Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 28.03.2018 1

Review for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on PlayStation 4

The first Ni No Kuni was an absolute treasure; a special project that paired Japanese game creator Level-5 with beloved anime Studio Ghibli for a magical and heartwarming tale. Originally a DS game, it was its PlayStation 3 iteration - Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch that clicked with fans around the world. Wrath of the White Witch launched in 2013 in English and its sequel was announced back in 2015, although with a disappointing departure. No Studio Ghibli. It's not the only departure here as the game is changing up the core gameplay mechanics, delivering a story unrelated to the original and is replacing the monster taming system with strange little sprites called Higgildies. It's a very different experience, and one with big shoes to fill. Can it live up to what was a modern classic? Cubed3 finds out.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch told a story of a young boy named Oliver from the real world who embarked on a magical quest to bring his lost mother back to life. Oliver jumped between the "Otherworld" and the real world, meeting alternate versions of people on either side, repairing broken hearts and ultimately saving the world before returning to his world triumphantly. This latest story again combines the real world and the magical Otherworld once again. In fact, it's focusing on the town that started off Oliver's adventure in the original, Ding Dong Dell. In Wrath of the White Witch, Oliver visited Ding Dong Dell and met its king, a giant cat called Tom. Revenant Kingdom picks up in Ding Dong Dell once again, although there's no explanation of when this takes place. The king in Revenant Kingdom is dead and his young son, Evan, is preparing to become king as part of a grand ceremony with a magical being known as a Kingmaker. His chance is snatched out from under him, though, as a plotting Weasel. The minister of the country, Mausinger, secretly poisoned the king and now is planning to do the same to Evan, leading a coup with his assistant Vermine and their Darth Vader-looking Dark Knight.

Evan's saviuor comes from the "real" world. A cut-scene shows a president heading across a bridge in a limo heading toward a city. Above him, a light is sailing towards that same city. A missile. It bursts in the air above the city and blows the limo off the road in the aftershock. The president is lying in the wreckage when his body magically vanishes, appearing in the heart of the coup. The man is called Roland and in this Otherworld he finds he's a young man again, strong and fast. Ideal as a saviour for young Evan. He saves him from the minions of Mausinger and the pair embarks on a quest to restore Evan to a throne. Not his throne, though, as Evan is not looking to become the king of Ding Dong Dell. Evan hopes to create a whole new country, one without war and suffering. It's a childish ideal, but in these sorts of stories that type of childish fantasy has a chance of becoming reality.

Screenshot for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on PlayStation 4

Thus the pair sets out to find a Kingmaker for Evan, then to establish a city, and then to build relationships with each of the great nations using their "Declaration of Interdependence." All the while, though, another is planning changes to the world. A shadowy figure with a penchant for costumes like the Snake Lord from Berserk is also travelling around the great nations, but he's doing it to steal the Kingsbond between the Kings and their Kingmakers for some nefarious purpose.

There is a huge open-world overworld to explore here, with chibified versions of the characters running across considerable tracks of land, all infested with enemy mobs that when encountered kick of a combat sequence. That combat has been massively altered. There is no more option of choosing commands from a series of menus. The combat is now all dynamic and real-time. It feels off compared to the JRPG nature of the game but it works really well. It's fast and fluid, really easy to pick up and has enough extra elements to keep it interesting.

A party is made up of three characters and there are a few to recruit over the course of the adventure, each with their own unique weapons and abilities that make playing with party composition fun. The first Ni No Kuni had a big focus on the Pokémon style collection of Familiars to then use in battle. The Familiars are completely absent in this instalment, instead replaced by Higgledies. These little creatures are reminiscent of the Kodama from Princess Mononoke and offer up a very different element to the combat. Different Higgledies can be equipped and each will perform differently in combat, they will run around the field, throwing the occasional attack or ability, but each type of Higgledy also has a special ability when they gather together, summoning cannons, protective shields, or huge attacks. It's rather random but adds to the fun, especially when later different Higgledies can be customised and levelled up. In general, the combat is all too easy for the majority of the game, but thankfully this is addressed in the later chapters.

