Back in 2013, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch made a home in the hearts of those who played it. The collaboration between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli birthed an incredible and charming adventure. That’s why, when they announced its sequel, we knew the wait would be a long one.
Revenant Kingdom is a great game that addresses most of the issues its predecessor had. It manages to keep the feeling of the first one while adding its own touches. It may not be the perfect video game, but it definitely is a must-play.
It starts off with a bang, and you’re introduced to the two central characters. Roland is a modern day president who gets teleported to another world. He finds a young to-be-king there named Evan. After watching him get dethroned and cast out from his kingdom, he decides to stay and help him build a new one.
Along the way, you’re introduced to several party members who aid you with your cause. They all have great introductions, but they often end up taking a backseat to Evan and Roland. They get some excellent moments, but most of their dialogue ends up being there to chime in every now and then.
Thankfully, Evan and Roland are fantastic characters through and through. Evan’s youthful optimism makes it hard to not want him to succeed. Roland is always calm and cool. His desire to save a world completely foreign to him, and his undeniable confidence in doing so, make him the perfect companion for Evan. Their trust and the way they learn from each other make them a great duo.
The personalities of these characters are made even stronger by their excellent English voice acting. Every line is delivered with a high amount of believability—it’s just a shame there isn’t more of it. The use of spoken lines is inconsistent with most of them taking place in the bigger cutscenes. A lot of the weight is missing when the character only speaks one word of the sentence you’re reading.
The soundtrack is great and has a lot of standout pieces. Each town has its own unique song, but a lot of the game tends to rely on different variations of the main theme. This is a piece we’ve been hearing since the first Ni no Kuni so it’s odd that they’d overuse it here.
Music isn’t the only thing that gives the towns personality. Each one is thematically unique. The city of Goldpaw is steeped in Chinese aesthetic, while Hydropolis is a large blue fishing town. The size and detail of these places is astonishing. They’re some of the best towns in JRPGs.
They replaced the high difficulty of the first game with a much more grind-free one. Without that need, the door is open to playing the game with little stress. Instead of wasting hours on fights, you’re able to experience the game’s activities at your leisure.
Except for the end game fights, there is very little challenge here. Even the big boss encounters are a breeze to get through. The size and spectacle of them make it seem like they’re going to be tougher than they are going in, but I often ended up feeling underwhelmed. I usually enjoyed fights more by entering them under-leveled.
The best thing about combat this time around is how great it feels to play. Unlike the first game, you now have full control over your character’s actions.
There are three different types of weapon users in your party: swords, hammers, and spears. Each character also gets a projectile that they can use as long as they have enough magic power.
The spear users are a little clunky to use, but the rest of them feel very natural. Evan moves fast, swinging his sword around wildly, while Batu’s hammer moves are slow and heavy. With six party members to choose from, there’s a lot more variety this time.
Another element to combat that makes things more interesting are the higgledies. These cute creatures aid you in battle by supplying buffs and helping with attacks. Some boss fights make good use of them, but they’re rarely necessary to win a fight.
The quick nature of combat makes it less frustrating when you get into battles over and over. Outside of the world map, transitioning into fights is seamless. There’s a very brief victory pose when you win, but besides that, everything is so fast. Even leveling up is just shown above your head whenever it happens.
Ni no Kuni II has plenty of other things to offer as well. Evan has to build the kingdom of Evermore from the ground up, so it’s up to the player to help it grow. You’ll need to gather citizens and expand the kingdom with several different establishments.
Watching your kingdom develop from a tiny village into a massive civilization is both fun and satisfying. While doing it all isn’t necessary for beating the game, the upgrades it gives you are a great help. Leveling up your armory gives you better gear to pick from, and doing the same for the spell works lab gives you a wide range of upgrades for your magic.
However, if you’re not a fan of completing several side missions, and you’d rather get through the main story without any distractions, you’re out of luck. At a certain point, the game blocks your progression, forcing you to have a certain number of civilians in your kingdom to proceed. Not only that, but you need to have some buildings be at a certain level as well. This only happens twice, but it was frustrating both times.
Thankfully, the game lets you know which quests will earn you new civilians before you start them. These quests are some of the best in the game since most of the civilians you collect have engaging stories to go along with the tasks they ask you to do. One of them gave a lot more insight into Roland’s backstory that you would have never known without deviating from the main game.
The way you upgrade your buildings is by gaining a specific form of currency called kingsguilders. Earning this money is done by waiting around or going off and playing the game. It’s similar to how you gain coins in a lot of mobile games. You can earn a lot of it in a short amount of time so it rarely feels like an issue waiting around for it to build up.
The other important element to Ni no Kuni II are the skirmishes. These are strategic fights that pit Evermore’s army against invaders, bandits, and monsters.
There isn’t a lot to skirmishes, but they can be fun if you take the time to do the tougher ones. The easier ones mostly involve you placing your units next to the enemy’s while waiting to see who wins. Special attacks and buffs can make this more engaging. You’re only forced to do these a handful of times with the majority of them found in side quests. If you don’t feel like doing these side skirmishes immediately, their location is left on the map for you to go back to.
The map itself is reminiscent of the JRPGs of old. Your avatars shrink down to adorable small versions of themselves, and it works surprisingly well. The view is top-down, and the enemies are all visible on-screen so there are no random encounters. This is great because it feels like a more modern take on everything that was so good about the classics.
Ni no Kuni II’s strongest points come from the heartwarming tale it tells. Some things that seem generic and bland come into their own by the end of the game. I was touched by Evan’s persistent desire to find the good in people. His view on life is one that will strike a chord with anyone who plays.
The issues I have with this game are outweighed by the amount of great things it has to offer. There were some odd choices here and there, but I had a fantastic time with Ni no Kuni II. The growth of my kingdom, and the growth of the characters in the game worked hand in hand together to create a truly special adventure.