Christmas is always the best time for catching up on all the games I missed, and one such game that I was able to obtain thanks to Christmas of 2018 was Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. Though I was a big fan of the first game on the PS3, I’ll admit I was rather doubtful as to how the newest entry in the series would turn out. As far as I could tell, none of the first game’s original cast of characters was returning, leading me to believe from the start that this game would be a bit…different.
Our main character is the half-human, half-cat prince of Ding Dong Dell, Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who must flee for his life when the evil Mausinger kills his father and takes over the kingdom. The rest of the game sees our hero, along with the allies he makes along the way, attempting to build a new kingdom, reunite the world, and work to stop an evil even greater than the fiend who stole his kingdom.
Though it is awfully obliging of our dear King Evan (whom I often referred to, affectionately, as the Kitten King) to allow Mausinger to keep his stolen kingdom for himself instead of, you know, getting it back, I suppose it works out okay in the end, gameplay-wise. One of the biggest highlights of this game is building your kingdom, where you can earn money, recruit citizens that you can assign to different facilities, and do research that gives you all sorts of advantages, such as making the Dreamer’s Mazes easier, having higgledy stones appear on the map, or making your ship faster. Another thing unique to this game are the battles you can engage in with your army. You can have up to four units with different weapons, like bows or swords or spears, and along the way, you can tear down enemy cannons and siege towers in order to build your own. It’s a bit tedious at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty fun.
In addition to building your kingdom, you can do plenty of side quests, though many of these can be rather frustrating and tedious and require you to merely collect a certain number of some item. They’re not all like that, but a lot are. There are also plenty of stronger, tainted monsters to defeat for an added challenge. In general, you can’t really say this game is lacking in content, even if it’s not exactly always the most exciting.
Though there is plenty to do, and the game is generally pretty fun, it does suffer in terms of its story and its characters. The story I described earlier was pretty much it, and there aren’t any real surprises along the way. And the characters just don’t have the same level of personality that I fell in love with in the previous game. (Lofty, you will NEVER replace Mr. Drippy! You will never win my looove!) It’s kind of the way I see Final Fantasy XII. Fun game, with no level of emotional attachment.
Oh, and though the graphics are pretty and everything, we don’t get those great Studio Ghibli-animated scenes like we did with the first game. What a shame.
Another thing missing from this game are familiars, the creatures you could capture and subsequently use to fight alongside you in battle. They have been replaced by higgledies, which are a bit less interesting, as they’re all slightly different variations of the same thing. At the same time, I didn’t really have an opinion either way concerning familiars, and I feel like higgledies require less thought on my part, so I guess they’re fine. On second thought, certain higgledies are pretty good about healing you, and the knights certain ones can summon are pretty cool, as well. So I guess they’re more than fine, when you really think about it.
Other comparisons can be made in terms of the game’s pacing and battles (not the ones with your army, just regular ones). I can definitely commend this game on having much better pacing than its predecessor. Though I eventually grew to love the original Ni no Kuni, I honestly wanted to quit within the first hour or so because it was taking so long to go anywhere. The battles are also more fun than I remember. Not sure why exactly, though….
When it comes down to it, Ni no Kuni II manages to fix the first game’s mistakes in terms of pacing and battles. But the problem is, it takes a step back in all the things the original succeeded in, story, characters, and also a good difficulty level. (Because this game is pretty easy, for the most part.) And honestly, I’d rather play a game with slow pacing, but a great story and characters, than a game that gets to the point, but where nothing of interest ultimately happens. In summary, while Ni no Kuni II is a fun enough way to spend your free time, don’t expect it to live up to its predecessor. And considering how magical the first game was, it’s a flippin’ shame, too, en’t it?
Image from official Ni No Kuni 2 website.