If the Ni no Kuni 2 Review has taught me anything, it’s that Ni no Kuni II is the most disappointing game I’ve ever played. Level 5 have made some of my favourite games – Dark Cloud 2, Rogue Galaxy and the first Ni no Kuni.
On paper, Ni no Kuni II Revenant Kingdom is a dream wrapped in a wish, served on a fancy brioche bun. In reality, it made both myself and my PlayStation 4 sigh. Then gasp. This action role-playing game does little to live up to the stellar plot, characters and execution of the first game, rendering its various improvements meaningless against the reasonable expectation of a touching narrative that goes, sadly, unfulfilled.
Its story is obsessed with pay-offs that it rarely takes the time to build towards. The voice-acting is uneven in both performance and existence, as if the relevant teams paid their actors with the budget of 12 Big Mac meals (medium). A revamped action combat system serves to offer a fresh experience for a short while, only to devolve in to the exact same strategy time and time again against palette-swapped enemies.
Honestly, if a person would have told me just two weeks ago that I’d be writing a negative review of Ni no Kuni II, I’d have called security to escort them out of wherever we happened to be. And the hypothetical security would have been happy to do it, because Ni no Kuni II couldn’t possibly be less than stellar. But one-hundred and forty-five hours later, I can’t believe how underwhelmed I am. At least eighty of those hours are due to the new kingdom building idle game that *doesn’t* provide offline earnings, so feel free to discount my idle time.
For more on my Ni no Kuni II opinion, feel free to read on
Review Side Quest
What should Level 5 do next? A new project? Inazuma Eleven for consoles? DARK CLOUD 3!?
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How does Ni no Kuni 2 play?
Ni no Kuni II juggles a lot of balls in the air, and does most of them well, but nothing amazingly so. The standard combat is action-based, taking place in arenas that have a generous boundary line, especially in the case of dungeons where the action is easy to slip in and out of. On the world map, the game quickly sets a surrounding stage up as your chibi characters warp in to their proper forms.
See the World
The moment-to-moment exploration provides a striking world map with a lot of character and colour. It is, without a doubt, the most impressive aspect of the game. There are harvest points for gathering items (for crafting, or use in side-quests) that are as simple to gather as walking over the sparkling bit of the map.
When in dungeons and towns, the characters are in their proper, fully-developed forms and, in a strange twist, the main character (whomever you choose to control at any time) has a very impressive jump. A rare occurrence in RPG games, though there’s not much use for it. Still, it’s nice to see a cat-boy king with a decent vertical leap.
The fast-travel mechanic exists to take players from place to place instantly, provided they’ve found the “trip door” to that location. There aren’t nearly as many fast travel points within towns as I’d like (Broafleaf can be a pain to navigate comparatively), but it’s a snappy, well-done system for the most part.
All in all, Ni no Kuni II performs very well in most aspects. If nothing else, it’s fine-tuned for easy transitions with very few loading screens.
In the beginning, Ni no Kuni II feels fresh. Having replaced the former game’s turn-based RPG combat with a sleek, easy-to-use action RPG mechanic, I was very enthusiastic about Level 5’s approach. They have a history of more active combat and the original Ni no Kuni was actually a departure from their norm.
Sadly, it’s not much of a challenge and it doesn’t evolve beyond its initial form. Characters occasionally get new skills as they level up, with occasionally being generous in this case, but I was doing the same thing in the first thirty minutes as I was in the final thirty and what I was doing just wasn’t that entertaining to me.
Falls Flat Against the Competition
Consider that I play action JRPGs regularly. Compared to say, Tales of Berseria; another A-JRPG game filled with combinations of moves that can chain in numerous ways wherein character positioning truly matters, Ni no Kuni II is as basic as it gets. Hold R2 to access one of 4 skills, mash square or triangle on an enemy to regenerate the used mana, try not to die and then repeat the process until the end. Sure, you have options for ranged, light and heavy attacks but the game isn’t complicated enough to require them.
In my experience, Ni no Kuni II is at its best when you’re over-powered. Tearing through enemies because the combat itself isn’t as engaging as it appeared to be. For all of the flashy visuals, there’s little substance to be found. Even in the form of Higgledies. Speaking of….
