fits this description well while combining solid controls, great gameplay, and a large world to explore like only a well-designed Japanese role-playing game could. Anyone who missed out on playing the first Ni No Kuni game (Wrath of the White Witch) back on the PlayStation 3 need not fret. Though it may be a sequel, Ni No Kuni II stands on its own as a great entry to the series that everyone will enjoy, especially if you love great looking and sounding games with a lot to do in them.
The plot of the game can be a roller coast of emotions in some instances, but it will hold your attention the entire time and make you emote at some of its bigger moments. The story follows a boy-king named Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who is overthrown from his kingdom after a treasonous uprising by the mouse tribe over the cat tribe, all of whom reside in the town of Ding-Dong Dell. Along the way, Evan comes across many characters who help him on his quest to reclaim his rule of the land, including a man named Roland and a young girl named Tani. There are many other faces you get to know over the course of the story, with some of them joining your party and becoming playable at different points.
Ni No Kuni II has a graphical style reminiscent of very popular Studio Ghibli films, despite not being one itself. Much of this comes from former Studio Ghibli animators working on the game, and it’s all really nice to look at. From the design of characters to the details in the environments, there’s a whimsical vibe that is carried throughout the entire experience of Ni No Kuni II. Even the most menacing of enemies and bad guys found within the game’s many areas have a charm that you can only really find from these kinds of stories. Complimenting this is the orchestrated soundtrack that is exciting, emotional, and sets the tone of each chapter you play.
The gameplay is where Ni No Kuni II really excels and becomes a joy to play. Exploring the different areas within the world of Ni No Kuni II can be intriguing even if you take a detour from the main story. There are plenty of towns, caverns, forest, and dungeons to visit and complete quest or discover hidden secrets. Getting from place to place isn’t hard either, as you can quick travel to places you’ve visited before through warps points you activate in & out of the world map.
It can take some time to travel around on foot to places you haven’t been to before, but once you have you’ll be able to appear there in no time flat. There are ways to earn better travel speed on the world map, as well as other perks you gain later on, but you’ll want to warp from place to place more often than not when completing quests.
Combat is great, which can begin and end seamlessly in dungeons and other areas you enter. The screen can get populated with many enemies at one time, which leads to some exciting and fun big battles against groups of enemies. You attack with melee strikes using the face buttons, but can also use magic and special abilities by holding the triggers and hitting a button. This uses up magic, but can lead to some devastating attacks that look great and pack a serious punch. However depending on where you’re located and what action is happening in battle, the frame rate can take a dip in quality for a brief period.
This doesn’t happen frequently or turns into an annoyance, but it does happen enough in some places to become noticeable. The same does happen on the world map near some areas, specifically when there’s a lot of effects in the environment and enemies roaming around the wide space.
The boss battles against larger enemies and key characters can sometimes be the best parts of combat. Certain enemies that you encounter are larger in scale and transport you to different areas for some very challenging fights, which are really great to look at too. Luckily you’re able to use items and abilities with ease during battle, as well as some extra allies in the form of higgledies. These small groups of elemental spirits will not only attack enemies with magic, but can also aid you and your allies with healing spells and boosts they cast on everyone.
Higgledies can be found in various parts of the game’s world and come in many varieties, all of which have their own spells and abilities that can aid you in combat. Learning what they do and mastering their application is key to overcoming Ni No Kuni II’s tougher fights, which can be challenging without being too overbearing or unfair. You may need to level up in some places as you progress the story and need to match up to stronger enemies that appear, but the grind never becomes tedious.
Helping with leveling up is the game’s many side quest and extra tasks that take place outside battle. You can encounter side quests that give you extra items and boosts in experience, as well as perks for a kingdom building mini-game that appears later on. There’s a lot to do in Ni No Kuni II if you decide to break off from the main story for a bit, but some of it may not always be as exciting as the core game. The optional army skirmishes you can play are fun and challenging, but the kingdom building can take a while and lack the same kind of action as everything else.
This wouldn’t be bad if you can ignore this for the majority of the experience, but certain portions of the story require you to take the time to play through these mini-games, and in some cases force you to do so through quests. Moreover you sometimes need to travel to far areas around the world map to obtain specific items and other things to progress further, which can be a little annoying for some and take more time away from playing through the main story.
Small nitpicks aside, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a great role-playing game to play through. The game’s story will keep you entertained and engaged throughout the many hours you spend with it, complimented by the Studio Ghibli inspired visuals and orchestrated soundtrack. Fans of JRPGs will enjoy the combat and many quests to complete, as well as the large over world to traverse and explore. The small frame-drops and slightly dull mini-games may stick out, but they aren’t enough to dampen the fun experience you’ll get playing Ni No Kuni II.
This review was based on a digital review code for Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom for the PlayStation 4, provided by Bandai Namco.