When Studio Ghibli and Level-5 came together to launch Ni no Kuni there was no doubt that mixing their talents would result in something special. Once Wrath of the White Witch arrived on the market, players had access to an emotional experience that presents the essence of the work of the animation studio with the fun RPG systems that have characterized Level-5.
Sony announced Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom in its PlayStation Experience 2015 conference and it was clear that, although it would tell an independent story, it could not remain below its predecessor and that its fans would not settle for something less. The doubts spread about the project when it was made public that Studio Ghibli did not work on it because they temporarily abandoned the animation to focus on a different business model.
Now, after several delays, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is finally in our hands and we can say that it is a game as amazing as the original because it retained its essence and improved several of its systems and mechanics.
THE BIRTH OF A KING
In Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom we follow the story of Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, a young man who, after the sudden death of his father, must take the reins of Ding Dong Dell, a kingdom inhabited by felines and anthropomorphic rodents. While preparing for the coronation ceremony, one of the closest ministers to his father staged a coup d’etat to take control of the kingdom and end the lineage of the Tildrum. At the same time, in a universe far from Ni no Kuni and very similar to ours, Roland, the president of an important nation, transcends the interdimensional barriers and arrives at Evan’s room. After a brief presentation and knowing his surroundings, Roland realizes what is happening and decides to help Evan escape.
Losing so much in such a short time causes a major change in Evan. In the style of Hamlet , the young man understands that power relations are broken, but unlike the character of Shakespeare, does not border on madness or seek revenge, but impose a new order where everyone can live in harmony and without worrying about war. To achieve this Evan decides to form a new kingdom and sign a peace treaty with the leaders of other monarchies.
“In the style of Hamlet, the young man understands that power relations are broken”
Unfortunately, the mission is not so simple. In Revenant Kingdomthere are kingdoms whose leaders were corrupted by a dark being that wants to control all the ruling beasts, powerful beings that protect each village. His influence brings problems that are a clear mirror of what we have in our reality: corruption, discrimination, labor exploitation and government espionage are some of the issues that Evan and company will have to deal with to sign their treaty with other kingdoms. Unfortunately, the fact that the game presents these topics does not mean that it has anything to say about them and most of the times only the surface is touched and they ignore the structures that make them up and maintain them, as well as the real consequences.
Now, more than the story about the foundation of a new kingdom, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a coming-of-age story in which Evan must leave behind his childhood innocence and insecurity to become the king that his world He needs a process that he lives when he understands what evil can generate in the world and he goes through harrowing moments that can break anyone’s heart.
“Evan must leave behind his childhood innocence and insecurity to become the king his world needs”
Although history is not of the other world, Level-5 managed to create an attractive narrative thanks to elements such as the fantastic construction of the world, since each kingdom has its own personality and a consistent theme: all regions have problems that afflict them and that they are reflected in each element that composes them. For example, the population of one of the first kingdoms visited by Evan and Roland lives in the deceit of the bettor who is sure that luck must decide his fate and never stops to think about the inconveniences that this can bring or in what simple that is to corrupt a system like that. All elements of the kingdom respect these characteristics and we see citizens with addiction to betting and we even know special systems so that you can easily detect the debtors.
Another factor that allows the story of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom to work is the group dynamics between its characters, because each one has a defined role that does not clash with their personality and motivations. In addition, it is a team in which the chemistry is evident and with the progress of the story it feels like a real bond between all of them.
The only problem is that character development feels bland in all but Evan. It is natural for a story to focus on its protagonist growing and maturing; however, it seems that it is the only one that matters. That is, as Evan progresses significantly throughout the main story, his peers simply exist and are there. Do not get me wrong, the heroes of Ni no Kuni II are nice and it’s easy to get attached to them, only that in the end I was left wanting to know more about them and see them grow with the facts of the narrative.
One topic I want to talk about is the location in Latin Spanish. If you play in this language, but you know English, you will immediately notice that the team in charge of this task did a good job of taking the personality of the characters and adapting it to archetypes that are familiar in our region. What displeased me is that they changed the name of some main characters and, as much as I thought about it, I did not find a valid reason for that decision.
