Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review – An Utterly Charming Adventure

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action RPG
 
Rating: PG
 
Release Date: 23/03/2018
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4.5/5


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

Positives


- Utterly charming style
- Fantastic combat
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Higgledies are much better than familiars

Negatives


- Haphazard utilisation of voice acting
- Skirmishes lack depth


Posted April 3, 2018 by

 
Full Article
 
 

I grew up on a healthy diet of Japanese RPGs and anime in my formative years through late primary school and early high school. Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Studio Ghibli were the things that left the biggest impression on me, so I was beyond excited when Level-5 announced Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – an RPG developed in tandem with Studio Ghibli. I had almost given up hope of a localisation when the PlayStation 3 game was confirmed to be coming West. Despite good sales and critical reception, it looked like there would never be a sequel. That is, until Level-5 announced Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom in 2017. Now a fully-fledged action RPG and improving on the original in almost every way, Revenant Kingdom is exactly the RPG you’ve been hoping for.

While so many other parts of Revenant Kingdom will feel familiar to those who played the original game or watch Studio Ghibli films, such as the art style and music, the combat is completely different to before. The quasi-ATB system of the original is gone, replaced with a completely real-time action system that is immensely more satisfying. Originally a weak-point in Wrath of the White Witch, the combat in Revenant Kingdom is one of its strongest aspects. Melee combat is a mixture of responsive weak and strong attacks, complemented by guards and dodges that can be used to cancel out of certain attacks and can be triggered at the drop of a hat. Ranged combat is made up of individual shots, as well as more powerful charge shots, each of which utilise your MP as ammo. On top of both the ranged and melee combat, you have four selectable skills that use your MP to unleash powerful buffs and attacks. These skills can then be augmented with weapon charges to unleash powerful secondary effects, with your 3 swappable melee weapons charging up as you unleash regular attacks on unsuspecting enemies.

Sound complicated so far? Well, on top of the abilities your direct character has in combat, you also have 4 teams of Higgledies that assist you in battle and can be triggered to unleash their own special abilities. The Higgledies replace the familiars of Wrath of the White Witch, but are immensely more useful to you than the familiars ever were. Higgledies don’t just act as AI assistants in battle, they can also augment and power up your own attacks in combat. By meeting certain Higgledy number requirements shown on your skills, you can trigger even more powerful skills than without them. They also unleash special buffs to your character when they enter an awakened state in combat, making them even more powerful then before. These systems all become second nature as you play through Revenant Kingdom and they’re layered on in a gradual manner that makes it all easy to grasp and follow. While I hated combat in Wrath of the White Witch, I found myself actively seeking it in Revenant Kingdom.

Beyond its combat, the other thing that Revenant Kingdom absolutely excels in is charm. In fact, it’s absolutely oozing in charm. Evan, the young deposed ruler of Ding Dong Dell is always doing his best to improve the lives of everyone around him. His story is highly personal, as he works tirelessly with his friends to both unite and save the world to create a utopia where war and suffering will never again exist. The story follows this basic premise, largely remaining rather formulaic early on, before introducing some twists and more interesting encounters later on. Throughout the story, you travel through an array of lands and kingdoms, each unique to the last and the next. This is best shown in the cities within each kingdom, with the architecture, layout and underlying themes changing completely between them. Goldpaw with its high tempo music, neon lights and Chinese-inspired architecture is totally different to the relaxed music, Greek-inspired architecture and pastel colour palette of Hydropolis.

Throughout all of its charm, Revenant Kingdom has an incredibly solid artistic and musical base behind it. The Studio Ghibli inspired art style is all-encompassing, with every single character, enemy and location looking like they would fit in perfectly in a Ghibli film. Environmental textures are detailed and interesting to look at, with characters and enemies also receiving a level of detail that is impressive. Joe Hishaishi’s soundtrack is utterly wonderful, filled with memorable tunes that perfectly match where you are and what is happening onscreen at any given point. I found myself constantly travelling to Goldpaw, just so I could listen to the cities’ music because of how much I loved it. This level of detail and quality serves to make the game’s haphazard utilisation of voice acting all the more frustrating. Voice acting is largely missing in Revenant Kingdom, except for use in cutscenes and sporadically in random conversations throughout the game. This means that you can go through a full 30 minutes of the game, hitting multiple story-centric points, and hear nothing but grunts, utterances and the off word from your party. Multiple conversations and story beats that are incredibly important are completely lacking in voice acting, while some minor conversations are fully voiced. There seems to be no rhyme or reason behind which story moments outside of cutscenes have voice acting and that was incredibly jarring and broke my immersion with the game. Level 5 have spared no effort to make sure that Revenant Kingdom is a beautiful game, and I certainly appreciated it in my playthrough, but I wish the same effort was extended to the voice acting.

Beyond the graphics, music, story and combat, there are two other big focuses in Revenant Kingdom – Skirmishes and your kingdom Evermore. Skirmishes are large scale battles between two opposing armies. You select 4 units to surround Evan, who then moves through the battlefield rotating the units around himself to meet enemy units with the best possible weapon type. As Evan, you can call upon the skills of your units, as well as your own super meter and guts meter which bolster your units. Unit skills, as well as summoning unit reinforcements, utilise Might, as relatively finite resource that can sometimes be found on the battlefield alongside a starting pool of Might. This means that you have to weigh up whether using a skill is worth the Might cost, which units you should have at the front of combat and how you should tackle enemy units. It’s a strategic game-mode that is an interesting addition to Revenant Kingdom, but repeated battles reveal a lack of depth to the systems that result in skirmishes becoming monotonous and boring over time.

The other big focus in Revenant Kingdom is Evan’s fledgling Kingdom Evermore. Unlike other games, where a Kingdom’s growth is just a series of story beats, Revenant Kingdom has you directly build Evermore from the ground up. Similar to other city building games, although markedly more constrained, you’re given an ever-replenishing income to construct buildings, complete research and gather materials which can be used to create items. Central to this are your citizens, who each have specialties relating to specific buildings and subsequent research. A few citizens are gained through the story of Revenant Kingdom, but the majority have to be recruited through the game’s many side quests. The side quests are relatively formulaic, generally being fetch quests, Skirmishes or hunts. A bit more variety would have gone a long way, as you’ll find later in the game that completing side quests is practically required to come close to enemy’s recommended levels. Despite the difficulties with securing new citizens, building Evermore quickly becomes addictive, as you begin working out which buildings and research to prioritise to suit the benefits you want. I found myself spending hours planning and working on my Kingdom and never once was I bored.

I was a massive fan of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, but I’m the first to admit that it was a flawed experience that was dragged down by frustrating systems and unengaging combat. Revenant Kingdom shows that Level-5 learned from their mistakes, with the game sporting a responsive and engaging combat system, an utterly charming story and style, and some highly addictive kingdom building. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is best RPG of the year and everything I could have hoped for and more.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting. Also, pugs are awesome. Puglife.