Review: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4)

Review: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • Blu-ray Disc
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (27.19 GB)
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Level-5
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), £49.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The audio review for this game is available on Episode 21 of the Side Quest podcast.

Gameplay:
The first Ni no Kuni was well advertised for its collaboration with Studio Ghibli, the famous anime studio. While Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom loses the collaboration, it retains the charm and excellence Ghibli is known for.

The sequel is an overall smaller game in scope and length, but because of this it has the welcome improvement of feeling more focused.

Ni no Kuni II follows Evan and Roland. Evan is the king of Ding Dong Dell following the passing of his father. In the opening hours, he discovers that his father’s death was orchestrated by one of his father’s advisors who seeks to overthrow Evan’s family and become king.

Evan is saved from the coup by Roland, a mysterious stranger from another world, and together the two journey out to found a new kingdom and eventually to stop a danger that threatens the whole world.

Although fairly basic, I really enjoyed the story. The characters are all endearing and the basic structure means the game doesn’t take an odd plot turn forty hours in like its predecessor. Some of the story “twists” can be easily seen in advance but it’s more focused on what those changes have on the characters rather than trying to keep the viewer guessing.

Similarly, the gameplay mechanics are familiar but well implemented with some small flourishes to set the game apart. Combat is a simple action RPG set-up, with the normal suite of light attacks, heavy attacks, special skills, dodging, etc. There are also two AI controlled party members in each fight and you can swap between them when you want.

The unique part of combat comes in the form of the higgledies, this game’s replacement for the monster raising of the original. Higgledies can be gathered either by finding them and giving them an item or by cooking them in a special store. Once added to your party, up to four higgledies will join you in battle, offering support with attacks, buffs, healing, or by strengthening your spells.

The seamless battles in dungeons are an aspect of the combat I really liked. You can see groups of enemies milling around and if you’re spotted, you’ll instantly be in combat with no loading or scene transition. You can still run from the battle by running against the side of the area that gets set up, but if you fight, the end of the battle is also seamless with no results screen or anything.

On the other hand, my biggest complaint about the combat is that there isn’t much enemy variety. There seems to be only a dozen or so enemies in the game. New areas will simply have the same enemies with different elemental weaknesses or color variations. Even some of the unnamed bosses get repeated a few times as side quest bosses or stronger ‘tainted’ enemies hanging out around the world.

The combat can also be a little on the easy side, especially if you’re at or above the enemy’s level. Personally, I ended up falling a bit under leveled late in the game because I skipped a lot of random mobs. Fights got tougher when some bosses could kill me in just a few hits and I wasn’t doing much damage, though foes are still easy to dodge if you’re decently versed in action RPG mechanics.

That said, I was focused on finishing the game for this review and I only did some of the convenient side content. A lot of comments I’ve seen online said they ended up overleveled by doing most side quests as they popped up and my results seem slightly atypical.

The big gameplay addition outside the combat is the kingdom building. Once Evan founds his kingdom early in the game, you can take an active role in developing it: from recruiting citizens to building buildings to assigning citizens to work. In return, Evan’s kingdom can offer places to upgrade party member spells, buy new equipment, cook up higgledies, and much more.

The system feels a little mobile phone-esque, in that it runs on a separate kingdom currency that regenerates over time and where upgrades take time to research. However, as you can run off and do normal side quests or main story while ‘waiting’, I’m more lenient on this than a timing-based mobile phone game.

The nice thing is how the kingdom building and the normal aspects of the game all feed into one another. Doing side quests will sometimes recruit new citizens. These citizens can be used to research new equipment or skills, which in turn strengthens Evan’s party, allowing more side quests and so on. Ultimately the kingdom building is mostly optional but it’s a fun optional that I enjoyed coming back to from time to time.

Pro Tip
There are two missions that require kingdom upgrades to advance the story. One requires you to get your kingdom to Level 2 and build the boat research building. The other has you upgrading the weapon shop to Level 4. These are both easy to do, but they may hinder progress if you’ve been ignoring the kingdom until they pop up.

This game has a good amount of content. There are at least 150 pre-generated side quests in the game, which range from typical fetch quests to some side boss fights. Plus a vendor in the major town offers additional errands that are smaller quests which give a special currency to buy things from him.

All told, I finished the game in about thirty-five hours. It could be shorter for you, I had to grind a bit at the end, but it could also be a lot longer if you want to get into all the side content and kingdom building and finding things like costumes hidden in the game (gasp, a rarity in this microtransaction future). There are even a few new quests that pop up after the credits to add more content and a little more challenge.

There’s also a minor skirmish mode that crops up from time to time in the story and side missions. In it, you command up to four platoons against an enemy army. It’s an okay diversion from time to time but I’m glad they didn’t use it too often as I generally preferred the normal combat.

Visuals:
This time around, Level-5 didn’t have direct involvement with Studio Ghibli, however former Ghibli character designer Yoshiyuki Momose reprised his role as Art Director as he was in the first game. The graphics still feel very Ghibli inspired, from the design of the characters to some of the subtle animations in the game. The way characters run down stairs, for example, instantly brings to mind the animation in Ghibli films.

The simple cel-shaded graphics look great even beyond the obvious influences. Each city is beautiful and distinct from the others. The main story dungeons each have a unique theme that looks great in the whimsical, other-worldly style of the game. Monsters, characters, spells, even the world map are all a sight to behold with a lovely family movie influence.

My only real complaints are the occasional repetition that can feel a bit lazy. I mentioned the lack of enemy variety earlier, with a lot of color-swapped foes. Similarly, many of the side dungeons are cookie-cutter slap jobs too. Enough that I could start to recognize the individual parts that went into making some of them. It doesn’t detract from the overall game much, but I still expected a little bit more from a game like this.

Audio:
Again, this sequel wears the Ghibli inspiration on its sleeve. Only it’s not even inspiration: Joe Hisaishi, who composed the soundtrack to most of Miyazaki’s films, also composed the game’s soundtrack. It’s a superb score with many individually great pieces and some well defined themes that permeate the whole of the soundtrack.

Voice acting comes in both English and Japanese, as one might expect, but this is one area that the game sets itself apart from Ghibli. While Disney loves to hire well known Hollywood talent for the films, Ni no Kuni II is decidedly much more low key. The actors still do a pretty good job, just don’t expect a star studded cast.

For both the English and Japanese voices, there are a fair amount of unvoiced lines, however. Like some of the cut and paste graphics, not having fully voiced scenes can come across as a bit lazy. It’s not a huge issue, but occasionally they’ll have some ‘dialogue’ while exploring that’s not fully voiced but instead pops up in a text box that goes away way too quickly.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is definitely a smaller game than the original in terms of story length, number of gameplay systems, even the occasional cut corners. However, it ends up feeling a little more focused because of it. The story and mechanics are straightforward and fun and are all the better for the focus.

The Studio Ghibli influences are everywhere in the game, from character designs to music to story beats. This game is a family movie, expanded to a family friendly JRPG. The whole is a joy to behold from start to finish and even a few minor issues didn’t hamper my enjoyment. If you love Ghibli or classic JRPGs, this game is well worth the time and is heartily recommended.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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