Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Preview: More Action, Less Grinding

Level 5 switches the formula up a bit for their sequel to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and it is all for the better thus far.

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Soon after its initial release date was announced, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was pushed a few months back as the devs decided a bit more time was needed to deliver a full experience. This slotted it into my Most Anticiapted Games of 2018 as an honorable mention, but it could end up being one of the standouts of the year. We’re not exactly sure which elements had to be added, but I can tell you that the final version of the sequel is polished, pretty, and a whole lot of fun. Level 5’s latest title still carries the Studio Ghibli influence of the first Ni No Kuni, but injects the entire formula with a bit more excitement and a lot less grind.

The Ni No Kuni series launched to much fanfare with Wrath of the White Witch, largely due to the partnership with legendary animation team at Studio Ghibli and the resulting influence on the game’s design. This isn’t to take anything away from Level 5, the development team behind such RPGs as Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy, and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, as the team’s gameplay pedigree was on full display.

Wrath of the White Witch was a slow grind with a combat system built on collecting monsters in the game’s world, having the cast of characters serve as support for these creatures. Revenant Kingdom injects a bit more action into not only the combat system, which eschews the pseudo time-based style of its predecessor, but ups the pace of the game in general.

Combat in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is all action now, with players able to take control of any of the party members to use melee combos, ranged weapons, and special abilities. No matter what your particular character’s focus, recharging mana points is done with melee attacks, so you’ll always be in the thick of things.

Creature management isn’t completely out of the picture in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, though it serves as a supplement to combat instead of the main focus. After entering the game’s overworld for the first time, I eventually encountered a tough monster where I was assisted by some tiny helpers called Higgledies. The little beings attacked of their own accord but, after a bit of time, created a circle where I could activate them for a special attack. They created a canon and targeted the enemy while my crew attacked as well. Further into my playthrough, I acquired more Higgledies and they supported my team with heals, shields, and more advanced attacks in addition to giving me the ability to traverse dungeons more efficiently. For instance, one particle Hero Higgledy infuses a specific plant with wind so I can be boosted to higher spaces. The variants on dungeon exploration are something I’ve seen in other RPGs and it doesn’t really stand out, but the use of the creatures in combat adds a layer of excitement to an already exciting system.

Because you're tasked with rebuilding a King's kindgom, there are some army skirmishes added to Ni No Kuni's formula. The mode uses the chibi designs for characters on large battlefields. Visually, you're taking multiple units into battle with massive armies and fighting for territory. In action, though, the mode is very simple and serves as an intruiging break in the dungeon crawling action. The skirmishes are very direct in their execution, as I rotated units around a central hero with the triggers on the controller to match them up against the right enemy units. There are special abilities like air strikes and morale boosts that can turn the tide of battle, as well. The first encounter was scripted into the plot, but I've come across what seems to be optional skirmishes in the overworld that likely enhance your kingdom growth (more on that later).

Visually, Revenant Kingdom takes an already impressive style it displayed on PS3 and takes advantage of the PS4’s power. Whether in a dungeon, town, or the overworld, the art style and colors pop and depth-of-field effect adds to the game’s flair. The game’s overworld and skirmish battles utilize chibi versions of characters, unlike Wrath of the White Witch. It’s an interesting choice but it doesn’t distract from the experience much. Like the first game, though, Revenant Kingdom has a wonderful soundtrack in the parts of the game I’ve experienced thus far. The songs exude the energy of the places they accentuate while also not feeling so excruciatingly repetitive like in similar games.

Fans of the Suikoden franchise will find a lot to love in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, especially considering Suikoden has been sadly absent from the gaming industry. In my first seven hours of play, I found Interesting characters are abundant in Revenant Kingdom and the game's kingdom building adds to its identity while bringing the Suikoden comparison right on home. I've only barely scratched the surface with kingdom building, but I will be writing up a full preview of the mode before the review drops. Stay tuned to Shacknews and look out for Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom's launch on March 23, 2018, for PC and PS4.

News Editor

Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at Charles.Singletary@Shacknews.com.

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