E3 2017: Ni no Kuni 2 Is A Stylish Evolution Of The Original (Hands-on)

June 24, 2017

When I was growing up, my two favourite things were RPGs and anime, so when I found out that Level-5 and Studio Ghibli were teaming up create a game I was insanely excited. After waiting years for a Western release, Ni no Kuni was released and I fell in love with it. The Ghibli-styled graphics and whimsical feeling of the game swept me away and I couldn’t wait for more. Thankfully, we won’t be waiting quite as long as last time, with Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom releasing globally for PC and PlayStation 4 later this year. While at E3 2017 Adam got to check out a story presentation and go hands on with one of the boss battles, walking away feeling like the game has evolved quite a bit since the original.

In Ni no Kuni 2 you’ll take control of Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the true king of Ding Dong Dell. Early on in the game, which takes place hundreds of years after the events of the original, the mouse tribe of Ding Dong Dell perform a coup d’état, wresting control of the kingdom from Evan. A boy king, Evan is nervous and unproven, but full of determination as he sets forth to regain control of his kingdom. During his quest for revenge, he meets a colourful cast of characters, including some from different worlds entirely, like Roland. Roland is a man from a modern world very much like ours who was the president of his country, and becomes a mentor-like figure for Evan. The story looks to have a different focus than the original Ni no Kuni, but still retains that same whimsical style that has become synonymous with Studio Ghibli films.

While the story is certainly different, the combat system is where Ni no Kuni 2 truly changes compared to the original. Unlike the original, which was more command based and felt like a turn-based RPG playing out in a 3D field, Ni no Kuni 2 feels much closer to an action RPG. As Adam fought against Longfang, a dragon-esque beast in a pool of lava, it was evident that the game has changed to a complete real-time combat system. Gone are the days of selecting commands to attack, instead you can now launch long range energy bursts with your sceptre, or get in close with light and heavy melee attacks. Holding down R2 allows you to access spells you can cast, like healing, or special attacks and combos that deal out more damage.

The fight was reminiscent in gameplay style of the Kingdom Hearts series somewhat, and the fights again its giant Heartless. You had to wait for a chance for Longfang to lower his arms and bring them towards Evan in order to get in close to launch melee attacks, while avoiding his firey blasts and projectiles. Replacing the familiars from Ni no Kuni, you now have support units called Higgledies who huddle around the battlefield in clusters. The Higgledies will occasionally show prompts during battle, utilising those prompts will cause the Higgledies to activate their abilities – such as providing a shield or healing you in the middle of battle. Overall, the systems feel more fluid than the original game and are a natural evolution of the semi-action system of the original.

This evolution also extends to the game’s dungeons, which don’t require a transition from overworld map traversal to battles – it’s all seamless and one experience now. For fans of the original, you’ll be happy to know that Joe Hisashi from Studio Ghibli is back for Ni no Kuni 2, with Ghibli also providing character designs once again and Akihiro Hino (CEO of Level-5) once again returning to write the game’s story.

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom promises to be an evolution of the original game, sporting a new and more fluid combat system, while retaining the stylings and feelings that made the original a great experience. If you’re a fan of RPGs or Studio Ghibli, you should definitely keep an eye out when the game releases for PC and PlayStation 4 on November 10th.