Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom Review
Japanese Role Playing Games go with PlayStation like butter on bread, but not all JRPG experiences are the same, in terms of storyline, game mechanics, or overall quality. In 2018 – and when compared to what was released in 2017 – I firmly believe that Ni No Kuni 2 rises to the top, as one of the premier JRPG titles currently available on the PS4. While there are some questions around the games overall difficulty, and perhaps lack of variety at times, the overall package works really well, and is definitely a worthwhile purchase!
Most of the interworking’s of the game were already written about in our Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom preview, as well as our tips article for those just starting out. In this review, we’ll touch more on the overarching areas of the game, including graphics, audio, story, and game mechanics.
One of the main characters – and the one I chose to play as most of the time – Rolland, leaves behind his home – assumed to be the United States in the present day – after an accident and wakes up in a strange, new world. He is confronted by would-be King Evan, who’s attempting to survive a takeover by the Mouse population of his fathers kingdom, Ding Dong Dell. With the help of Rolland, Evan escapes the castle and the city, and sets off to on a mission to restore the world, create a new kingdom, and unite all the other kingdoms under one, united banner.
Those with an understanding of world politics know that the quest Evan sets out on is one that – in reality – shouldn’t ever be able to happen, but all of the characters – with a few exceptions that could possibly create a better story arch, but don’t – eventually jump on board with the plan and Evan’s kingdom of Evermore is born. After completing the first few missions, exploring the first major city, and beginning a kingdom of your own, the story quickly sets into a rhythm: head to a new kingdom, consult with their leader, perform a number of quests and tasks, and get them to sign your treaty.
Of course, there is a sinister understory here that we won’t spoil, and it is one that follows Evan from kingdom to kingdom as he attempts to create world peace. It’s not a great story, and some inter-character conflict could have made for a better experience, but it works and still has some intrigue to it, as you attempt to figure out who’s on your side, and who isn’t.
Graphically Please, Audibly Repetitive
I love the Japanese graphics used in Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. The characters and the environments are full of colour and really pop, and the great backend work means you will experience few – if any – tearing issues, pop in, or frame rate drops during your 50+ hour adventure. The clean visuals add to the game in more ways then one, providing the perfect backdrop for the story that unfolds. Even the dreariest areas – the sewers as you leave Ding Dong Dell for example – are full of interesting things to look at with incredibly detail.
Audibly, however, Ni No Kuni 2 is incredibly lacking. While the main over world theme is catchy at first, the repetition of the theme – even when slightly changed to reflect a new area – will quickly wear thin, resulting in my turning down the volume on my headset on multiple occasions. For the bigger areas and towns, I would have appreciated more audio tracks as well, but those pale in comparison to the tune that plays over and over again as you cross between objectives on the world map!
Game Play Mechanics that are Different
Ni No Kuni 2 wasn’t going to be OK with being just another JRPG on the PlayStation 4. It wanted to be different, and Level-5 did a great job of adding in new and exciting ways to play, including a phenomenal city building mechanic, as well as RTS style skirmishes. While the regular combat borderlines on being too easy, these other modes help flesh out the mechanical offerings in the title.
Combat and Battles
Combat in Ni No Kuni 2 is laughably easy 90% of the time, and while this ultimately does make the experience more accessible for those unfamiliar with JRPG real time battle systems, it can be a bit underwhelming for casual fans and hard core fans alike. Even the added strategy that goes into each fight – tuning up your skills to make you better against certain enemies, resistant to certain elements, etc. – are nice to have, but somewhat unnecessary as I rarely ever revisited the Tactics screen to change them up. Even the Pikmin like ‘pets’ that enter battle with you are of no major use unless fighting a boss or a one of the stronger world map beasts.
The combat is simple, whether that is good or bad. One button performs a light attack, and other performs a heavy. Pull the trigger and bring up 4 special attacks you can unleash when your meter is full enough. And really, that’s about it. Again, I can laud the accessibility of this title to all gamers, but am concerned that battles will become a nuisance for many players, much like walking through tall grass in early the stages of a Pokémon game, when your Pokémon are way overpowered.
At some point in your journey, you will begin the city development phase of the game, allowing you to control your own city, establish stores, research facilities, and residents, all the while researching new skills, weapons, armour, and spells. The city you create, expand, and develop will help you progress towards the end goal in a new and interesting way. Instead of tying research and development to quests, this city building mechanic is another unique game play mechanic that is not utilized in other JRPs. This sets Ni No Kuni 2 apart, and it works VERY well.
During Chapter 3, Evan, Rolland and crew will be introduced to wars, an RTS style mechanic that has groups of soldier – captained by some of your friends, initially the pirates – surround Evan and enter the battlefields. Groups of soldiers will surround Evan as you move across the battle field, and at any time players can pull L1 or R1 to rotate these soldiers to put a different group in the front. Being aware of who you are attacking is key, as the game utilizes a rock-paper-scissors approach to strengths and weaknesses. I was skeptical when first trying out this gameplay mechanic, but quickly warmed up to it.
Ni No Kuni 2 is a fantastic title you won’t want to miss. Whether you are a fan of JRPG’s or not, Ni No Kuni is doing something slightly different than what is the norm. By being different, Ni No Kuni sets itself apart in the best possible way, and opens up the world of Japanese game developing to the entire world. Do yourself a favour and grab Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. You may not have a better experience on PS4 this year.