Higgledies – Unnecessary-but-Adorable Support
What with the action in this game focusing more on the main characters’ involvement, the former game lost a valuable asset: the monsters that could be caught, used and evolved. Much like Pokemon. In exchange, we get the Higgledies – little animated ghost-boys that’ll provide general support in combat along with special attacks. Most of which are terrible until you acquire the high-rank higgledies from higgledy stones around the world.
There’s so much beauty in the world of Ni no Kuni, but the Higgledies are the worst in the realm of design. The art style still makes their colour – based on their element – pop, but their actual designs are weak.
They made prove a welcome addition in the early game’s moments, where you might struggle a bit, but once your kingdom is up and running, higgledies out-live their usefulness. Despite their various traits that can make dealing with different enemy types and elements easier, it’s simple to overcome and I rarely went back to check on new higgledies I’d grown or gathered because I just didn’t need them.
Kingdom Building – The Idle Game
Ni no Kuni II’s biggest new features are the building of your Kingdom and the Skirmish battles. Building your kingdom requires “Kingsguilders”: a new currency separate from your regular “Guilders” (to avoid breaking the economy – it makes sense). These Kingsguilders come in to the Kingdom at a rate dependent on how many people you’ve managed to recruit to your land.
Kingdom – The Gist of it
The income is paced fairly well, and people around the world are fairly easy to recruit with some interesting personal stories and a heap of personality to them. In my opinion, these side quests – though dull and fetch-quest like – are the best in terms of story that Ni no Kuni II has to offer.
Citizens also have their own skills that work best in certain buildings within your kingdom. Often allowing for advanced research to be performing, unlocking new abilities, items or general enhancements. There’s also a loot cache for farmed materials within the kingdom, meaning that there’s much less of a grind in Ni no Kuni II than most games in the genre.
As more citizens come in and you upgrade your various facilities, the Kingdom itself can be upgraded. As well as its capacity (Coffers) to hold more Kingsguilders at one time – as there’s a cap to the max you can allow to build. Fortunately it’s easy to snap back to your Kingdom at any point and check in, so the cap is there to encourage engagement with that mechanic.
Ultimately, the Kingdom building aspect of the game will provide you with the most important functions in the game, but it’s a damn shame it doesn’t offer offline earnings. You have to be in-game to be earning Kingsguilders. Which led to a few nights of leaving my PS4 on….
Kingdom – Fighting for Your Land
Skirmish battles take place in the over-world with the chibi style of characters (small, cute cartoon versions). With King Evan in the middle of a maximum of 4 units, it’s essentially a game of rock paper scissors using L and R buttons to rotate the front-facing squads.
Units and Uses
There are five unit types and they’re units built up of one of your citizens and their personal squads. Swords, Spears, Hammers, Ranged and Shield are available, but I found no real reason to switch my team at any point. Some have more useful special attacks (using R2 and a face button, like in the general combat) but otherwise, they just level up by defeating enemies and winning skirmishes.
It can make for a nice distraction from the regular day-to-day, but again, it’s much too simple to be captivating. When in trouble, hold circle to use some of your “Might” to refill soldiers that have been lost. Press triangle to completely invalidate the rock-paper-scissors aspect for a brief time when the Guts gauge is filled (by defeating enemies). It’s a good bit of fun if you don’t spend too much time doing it.
Gameplay final thoughts
In many ways, Ni no Kuni II plays better than the original game. The ability to see the enemies on the screen is preferable to random encounters. The action combat is more engaging than the turn-based in its predecessor. I had a great deal of fun exploring the various parts of the world once free-movement had opened up. But for as much as it plays better than the last game, it lacks when compared to its peers in the things it tries to do.
Ni no Kuni was much the same in that it wasn’t quite as good at Pokemon as “Pokemon”, but that had only one direct comparison point. Venturing in to the action genre, you’re up against Tales games, Sword Art Online games; games with deeper mechanics and better execution. Keeping it simple for a game intended for children might seem to make sense, but at times it feels insultingly simple.
