The dream team which brought you Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch- story writer Akihiro Hino, former Studio Ghibli character designer Yoshiyuki Momose, and former Studio Ghibli musical composer Joe Hisaishi- are back with a fresh adventure in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. I really wasn’t sure how any game could be cuter than the original Ni No Kuni, but it seems that the dream team behind Revenant Kingdom found a way: They added a main character with cat ears. (Insert girly squee noises here.)
Ni No Kuni II follows the story of a young boy named Evan, or more formally, King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who happens to be a deposed king from a magical land known as Ding Dong Dell. Unable to hold onto his father’s crown, Evan sets out to build his own kingdom, and must undertake a series of trials, grow both as a person and as a ruler, and forge friendships and alliances along the way. These friendships will range from logical, at least in a fantasy setting, such as Lofty, a kingmaker higgledie (adorable little elemental spirits which replace the familiar system from the first game) who forms a bond with Evan, allowing him to build his own kingdom, to the logical if not fantastical Roland, a man who just so happens to be a president from another world, and who tutors Evan how to be a king, to the bizarre yet charming companions of Tani a sky pirate, and her father, who will take a bit of convincing to come around to Evan’s cause.
While those with the gotta-catch-’em-all bug may have been disappointed to hear that the familiar system is not returning to Ni No Kuni II, Level-5 has not left fans without something to obsess over in-game. When they say that Evan must build his own kingdom, they mean that quite literally. Kingdoms don’t create themselves, and Ni No Kuni II comes with a town building simulation, where you will have to command your subjects to take on tasks most suited to their skills, or most needed by your people. This includes customizing your city, convincing more townsfolk to move to your land, and, hopefully, reaping the game-wide benefits which come from ruling over a thriving kingdom.
Another note which may potentially disappoint fans: Ni No Kuni II will not feature hand drawn drawn cutscenes. Instead, Level-5 aimed to create a new experience by wedding the animated movies with that of an action RPGs. The cut scenes are generated within the game engine, creating seamless transitions between cutscenes and gameplay without sacrificing the charm or quality of the animations themselves.
After a hands off demo and introduction to the game, I was able to play the game myself, and dove into a demo which featured two different battles. Thogg, the first boss of the game, is part of the trial of courage Evan must pass in order to be judged worthy of being a king. This battle was pretty straight forward; get close enough to unleash physical attacks, use the B button to roll quickly away from the charging Thogg, hold down the left trigger to cast spells from a distance. Roland and Tani provided me plenty of backup, and I received a healthy amount of boosts, buffs and heals by paying attention to the what the higgledies were up to, standing within their circles whenever they gathered together to cast their magic.
Of course, Throgg was not much compared to the next boss I was to stand toe to toe with. While Lofty is an adorable, squishy little Kingmaker, guarding Evan’s newly sprouted kingdom, I was forced to confront Longfang, a much older, more powerful Kingmaker of the large and well established kingdom of Goldpaw. For reasons unknown in this demo, Longfang has seemingly lost his mind and has begun indiscriminately attacking his own people. In the name of forging an alliance, protecting people, and other noble things, our little team went to war with a fire breathing dragon, hoping to quite literally knock some sense into him.
The fight began with Longfang and our crew perched upon a rock in the middle of a field of magma. This part was straightforward enough: run in, do damage, avoid the overgrown lizard’s firebreath. Easy peasy… until stage two, when Longfang takes a giant leap back, submerging half of his body in lava. This limits the parts you can target to his front feet and, on occasion, his lowered head. Avoiding fire breath also expands to avoiding falling boulders, then destroying said boulders before they superheat, explode, and do damage to just about everyone on the field. Combine that with keeping tabs on what the higgledies are up to, Longfang’s moving front legs, and his AOE damage, and there’s a lot to keep track of, despite the relatively small battlefield.
Fortunately, Ni No Kuni II provides some guidance to help players along. White circles highlight areas that should be targeted. Higgledie rings glow when a buff is available to those who stand inside them, and Lofty and crew offer tips and suggestions which are surprisingly useful and not entirely annoying. Despite all this, it’s a tough battle, and Evan and I barely survived; fortunately, Longfang fell, and Goldpaw was saved. Now if I could only get the full game so I can figure out what set Longfang off in the first place…
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was a delight to play, with controls which were easy to pick up, easy to manage, and gameplay which combined fast paced, flashy battles with the style, charm, and character designs Studio Ghibli fans have come to cherish. Bandai Namco, the US distributor, promises that the game holds many more secrets, surprises, and features which have yet to be revealed. Ni No Kuni II has a global release date of November 10th, and will be available for PlayStation 4 and PC. You can learn more about this unique blend of a coming of age movie and action RPG video game at the official Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom website.