A NEW WAY TO FIGHT
“Level-5 heard the harsh criticism”
The first difference you will notice in Revenant Kingdom if you played Wrath of the White Witch is its renewed combat system. Apparently, Level-5 heard the harsh criticisms that faced the mechanics related to the Familiars, creatures that were the central axis of the fights of the first Ni no Kuni . So, in Revenant Kingdom there is a combat system with real time action where you directly control any of the characters that are part of your team in clashes that take place in a circular area.
In theory, the way to fight is simple, but in practice it is fun and dynamic. For starters, you have 2 basic types of attacks – strong and fast – that you can use in unsophisticated combos. Also, all the characters have remote attacks that need magic points to function. Finally, there are the special magic techniques, which are powerful and in several occasions are linked to the characteristics of each character.
An important point is the Zing! System, thanks to which the characters are equipped with up to 3 melee weapons and switch between them at the press of a button. Each weapon has a level of charge that, when it is at its maximum, lets you perform devastating attacks and when they are at a low level they do less damage, but you can change them to charge and while using another. The good thing is that the Zing system! It has 3 configurations -manual, semi-automatic and automatic-, so you can occupy the passenger seat and allow the machine to be responsible for managing the weapon change.
Another important novelty is the Battle Equalizer, a mechanism that you will receive a few hours after starting the game. It is a device in which you can assign the points you get when leveling up to unlock different combat advantages, such as causing more damage to certain types of enemies, being resistant to poison or getting better loot when fighting ends. Do not trust yourself, the Equalizer has limits that prevent it from breaking the game; I mean that the power it grants is not excessive and you can not get an advantage against all the creatures at the same time; however, it is possible to reassign the points before each battle in order to have an adequate balance in each situation.
In Revenant Kingdom the place of the Familiars occupy the Higgledies, small spirits of nature that serve as support characters that help you in combat with different actions such as creating a field of healing vapors or using a cannon to inflict damage on enemies . Although it is an easy mechanic to ignore at the beginning of the adventure, it soon becomes a central part of the combat strategy. In fact, there were several meetings in which they were the key to my victory.
Now, the Higgledies are not only present in the fights, since they are creatures that are an essential part of the world and help you to cross paths that it is impossible to cross without them. In addition, along the map there are small statues of Higgledies that add one of these creatures to your collection with the condition that you solve a riddle. The best thing is that it is a lot of different beings, each with its own personality that is reflected in their animations and fighting style. So, I found it impossible to resist the temptation to explore every corner of the world with the hope of adding a new Higgledie to my team.
“I found it impossible to resist the temptation to explore every corner of the world”
Another success of the combat system is that each enemy has a specific attack pattern, as well as a mixture of weaknesses and strengths. Whenever I found a new one I was excited by the possibility of studying their movements and discovering the best strategy to overcome it. However, the variety in the supply of enemies is poor, however, the battles are armed in such a way that they remain fresh and fun even in the advanced points of the game.
Do not underestimate this new combat system, it is far from being one that allows you to survive at a mere push. If you try this technique, most likely you will die a lot because to succeed you need to analyze what is happening and find the exact moment to use the skills of your arsenal.
BUILDING A KINGDOM AND KNOWING THE WORLD
I mentioned that one of the best elements of the history of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is its world construction. This element is also transferred to the game mechanics so that they feel justified and part of this universe, which means that playing as Evan one of your missions will be to build a new kingdom from scratch and here comes the kingdom administration mode, that lets you manage a town building buildings and doing research to get resources or improvements. No society can exist without people, so Evan must find subjects who join his cause, know them in depth and assign tasks that take advantage of their talents.
“No society can exist without people”
It is easy to imagine that this mode presents systems similar to those of administration games like Farmville because to investigate news, get resources and add money it is necessary to wait and be constantly reviewing the kingdom, the difference is that it is not designed to have you hooked and spending money , so it’s gratifying to visit it from time to time to see it grow and, in passing, get improvements.
One way to get more people to your kingdom is the side missions, most of which are fetch quests. Almost all the objectives that I found were to go to a place to kill a powerful monster or get a certain amount of objects to solve a problem. These types of missions are very common in the genre, but the problem with those of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is that their context is not interesting and the rewards are rarely substantial. In other words, they did not seem boring, but I did not feel motivated to complete them either.