Screenshot for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on PlayStation 4

A huge open world with a dynamic real-time combat system… That would be sufficient for a JRPG but Level-5 has gone the extra mile here on other aspects, adding in a ton of other things to do on top of the core of the JRPG experience. The biggest of these is the Kingdom Builder. At first, Evan's new kingdom, Evermore, is more an empty field than a kingdom, a command tent surrounded by a wide-open area ready to be developed into a swarming state. There is not quite enough freedom to the Kingdom Builder for it to be as good as it could have been, with each different plot having a specific building that must be built there, for example, but it's addictive enough to absorb hours of playtime.

The buildings are split between resource types and research types. Resource type buildings, such as farms, mines, and ranches, can be utilised to gather materials over time, along with gathering up a currency dedicated to developing Evermore. Then there are research buildings that can be used to develop key advantages in numerous aspects of the game. Forges can craft and upgrade weapons, armoury can do the same for armour, and so on. There is a building dedicated to Higgledies that allows for new Higgledies to be crafted and existing Higgledies to be powered up. Regardless of research or resource, each and every building can be levelled up, opening up new research opportunities or resulting in receiving more items from the resource buildings. Levelling up the main building expands Evermore considerably, opening up a larger land with many more building opportunities.

A kingdom requires subjects. Completing big requests and chapters provides key characters to join the ranks of Evermore's citizenry. The majority of the populous doesn't come from these major characters, instead the little people of the kingdom come as rewards from the many side-quests featured. These side-quests are pretty standard fare; killing something, collecting something. Occasionally, there's an interesting one with a more prominent character as a reward, but mostly it's busy work. Another key feature is the Little King's Story-style combat sections. These top-down, real-time battles see Evan, and up to four units of warriors, face off against opposing armies. It's okay, and offers a great deal more challenge than the combat in the regular game for those willing to take on the quests a little above their own level. Different units are more effective against others - hammers can smash shields, bows can pick off swordsmen before they get close - and each new unit comes with special abilities, like strafing bombing runs and attacks, which stun enemy troops.

Screenshot for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on PlayStation 4

It's very important to point out that while the original was a collaboration project with Studio Ghibli, this one is not. Ghibli is not involved here… at least not officially. One only need look at the art and the designs to see the influence of Ghibli is heavy on this, and that makes sense considering many who have worked at Ghibli have worked on Revenant Kingdom. The biggest name is likely Yoshiyuki Momose, a stalwart of the studio who worked on numerous films, from his initial work on Grave of the Fireflies, to iconic movies like Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. He left Ghibli back in 2005 to form his own studio, and here is providing character designs. Those designs feel ripped straight from the Miyazaki catalogue and look gorgeous here. The game revels in its beautiful colours and the rich tones make every new environment and the characters within it look absolutely stunning.

The audio comes from someone Ghibli fans will be well acquainted with, also. Legendary composer Joe Hisaishi provides the soundtrack once again and it is absolutely extraordinary, filled with memorable themes and utterly uplifting tunes. There are some issues with town specific music being on a short loop, though, but it's easy to forgive thanks to the quality elsewhere. While on the topic of the audio presentation, fans of Mr. Drippy's dulcet Welsh tones will be glad to hear he has a replacement taffy boy. New character, "Lofty," will be youer very own butty pal mun an' no mistake. Tidy. The voice acting is not great, but it's not as bad as the original, at least. Level-5 has once again gathered up all manner of British accents for the various races of the world and some work much better than others.

Screenshot for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Level-5 has made something truly special, managing to capture the whimsical and heartfelt charm of a Ghibli story even more so than when it worked with Ghibli itself! This is an absolutely wonderful tale; a fantastic fable that makes up for every little flaw by giving the player a monumental amount of things to do and play with. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a must play for Ghibli fans, fans of the first Ni No Kuni, fans of JRPGs, Suikoden fans, and just about anyone who appreciates a good adventure in general.

Developer

Level-5

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Mysterious Stranger (guest) 11.04.2018#1

Technically they still worked with Ghibli, because of Ghibli's current structure they weren't able to use the name but it's a subsidiary of Ghibli who did the story and art.

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