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Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom Hands-On: Building A Better Tomorrow

Ever since Studio Ghibli first collaborated with Banda-Namco on the original Ni No Kuni fans have been clamoring for a sequel. Marrying the visionary animation and storytelling stylings of Ghibli with JRPG style mechanics was an instant success. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine anything made by the team behind films like Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away not having a certain pedigree to it. This time around, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has to succeed or fail on its own merits as the legendary animation studio isn't directly involved. If my recent hands-on time is any indicator of the final products quality though, fans shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Much of the game’s basic storyline and gameplay mechanics have already been revealed. Players take on the role of a young would-be king named Evan. Evan’s father, the King of Ding Dong Dell has been assassinated and his advisor Mausinger has taken over the kingdom and locked away the country’s Kingmaker. Now Evan and his ragtag crew are on a quest to take back his father’s realm while forging a new path of their own. In order to do so, Evan must find a Kingmaker that can assist him in becoming a legitimate successor to the throne while uniting the surrounding realms against the usurper Mausinger.  

Visually, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is looking just as sharp and gorgeous as the first game. I know there wasn’t much doubt that the Ghibli alumni still involved with the game's production wouldn’t pull together something gorgeous but one still can’t help but be impressed by how detailed and fluid characters and backgrounds look. So many aspects both visually and storywise are reminiscent of their previous works with Ghibli. Players will traverse a world full of vast green fields, desert wasteland hills, luminescent ancient forests, and beyond.

The city of Gold Paw struck me as a particularly fine example of the level of detail one should expect. Gold Paw is a city based around gambling and chance full of neon lights and casinos and brimming with nightlife. But it also integrates more traditional Japanese architecture into its design that adds a certain mystical quality to many of its elements. In particular, Gold Paw’s giant buddha-like mechanical statue of its god of chance struck me as a fine example of the level of detail fans can expect from the upcoming game.     

From a combat perspective, I feel like Ni No Kuni II’s action-style skirmishes are looking to keep things accessible to a broad age range. That’s not to say that there won’t be any danger to its fighting sequences, I came close to losing a few battles after all but one of my teammates fell, but I managed to pull out a victory each time. Players who have experience with Bandai-Namco’s Tales of series of JRPG titles should feel right at home.  

Thanks to some loveable looking little sprites called Higgledies though, players are never truly alone in battle. Higgledies can be used to execute their own special attacks or absorbed as elemental material for spells in a fight.  

While there is an overworld map with avoidable monster encounters that most long-distance travels occur in, there are also moments where players will have to get from point A to point B while in battle mode. There seemed to be several opportunities to avoid combat by simply going around it on the A to B travel areas, which lends itself well to my earlier statement about approachability for varying age groups.

One new aspect of combat I had yet to see before during my hands-on time with previous builds was the Tactic Tweaker system. This system allows players to augment their team with certain boosts that balance out by making them weaker against other aspects. So, while adding a point to make the team more effective against brawler creatures may also make the team weaker against slime creatures. Or giving everyone a buff against poison attacks may make them more prone to something like fire. There’s also just a generic buff that can add to a team's general stats, like defense or attack. Players will be able to add or remove more points for use with each system by earning a battle points currency in combat.

Along with the more traditional RPG aspects, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom will also give players a chance to build their own kingdoms and assist in making it prosperous. Initially, players will make buildings for armor, weapons and item shops along with a Higgledy research facility. Once the buildings are put up it will be up to players to staff them with the proper townspeople based off each NPC’s own characteristics and skills. Each building will be more effective at their assigned research tasks if players do a good job of staffing.

I don’t think anyone is expecting Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom to be bad, but it’s also always hard to know how a sequel this anticipated will actually turn out. From what I gathered during my hands-on preview though fans who have been waiting to get their hands on the title shouldn’t have much if anything to worry about. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is due to release on March 23 for PS4 and PC.  



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