Long live the king!
It’s hard to believe it’s been over 8 years since the first Ni No Kuni, a role playing game that combined the talents of the video game masterminds Level 5 with the legendary animation house Studio Ghibli. But now we’ve finally been graced with the long awaited sequel, and while Ghibli may have chosen to skip out on this second outing, Ni No Kuni 2 stands as one of the finest RPGs to be made in recent history.
Ni No Kuni 2 tells the story of two young men; Roland and Evan. Roland was once the President of an unnamed nation here on earth, but was whisked away to the fantasy world of Ni No Kuni after his city was destroyed. And Evan is the young prince of the kingdom of Ding Dong Dell.
After Evan’s father is murdered and overthrown, Evan escapes with the help of Roland and the two set off to begin building a new kingdom to try and unite the world under one banner.
The game has a suitably bizarre story fitting to its fantastical artstyle, packing in as many traditional anime and RPG tropes it can into the first few hours. It wants you to quickly know that it’s a love letter to RPGs of old, and lays the groundwork for an adventure littered with homages to the genre.
And once the adventure gets going, it’s a delightful story of a king finding their way and discovering the hardships of becoming a ruler, filled with unforgettable characters each with their own charming quirks that will keep you smiling for hours on end.
But being a sequel to an already brilliantly made game, Ni No Kuni 2 has some big boots to fill in both the gameplay and presentation. Thankfully, not only does the sequel match the level of quality of the first game, it often surpasses it.
The first big warning that should be slapped all over this thing is that Ghibli has little involvement with Ni No Kuni 2. That means no beautifully hand drawn cinematics to grace your eyes. Instead we’re presented the story with in-game cinematics, with a few still frame hand drawn pictures to highlight certain moments in the game.
But while it’s a shame the gorgeous animated cutscenes are gone, they won’t be completely missed, as Ni No Kuni 2 improves greatly on the first with its cinematography and masterclass voice acting. So while some things are gone, they’re made up for with some elements receiving vast improvements over the original.
The biggest overhaul to Ni No Kuni 2 might be the battle system. Gone is the Pokemon inspired active time combat, and in its place stands a system more similar to the Kingdom Hearts & Tales Of franchises. Now you take control of your party members directly and have them take an active role in combat, hacking and slashing at enemies with a variety of close combat and magical skills.
A new inclusion to the series are the higgledies, small adorable creatures that aid Evan and his friends in battle. You can find and customise your small army of higgledies to help you as you fight.
Some offer to attack the enemy, others create healing circles for you, and others cause special effects that can boost your party’s abilities toward enemy forces. Their addition makes you feel like a commanding tour de force in battle, and adds to the enjoyment that makes each clash a joy to engage in.
And they aren’t the only new features in the game. Since Evan is a king, he holds the responsibility of building his own kingdom. This is where the game plays home to an intensive city building simulator, where you must recruit people from around the world to join your kingdom and help it flourish.
It’s wonderful to watch the small village you begin with slowly transform into a land fit for a king.
Plus there’s also the games army management, where Evan goes into battle with a small army to fight against enemy forces. Sadly, while the presentation is adorable, using the overworld’s cute chibi models, the mode involves little more than walking toward enemies and letting your army defeat them. Occasionally you get to throw a bomb or build a tower, but otherwise this mode feels like a greatly wasted opportunity.
However the game isn’t without its shortcomings. The story, while engaging at first, likes to take a long time to get to where it’s going. Often you’ll be traveling back and forth between a few locations to do fetch quests to slowly progress the story, and will sometimes halt you until you level up your kingdom more.
While these are by no means dealbreakers, don’t go into Ni No Kuni 2 thinking you can blast through it in a weekend, as this one is definitely a time sink.
But what saves from this boredom, and helps makes the game come together in a perfect package is Ni No Kuni 2’s soundtrack. Composed by Joe Hisaishi, famous for composing many of Ghibli’s movies, and possibly one of the few connections to the animation company in the game, the games soundtrack carries a charm quite unlike anything else.
The royal orchestral music that permeates much of the game mixes perfectly with the rapid string pieces of combat.
There’s a reason the King’s Edition of the game came with a vinyl and music box. Ni No Kuni 2’s theme is one you’ll be whistling for years to come.
And if you want to see me unbox the Kings Edition, you can over on AllTime Gaming’s Twitter
Ni No Kuni 2 is a marvel of modern game design. While it still falls to some of the genres tropes and is lacking the charming animated segments of its predecessor, it makes up for it by being one of the most magical adventures to grace gaming. Be you young or old, new to the genre or a veteran, Ni No Kuni 2 is a story worth being shared around the world.