“Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom” is a sobering reminder that time is fleeting, with its predecessor having been released over 5 years ago! You really do wonder where that time goes? But time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time and there’s no truer sentiment more accurate than playing this surprising sequel. Surprising not because of how good it is, but that it exists at all. It’s not a sequel anyone expected to happen, nor one that had any real justification to exist. “Ni No Kuni: The Wraith Of The White Witch” was a game many considered unique, its own singular little peculiarity. A distinct collaboration between a prestigious animation studio (Studio Ghibli) and one of the industries most revered Rpg developers (Level 5). Constituting a game with perilous style that embraced vibrancy and invited exploration while concluding its whimsical tale in a rather definitively. So how do you follow a game of such sublime beauty? With assured poise that’s how!
If you look at Ni No Kuni 2 as less of a sequel and more of a derivative of the first, then the game’s existence makes sense. NNK2’s opening sequence is the most singularly confusing introduction to any game I’ve played, but again emphasises the inextricable link between our world and the fantasy world we explore. It’s here that Roland, the president transported from our world encounters Evan, the air to the throne of “Ding Dong Dell” who after the untimely demise of his father is set to assume the role of King. Unfortunately his father’s treacherous advisor Mausinger, an anthropomorphic mouse and slayer of the previous King seeks to usurp Evan and become the new King regent. With the coup successful Mausinger attempts to consolidate his power by killing Evan, ending his families legitimacy as the true airs. But Evan with the aid of his new mysterious confederate Roland escape, vowing to establish a new Kingdom where “everyone can live happily ever after.”
The story is sentimental, veering ostensibly towards saccharine at times, yet does just enough to avoid feeling too preachy. Though it’s laced with enough sugary sentiment to make your teeth ache, it shouldn’t put you into a diabetic coma. The story for the most part is good, not great. Characters are introduced sporadically as you progress through the verdant pastures and exulted kingdoms, each possessing variable abilities and distinct personalities to keep things fresh. Evan in particularly is a well-meaning child that comes across as earnest, if naïve king in the making without becoming annoying. Personally however Ni No Kuni 2 does lack the firsts tender demeanour. The story of a young boy trying to save his mother from death was an erstwhile pursuit that to me at least was far more compelling. The change in combat however is a glorious amendment to its predecessor.
The overhaul of turn based mediocrity that was so pervasive in “Wraith Of The White Witch” is a delightful omission. Instead of politely waiting for your turn to battle the combat flows, with a system that promotes an immediate and assertive retaliation. Much like the Tales series, the dynamic conflict permits a greater intuitive and reactionary assault. Utilising movement, melee and evasion or blocking attacks all together empowers you with a greater sense of inclusion as opposed to idle, sporadic influences. Its satisfying too, hacking down giant beasts with the injection of pace and the intrinsic control, offering a superior combative relish that just can’t be emulated by the ponderous turn based monotony.
As you pursue the fealty of several kingdoms on a journey to reclaim the throne party members will gain levels, better equipment and all the standard accessories you’d expect from an Rpg, but it’s the accumulation of “Higgledies” that will provide the most obscure advantage. These spirited apparitions come in a variety of elemental forms: water, lunar, fire etc, with each contributing a different method for augmentation in battle. During encounters these gelatinous spirits consort with one another, consolidating their power and when prompted will unleash a unique skill. One type may generate a healing circle, another might become a cannon, targeting groups of enemies with powerful projectiles or creating a devastating aura that destroys everything in its spherical storm. These little guys can sometimes be the difference, so it’s crucial to use them regularly.
Ni No Kuni 2 has another exhilarating advantage over its originator in that its far less of a slog. Earlier chapters are resolved rather briskly, minimising the tedious ascension of increasingly convoluted dungeons that has become a baffling routine in Jrpg’s. There’s less time backtracking through huge tedious dungeons and castles focusing on fluidity rather than padding. And because the combat is so swift and inviting the usually necessitating grind in levelling up is largely absent. But what really allows NNK2 to surpass the first is Kingdom building.
Having been forcefully ousted as king of his own ancestral home, Evan decides to build a new kingdom afresh. A kingdom free of war and prejudice. Here you establish a new enterprising regime, one that espouses the cause of social tolerance, all built on the principles of peace, which incidentally can be achieved with the help of very addicting moderation and recruitment. You get to build “Evermore” almost from the ground up, installing facilities such as item or weapon shops, augmenting them using a currency generated by Evermore and its industrious little residents, thereby increasing the power of this new nation.
During the preliminary stages, as you construct a rustic if serviceable nation you won’t have much in terms of facilities or indeed personal to adequately manage these holdings. But as you travel you will begin recruiting citizens from other established kingdoms, each providing specific set of skills to enhance services you’ve built. It’s important that each citizens skill is utilised efficiently, for instance an individual that specialises in weapon making should be working at a weapons shop. It isn’t complicated, but it’s undeniably satisfying to meticulously cultivate the city as well as its industrious little community. Integration of these denizens also provides other enterprising benefits. As well as generating money that can be used to improve facilities, general stores, fish markets and other parlance. These stores also gift you items, so it’s important to revisit Evermore frequently to get the best out of these generous markets.
Ni No Kuni 2 doesn’t really do anything new. It conforms to the compounded methodology that afflicts most Jrpg’s: questing across a fantasy world to prevent a great evil from destroying the world. Yet the way in which it synthesise these ideas seems fresh and riveting, it’s really rather hard to explain. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t really played a Jrpg for so long or maybe its the influence of Studio Ghibli’s radiant animation and compelling orchestral sonnets that accompanies it, but somehow Ni No Kuni 2 breeds new life into a genre I felt had peaked years, perhaps even decades ago. All I really know is that I don’t just want to finish NNK2, I want to live it. I yearn for the days when life permitted the time to engage in such radiant Rpg’s for hours on end, without guilt or the threat of divorce. Time is indeed fleeting, and quit frankly not very nice. *Huff*