Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is the isolated follow-up to the 2011 title by Level 5, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. While the original was a well executed story with flawed gameplay, the sequel is an improved experience over the first game in many ways. But, like its predecessor, it is not without its faults.
We begin the story with Roland, the president of an unknown nation in a world heavily implied to be Earth, witnessing a missile strike just moments before being spontaneously transported to another world. It is here that he meets the young King Evan right as his kingdom is in the middle of a coup. During his escape, Evan vows to a dear friend in her final moments that he would create a new kingdom where everyone can live happily.
While the story is charming and wholesome, there isn’t much more to it than what it says on the box and is overall a weaker story than its predecessor. This is one of the game’s few flaws, but it’s a big one. Characters don’t have much in the way of development and are largely the same at the end as they were in the beginning, reducing them to little more than background characters after their introduction is complete. While Roland is certainly more prominent in the story than the other characters, as he is Evan’s adviser, he has so critically little going on for him considering his introduction. There is so much potential there to create something fantastic, but instead it just falls completely short of what could have been.
From a technical standpoint, Revenant Kingdom is leaps and bounds ahead of the first game in every way. Wrath of the White Witch was impeded by a battle system with combined elements of real-time and turn-based combat; add on to that a monster catching system, and we were left with an experience that tried too many things and resulted in them all being far less pleasing than if they were on their own. This is completely changed in the sequel, which now has a purely action-oriented system that performs fluidly and isn’t multifaceted to the point of being convoluted and overwhelming. The only real shortcoming of this battle system is that it simply isn’t that challenging. It wasn’t until perhaps two thirds into the game that I actually struggled with some normal encounters, and even then it was due to playing carelessly. I did end up falling behind in levels after this and struggled for a time, but a little bit of level grinding evened things out.
One thing that Revenant Kingdom does wonderfully is making it so that you don’t have to have played the first game in order to enjoy the second. Certainly there are a few references here and there that people who played the first game will recognize, but they are so minor that they don’t affect anything.
Not only is this game an excellent action-oriented RPG that is unique in its own right, but it has elements that are reflective of other role playing game series, one of which is Fire Emblem. During the game, you will need to engage in various skirmishes. This is when the game enters into a strategic mode where you can command a few units of troops from your kingdom against an opponent. While this is certainly more real-time than Fire Emblem is, it does have the same rock-paper-scissors weapon triangle, right down to the same advantages and disadvantages. This aspect is key toward victory, as weapon type advantages are what can ultimately decide whether you win or lose. But as a whole, the required skirmishes aren’t very difficult. Some optional ones are even repeatable so that you can easily level grind your units.
Due to the kingdom building aspect, Revenant Kingdom shares some elements with another role playing game; Suikoden. A few hours in, you will settle upon a region of land that hasn’t been settled on yet by any other kingdom, allowing you to build your own. It is extremely well balanced and highly addictive, easily becoming one of my favorite aspects of the game. Through this, you accumulate funds specifically for building your kingdom and can carry out research to develop new spells, craft new weapons and armor, and gather materials. However, it does require a lot of side quests to recruit new citizens and build your kingdom further, which is required for progressing certain parts of the story. So side content is not avoidable if you are looking just to enjoy the main scenario.
While the skirmishes and kingdom building are fun, they won’t necessarily be for everyone. Thankfully, you don’t need to invest yourself too wildly into these parts of the game. You can’t outright ignore them, but as long as you meet the minimum requirements for progressing certain parts of the story, you’ll be fine.
Graphically, Revenant Kingdom is beautiful. Although Studio Ghibli was not involved in this like with the first game, the art style is consistent with Wrath of the White Witch, giving us a bright, colorful world and beautifully rendered character models. The cell-shaded 3D models have come so far over the years and are truly a sight to behold. Textures are well done, environments are built with care, and the various cities are brimming with personality. Although major locations are impressive, the minor locations used primarily in side quests do get a little redundant after awhile due to the sheer number of them and the repetition of assets.
While the soundtrack to Wrath of the White Witch stands out to me more than that of the sequel, Joe Hisaishi’s compositions are still fantastic and appropriate to the game’s setting. Certain tracks are sure to leave a memorable impression, although nothing that will quite stand up to the likes of the overworld theme from the first game.
When it comes to Revenant Kingdom’s localization, it really can’t be described as anything other than stellar. Like its predecessor, both the text and voiced dialogue are done with exceptional care to make sure the world and characters are very immersive. And of course, the quirky, pun-filled nature of the original carries over to its sequel with just as much effort. Dialogue flows naturally to English speakers and the voice cast is fantastic. None of the casting seemed out of place for any of the characters.
Despite its obvious flaws with the plot, I can’t help but be touched by this game. Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a wonderful experience that is sure to leave many people feeling content. That being said, it’s still not for everyone. Some people may have no interest in the kingdom building or the strategy RPG aspects of the skirmishes, which are necessary to a point for the main story. But they are executed in such a way that they’re enjoyable and don’t feel necessarily like a chore. But if those aspects really turn you off of the game, then perhaps it is simply not for you. No game is for everyone. If there’s anything that should stop you from playing this game, it’s the issues with the story. It’s not perfect and they really dropped the ball regarding Roland, but it’s still a pleasant little tale to help take your mind off of reality for awhile. If these things won’t bother you, then there’s definitely an enchanting little experience waiting for you in this delightful title.
Pros & Cons
+ Fun, fluid combat system
+ Addictive kingdom building
– Poor story execution
– Little challenge for most of the game
Excellent gameplay and beautiful graphics marred by a lackluster story, but still worth checking out for the combat and kingdom building alone.
PlayStation 4, PC (Steam)
Bandai Namco Games