As a preface, I would like to say that I have not played Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and therefore I have no prior knowledge of the first game installment. This review will only be based on Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.
The story in Ni No Kuni II is very in-depth, and the game feels particularly story driven in the first few chapters. However, as you continue past the second chapter, the game opens into a more gameplay-based adventure with story taking a back-seat. Even with the story playing second fiddle, the game still has you doing side quests along with the main storyline, all of which involve beautiful and mostly hilarious cut scenes. As you adventure as boy named Evan, you have a cast of party members who add some diversity with different views of the world and various fighting styles. For example, your kingmaker Lofty is a wonderfully humorous little creature who brings laughs and an amazing accent. On top of that, he has tiny helpers by the name of higgledies who all have different skills and personalities and can help you in battles with defense, attack, and health replenishing abilities.
While you adventure and continue to build Evan’s kingdom of Evermore, you find new citizens who will offer you side quests, and upon fulfillment, they will join your kingdom and help you by offering their unique skills. Soon you will meet the villain Doloran, who is influencing and taking over the leaders of all the capitals to fulfill his evil destiny and reinstate his lost kingdom. As Evan is trying to create his own grandiose kingdom of happily-ever-after, you will encounter and fight all the kingmakers. Aside from the main story-line and side quests, I also really appreciated the different races in the game which included: Humanfolk, Dogfolk, Grimalkin (catfolk), Greenling (forest people), Merfolk, Mousekind, and Robots.
The number of different gameplay scenarios surprised me in a good way. I came into the game expecting it to be a cutesy hack and slash adventure, but it actually turned into something a lot more diverse than that. Yes, there is combat, and it’s done well. You can pick your team members, with three people able to fight at one time as well as your team of higgledies. Each team member has a different weapon style, and you can flawlessly switch between team members with the press of a key or controller button. The ability to dodge and block are also well done, presenting little to no clipping. I have yet to experience any lag in any fight, no matter the density.
Along with main fights, there is also a skirmish mode where your kingdom’s army goes into battle, chibi style, to take on opposing armies in order to win land and influence. Skirmish conflicts are easy to understand, even for someone who is not into conquest games. Additionally, there are Tainted Monsters, which are this world’s version of boss monsters. With these, you are able to decide if you have leveled up enough and stocked up enough before you fight them, unlike the story bosses where you are just thrown in with a bit of forewarning.
There are five types of travel in the game: the teleport system, main travel, chibi travel, sailing, and the Zipplen. The teleports are available once you have explored far enough into the world. These are a great asset, especially if you are completing the side quests, since they have you running all over the world. Main travel, as I like to call it, is the travel you do between minor parts of your story quest. They are separated from the main world; you see your team as their full-sized characters, and you can run into a combat scenario without a cut scene. Chibi travel, as I have fondly named it, is the ability to move in the full world map. You see your team as little chibis, and the fight scenarios are much like Pokemon; if you see an enemy, you can run up to them and engage which triggers a cut scene beginning the fight. Alternatively, you may try and run away from the enemy, and depending on your level and the enemy level it may or may not catch up to you. About halfway through the story, you are introduced to sailing. You and your chibi party get on a teeny tiny little boat and set off for a distant shore. Navigation is done through your D-pad or WASD, and the only other thing you can do is get off the ship. There are still monster battles out at sea, and they happen on the deck of your ship. The Zipplen is only accessed later in the game. It makes traveling across the world way faster and more precise as well as now you can reach places you haven’t been able to reach before. It was unquestionably an improvement over walking and sailing, although I found myself just wanting to zip everywhere without taking it in on the ground level.
Aside from the traveling and the fight scenarios, there are also Dreamer’s Doors which are stand-alone instances which have a steadily increasing challenge bar: the deeper you go and the more time you waste, the more the challenge of the monsters and the entire instance goes up. These are a unique challenge as none of the Dreamer’s Doors have a level indicated on the outside, so it is a surprise until you enter. Often, you get slaughtered by that surprise because you are WAY too low level. There are 9 in the world of differing levels, and it is a side quest for you to find and defeat them all.
If all those weren’t enough, there is also a kingdom managing mode where you go into your kingdom as Evan to manage, add, build, change, and improve the little empire you have created. You can research new abilities, work on new armor and weapons, create new food recipes, train higgledies, upgrade your ship, and much, much more. The more you level up your kingdom, the more you unlock for war abilities, faster travel speeds, and armor and weapon upgrades.
Finally, in the major towns, there is Swift Solutions, which is an NPC that basically acts as a job board with postings for either bounties on general enemies, or collection quests. For doing these quests, you get tokens which you can exchange for gear or new citizens for your city.
Ni No Kuni II has the wonderful ability for the player to have a controller (I used Xbox) plugged in and still flawlessly switch to a keyboard. Even when the controller was plugged in, I could still do everything on the keyboard without having to disconnect the controller and vice versa. You also can rebind your keys/buttons on both controller and keyboard (something which, though normal these days, frustrating when not the case). Shops do not have cut scenes which great, and the cut scenes between zones -which are very far and few between- load super quickly, although this may be because I am playing this game on an SSD.
I first started playing Ni No Kuni II on a keyboard and mouse since I usually play all my PC games that way, but I soon discovered that there was a bug where you are unable to switch player armor if you do not have a controller plugged in. Upon a Google search, it seems like everyone on PC was having the same issue and that the only way to remedy the problem was to plug in a controller. I was slightly miffed since I didn’t specifically want to play with a controller, but when I plugged the controller in and ended up trying the combat and navigation, I rarely went back to keyboard and mouse.
Upon opening the game one day, I ended up being stuck in windowed mode, but with a very quick google search I found the solution (Alt + Enter) and was back to my adventuring.
My only other minor gripe with the game is that when traveling through the world and trying to move your camera around, I experienced some mild motion sickness because of the way the camera and movement worked together. Overall this was a minor inconvenience to me, but it was noticeable.
There are still so many more things I could talk about regarding the game, but you will have to play it for yourself!
This game is beautiful and filled with wonderful story. Between the gorgeous art, astonishing sound, and awesome gameplay, Ni No Kuni II won me over. I was shocked that I fell so in love with the game and I have to say it is my game of 2018.
One of my favorite aspects of the game were the accents and voice acting of the characters as well as the ability to skip dialogue. Characters have fully voiced parts in more important story scenes, but most of the time have dialogue which is punctuated with a small piece of voice line from the character. These little voice lines made it more tolerable to sit through large chunks of dialogue. The variety and diversity of the races in the game were utterly astounding. I don’t think I ever saw 2 NPC’s who looked even close to identical. The ability to play as any of the characters in your party and not just Evan was also a lovely aspect of the game.
Also, the puns in this game are unreal and utterly amazing. And lastly, Lofty is the best character of the entire game.
Total hours played: Roughly 63, after completing the main story line and most side quests, and I’m still not done!!