Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom is that rare game that seems to be able to transcend its genre and provide a gameplay experience anyone can enjoy. It is also a game that handles multiple mechanics well, and while that is not unique among video games, it certainly sets it apart from the chaff and into a larger discussion about the best games released in the first quarter of the year.
First and foremost, the game is charming. You’ll notice the beautiful art design right at the beginning, but what pulls you in is the intertwining of the gorgeous rendering with the amazing score in the game. That and the transitions are fluid and the world feels vibrant in a way that makes the experience worthwhile. In sports, the term ‘intangibles’ is often mentioned. Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom has that in spades.
In truth, I break this game down into 3 sections: the Japanese Role Playing adventure, the kingdom-building macro mechanic, and real-time strategy army battles (skirmishes). With any good JRPG, the excellence must come through its combat system. Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom utilizes an action combat system that has melee, ranged, and magic/skill attacks. It appears simple at first, and it can be at low levels, but once you get into the level 60+ monsters, you can’t just roll in and press square. You must manage what melee weapon you are using (you carry 3), you need to take advantage of the invulnerability gained through dive-rolling and throw up a block when you’re too close. All this while watching for cues from your higgledies.
Higgledies are little spirits that come with you on your adventure. They’re cute, have their own personalities, and are essential in any battle. You bring 4 higgledies in your party and each provides a list of four skills, bonuses, what-have-you. The list of skills is vast, including, but not limited to: buffs for melee, magic, defense, etc., debuffs for enemies, special skills for your melee attacks, and specials you can call upon such as a cannon that shoots flaming cannonballs, a circle of healing, or call forth the higgledy god. My favorite is Tove the Tenebrous, who drops what appears to be a gravity bomb on top of enemies. They’re adorable, and you can’t help but love these little helpers.
The kingdom-building is one of those things where at first, you say, “Oh, I’ll just throw some citizens in some buildings and be done with that.” Yes, well, two-kingdom level-ups later and you are spending some serious quality time on the throne, managing your kingdom. Evermore (your kingdom) isn’t just for show. Managing your kingdom properly is essential to critical growth in the game. Yes, you use some of the buildings to make weapons and armor and learn new spells. But, by properly developing your citizens, and utilizing the research they provide, they can make the adventuring and skirmishing easier. You can also have resource gathering occur that makes upgrading everything (weapons, armor, higgledies) easier. You don’t have to farm an area for items when your citizens are doing that for you. While this feature may not be the most exciting, but it feels rewarding to run your kingdom properly.
Lastly, are the real-time battles, called skirmishes. You, as Evan, choose four squads to join you in the battle. The squads come from different citizens you’ve recruited during your travels. Each squad has skills you can use in battle and a specialty. There is, of course, a rock paper scissors mechanic where sword squads (red) beat hammer squads (green) who beat spear squads (blue), and then there’s ranged squads (yellow) and defensive squads (purple). You get the idea. The four squads are grouped around you (think North, South, East, and West). You can rotate the squads using your shoulder buttons in order to get the right squad to fight the right people (i.e. rock beats scissors). You then move through the battle and each skirmish is different, with ebbs and flows, and the occasional giant serpent that jumps out of the ground. It’s probably my least favorite mode in the game, but that does not detract from the fact that it’s a solid mechanic.
If I was to have any complaint, it’s that the story does not excite me or feel compelling. How the story is built is interesting, with Roland, the President of the United States, driving into a city that is nuked and he wakes up in Evan’s bedroom. Then there is a coup in Ding Dong Dell and Evan is deposed and he and Roland sneak out of Ding Dong Dell and escape to create his own kingdom. Evan wants everyone to stop fighting and seeks out a peace accord across the world. While I can appreciate the innocence and naivete of this wonderful gesture, it is difficult for it to jive with me, an adult with a lot of life experience to the contrary of those ideals. It’s not a bad story, per se, it just doesn’t resonate with me.
Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom Review Final Thoughts:
Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom is a beautiful game with an excellent music score and fantastic game mechanics. I absolutely recommend this game. This would be an excellent game for anyone who does not play Japanese Role Playing Games but is curious about the experience. If you are already a fan of this genre, this is a no-brainer for you. This is easily the best game I have played so far in 2018.