Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review: With Great Speed

Level-5 deliver an RPG with more of the dev team's own stamp on it, versus leaning on the Studio Ghibli influence.

2

Level-5 has established its legacy as one of the top developers of JRPGs and has been furthering that legacy by presenting stories that are influenced and inspired by the legendary Studio Ghibli animation studio to life. The original Ni No Kuni was a milestone collaboration for the two entities and the sequel, Revenant Kingdom, switches gears while improving on the formula with a less monotonous grind and an intriguing focus on the world’s obsession with smartphones.

Maintaining a theme of swiftness, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom jumps into the main conflict much faster than Wrath of the White Witch. The sequel features a similar leap from the “real” world to a more fantastic setting, doing so in a matter of minutes versus hours. The fighting is faster as well, adopting an action-intense combat style that initiates instantly while in dungeons. This is one of the most significant improvements to the Ni No Kuni formula, also largely taking away the monster management of the first title.

I dove into combat and switched between any of my party members, exploiting their individual strengths however I saw fit. There seemed to be a layer of AI for enemy creatures that determined who to attack based on the amount of damage being dealt, but I often felt like I drew the enemy’s attention no matter what. This lends to an experience that keeps the intensity high more consistently, but took away from the tactical potential. You're not collecting and controlling creatures in the sequel, but there are spirits called Higgledies that add a layer to combat in a mostly passive fashion. The little monsters will boost and assist your party, regularly placing a circle on the battlefield that allows you to activiate a special attack. It's an organic and welcome addition.

Though the game shifts when it comes to gameplay, it's all built on wonderful art design just like the first Ni No Kuni. The Studio Ghibli artistry is in full force once again and the animations from the Higgledies to the humanoid and animal-hybrid characters are top notch. The music feels more memorable in the sequel, as well, but the voice performances are a mixed bag. The performances are fine, but the frequency you hear actual dialogue is inconsistent enough to be annoying.

Considering you’re building a kingdom, it makes sense that Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom also introduces combat that takes place on a larger battlefield. Via mostly optional conflicts, I took the lead character and a few generals into battle to conquer areas. On paper, the conflicts sound epic, but the activity itself is very simple. It boils down to being a mini-game that plays on the rock-paper-scissors unit matchups of more involved tactical game, but does so in a streamlined and clever way relegated to rotating the units that surround your main character. I would have loved a more intense army conflict, due to my own affinity for strategy games, but this style keeps with the overall quicker pace of Ni No Kuni II and serves as a solid break in the game’s rhythm.

The other major focus in Ni No Kuni II is the hands-on building of your kingdom, Evermore. This aspect of the game wraps resource gathering via participation in side quests in a nice bow. I stated in early impressions of the game that the sequel largely eliminated the horrendous grind of the first game, but that’s not accurate. There are moments that can feel like a grind in Revenant Kingdom, but they’re dressed up better. Kingdom building is a large part of this.

Building Evermore is a part of the main narrative, but the optional advancements to the kingdom flesh out the full experience. How I invest in my kingdom, focusing on getting the best people for improving the Higgledies for example, gave me a chance to craft unique experience geared toward my interests. There are shops you can add, new villagers to find, and various ministries to manage as you build up Evermore’s influence. Much of it feels like what I’ve experienced in mobile strategy games or village builders, which brings me to my next observation.

Throughout Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, there’s a strange representation of mobile devices and social media. There’s a mobile device I get notifications on regularly that shows pictures posted from people all over Ni No Kuni II’s fantasy world, some relating closely to my own journey through the game. The Kingdom building aspect of the game closely resembles experiences found on mobile devices as well, furthering a representation that didn’t feel out of place but also didn’t fit snugly into place.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom intensifies the action in its JRPG foundation, mirroring some of Level-5’s best work instead of leaning more heavily on the charm of Studio Ghibli. It’s resulted in a game I continue to enjoy a great deal and a desire for Level-5 to distance itself even further from the animation giant to get a peek at what the developer can do, again, when completely uninhibited in any way.


This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is available on PlayStation 4 and PC. The game is rated T for Teen.

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.

Pros
  • Improved combat
  • Less focus on grindy collection present in the first game
  • Wonderful art design and animation
Cons
  • Limited voice acting
  • Lulls in the story
From The Chatty