Anything with depth is cancelled out by lacking any content that could possible require engagement with it. That said, I loved the loot system and some late-game higgledies have interesting abilities if you manage to seek them out. But all they really did was serve to get me through the boring fights that much quicker. Couple that with the abundance of palette-swapped bosses and I grew tired of Ni no Kuni II far quicker than I’d hoped.
Presentation and Graphics
At a glance, Ni no Kuni II is a masterpiece of presentation and art. Its performance is outstanding too. However, dig a little deeper, and the presentation aspect of that quickly comes to a halt.
Though charming, this sequel lacks the heart of its predecessor’s cut-scenes and character development. Voice-acting is sparse and scenes that should be filled with exposition are often relegated to text-based portions with the odd canned-exclamation of “Golly!”.
That said, Ni no Kuni II is a great game to look at in general. It just lost a lot of its “soul” despite the lengthy development time.
The game features a lengthy single player story mode. I’d estimate 40 hours if you’re not going insane with the kingdom building and end-game side-quests / post-game. That’s about it – no New Game Plus sadly.
As with most RPG games, experience is earned through completing quests and fighting battles. In Ni no Kuni II, experience is earned in almost everything the player can do. At the same time, Ni no Kuni II isn’t over-the-top with its experience rewards. I find it balances out levelling quite well.
Mainly, the game is about getting around the land and progressing your characters as you go.
The Leveling system
By levelling up, characters grown stronger automatically, but they also pool together points for the Tactic Tweaker. The Tactic Tweaker is a customised board with four main components. By investing points in to each component, it levels up and allows the player to adjust a meter within.
For example, say if a place I’m visiting tends to have slimy monster types, but I’m tweaked to be effective against brutes, I can dial down the brute boost and put them in to my slimy boost for no extra cost.
Of all the systems in Ni no Kuni II, I wish the Tactic Tweaker had gotten more love. It, like most of Ni no Kuni II, is far too simple and could use more depth. Because it’s a fantastic idea to have a progression that doesn’t commit you to or punish you for mistakes.
Yes, there are the usual chests and gathering points found in many RPG games, but in combat, sometimes a chest with a rarity colour will pop out of a defeated foe. It could be a weapon, piece of armour or accessory and it makes the combat quite rewarding for a while.
There are a lot of slots to equip in Ni no Kuni II so this at least keeps things interesting, but good Kingdom management can eventually outweigh the loot system. Still, it’s a great way to encourage fighting more and more enemies beyond the experience earned. Enemies can also drop materials to helps with crafting / fetch quests.
Should you play Ni no Kuni II?
Yes and no. Ni no Kuni II, as disappointing as it is to me personally, is worthy of an RPG fan’s time. It’s gorgeous, plays well and offers a load of things to do. Sadly, it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well beyond its art and is inconsistent in its story-telling scenes. It feels like a game having an identity crisis, but managing it well.
It’s a far cry from the first game, but it’s not a bad game at all. The greatest crime it commits is being too simple for its potential, and perhaps trying to do too much.
But in my heart of hearts, I say no. Because its story is so disappointing from beginning to end. The disparity between this and the first game is clear from the opening and seven years are far too long a time to take such a dramatic leap backwards in what the first game was widely regarded for. I’ve sat on this review for a few days to cool off, but I feel the same way as I did – I genuinely wouldn’t recommend Ni no Kuni II on a deeply personal level.
Gamers who should…
Somebody that’s after an easy-going experience with beautiful visuals and snappy combat will enjoy Ni no Kuni II. There’s more than enough content to keep an easily pleased new-comer busy, and it’s so far removed from the first game that it’s practically a sequel in name alone.
Gamers who probably shouldn’t…
Fans of the original game expecting a touching narrative should find nothing of note here. Ni no Kuni II fails across the board when it comes to plot, character and execution. It obsesses over climactic moments that it never earns and I simply can’t recommend it on that front.
|The Good||The Bad||The Bugs|
|Art style||Disgraceful story||None|
|Tactic Tweaker||Lack of voice acting|
|Loot||Too simple in many ways|
|Kingdom Building||Lofty. Lofty. Lofty.|