It has now been five years since the initial release of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on the PlayStation 4. Since that time, the series has released major games on other platforms, brought out another mobile title and a feature film. But, the main series of games has been left dormant. After replaying Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom as it releases on Xbox, I think I understand why.
In a completely standalone story to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Ni No Kuni II centres around a boy called Evan. Or, to give him his Sunday name, King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, a young grimalkin – that is a human spliced with a cat – whose father has recently and surprisingly passed away. As he prepares to ascend to the throne himself, a coup occurs and the mouse-like Mausinger assumes control of Ding Dong Dell, declaring himself king and ordering the execution of Evan.
Whilst all this is happening, Roland, a human seemingly from our world who also happens to be the president of a powerful nation, is mysteriously transported into Ding Dong Dell and right into Evan’s bedroom. Before they have a chance to really understand what has happened, they must first escape the castle and surrounding areas to relative safety.
Together, with their various backgrounds of leading nations, they decide to create an entirely new kingdom for Evan to lead, and ultimately claim back Ding Dong Dell.
But here lies the first issue; the characters of Roland and Evan are not relatable at all to us common folk. One is a former world leader, the other a young king, and neither of those lifestyles are familiar to many of us. Even the additional party members come from walks of life that are difficult to sympathise with.
And then we get to Lofty, Evan’s Kingmaker and Ni No Kuni II’s Welsh companion. Simply put, he isn’t Drippy from the first game. In fact, he doesn’t even come close.
That is partly because there is a distinct lack of voice acting in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom PRINCE’S EDITION. For what was originally a PlayStation 4 title, there is far too much dialogue between characters that is written and not fully voiced. As a result, it loses a lot of its charm, seeing these characters interact in a limited fashion.
But once again there can be no denying the visual charm on offer in Ni No Kuni II. There is a lack of animated sections this time around as Studio Ghibli are no longer involved, but the unique and timeless look remains everywhere else. In the world map sections, things look even better too with the area being presented in an almost dioramic fashion, with your chibi-style adventurers wandering around it.
Despite Studio Ghibli not being involved, Joe Hisaishi does return to provide the soundtrack. It is one of his weaker ones however.
Several better themes return from the first game and you will be spending a lot of time listening to them on this world map, all as you go about navigating between places. The whole JRPG trope of getting from A to B by helping C who can be found at D but only if you find the key at E is stretched to within an inch of its life here. Finding new areas can be exciting, returning to them three or four times before being able to move can become laborious.
There are plenty of battles to be had to break things up though. Gone are the familiars from the first game, replaced by even smaller creatures called Higgeldies. These don’t do all your fighting for you, and are more support based in their style. Instead, Evan, Roland and the rest are more than capable of taking care of themselves. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom PRINCE’S EDITION is a straight-up action RPG this time around. If the first Ni No Kuni was a love letter to JRPGs of the past, Ni No Kuni II is definitely a much more forward-looking game. But that does come with a lack of identity as well, as there is now nothing special about the battle system at all.
Once Evan has earned the respect of certain groups of people, he can begin to develop his own kingdom. Ni No Kuni II introduces a city building element to the game, albeit one that is pretty basic. Those coming into the game looking for a Dark Cloud-style town planner may be disappointed, but it is a welcome touch, nonetheless. You will use these buildings to create a thriving town that will evolve as you progress. You can assign personnel to each building to aid you in researching various things that will help you on your journey. It is a fun little management diversion that can drastically improve your chances of survival.
There are also skirmishes that are new to Ni No Kuni II. Here you need to mobilise an army to either protect your new kingdom or take on other missions found on the world map. These can start off modest and follow a standard rock/paper/scissors battle system with certain squads being far stronger than some, but far weaker than others. However, as you progress, these do ratchet up in difficulty and offer some testing moments in an otherwise relatively easy game.
It is worth also noting that the version of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom that features on Xbox consoles is the PRINCE’S EDITION, which means it comes with all the DLC previously released in a single bundle. These enhancements come into play quite early on as well, as opposed to simply being endgame activities. There are new collectibles to find right from the off, new dungeons and even some story content that ties into Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. All-in-all, it fits in rather well.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom PRINCE’S EDITION isn’t a patch on its predecessor. Save for the gorgeous visuals, they feel like two very different games at times. This one is much more politically driven and does lose much of the charm the original had. But, if you are wanting a more modern JRPG, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom PRINCE’S EDITION is still well worth a look. Just be prepared to do a lot of reading, as there is far too little voice acting in here.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom PRINCE’S EDITION on the Xbox Store