In addition to the side quests are the Mirror Labyrinths, which are multi-level dungeons that contain rewards and a powerful final boss. Its appeal is a mechanic called Risk Level, which is a meter that increases the power of enemies as you spend time in the dungeon. In this way, you have to decide if you go straight to the final boss or if you explore every corner in search of loot. In these places there is a limited amount of pink spheres that you can use to open mysterious chests or decrease the difficulty. I must emphasize that each labyrinth I visited felt fresh and the bet to allow the level of risk to increase raised the emotion of not knowing the type of creature that I would find at the end. In addition, the possibility of getting juicy loot increased my desire to revisit them.
Any kingdom that wants to avoid being the laughingstock of the rest must have an army that defends and fights for its ideals. So, in Revenant Kingdom Evan creates a group of soldiers that you control in the Campales Battles, a type of combat where you can move up to 4 groups of soldiers that can be equipped with swords, mallets, arrows and pistols. At all times the squads remain glued to Evan – unless they have a skill that allows them to separate – and your role will be to act as the leader that positions them so that the most effective is the one that faces a stone-like battle. and scissors.
At first sight they may seem like little, but the administration of the kingdom and the pitched battles are crucial elements in the good rhythm of the game of Ni no Kuni II . These encounters add variety to the game style so that the parts where it is a pure JRPG do not feel repetitive or tedious. Also, an important part of the content they offer is optional, so you do not have to spend a lot of time if you prefer to concentrate on progressing in the story.
The main story of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom lasts between 28 and 30 hours, depending on your style of play, so it can increase considerably if you enter fully to develop your kingdom and participate in pitched battles. For all the amount of content I found, I imagine that it has the potential to be a game of 50 or 60 hours for those who want to complete 100%. In general, the difficulty of Ni no Kuni II makes it accessible to new players and represents enough challenge for veterans.
PLACES THAT LEAVE YOU BREATHLESS
Since I saw the breakthrough of Ni no Kuni II, I knew that its anime aesthetic and beautiful graphics with cel shading would be outstanding elements; What I never imagined is that there would be times when their scenarios would leave me breathless. I do not exaggerate when I say that some landscapes made me exclaim “wow”. The beautiful art direction combined with a meticulous attention to detail form locations that feel full of life and the kingdoms, caves and villages are connected by an overworld that is a love letter to the worlds of the JRPG for the first PlayStation. In it, Evan and his team appear chibi-like and can explore with some degree of freedom, since the places they can access depend on where you are in the story.
“Some of his landscapes made me exclaim” wow “”
Note that these graphics run at 1080p on the regular PlayStation 4 model, while on PlayStation 4 Pro they look at dynamic 4K resolution ; in both models the game presents a rate of 60 frames per second. I played on normal PS4 and there were times when the frame rate decreased, especially in some battles and overworld, but they were few and short, so it’s not a big problem.
Another point that raises the presentation is the soundtrack composed by Joe Hisaishi, who appears in the credits of Howl’s Moving Castle and Okuribito . His work for Revenant Kingdom stands out thanks to orchestral themes that emphasize the hope and innocence of Evan’s heart. In addition, the composer was not afraid to use counterpoint as a tool to add tension to some of the most critical moments in history.
A MAGICAL AND CHARMING JRPG
From the Super Nintendo and until the era of the PlayStation 2, the JRPG was my favorite genre. I spent hours with classics and I thought it would always be like that. Unfortunately, with the passage of time I became disenchanted and stopped finding those little details that hooked me for so long. The magic of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is that it only took me a couple of hours to fall in love with the JRPG. I find it hard to express it with words, so I’ll say that it all comes down to the fact that I could not stop thinking about it. I was with my daily routine and my beautiful landscapes came to my mind, as well as the elements that it hides; I imagined a growth plan for my kingdom and thought about what would be the best tasks for certain subjects.
“The magic of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is that it only took a couple of hours to make me fall in love with the JRPG again”
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a charming game that takes essential elements of the JRPG for the first PlayStation and modernized with contemporary design to deliver an experience that will appeal to fans of the genre and will be accessible to the rest. We are facing a title that was the responsibility of a team that did it with love and intense passion to deliver an adventure that makes its players feel immersed in a dimension that has the power to steal the heart of anyone.
On Friday, March 23 Not even Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom will come to PlayStation 4 and PC as a must for fans of JRPG and anime fans. It will be a good entry point for those who want to discover why there was a time when the JRPG were the kings.