*Impressions will be at the top. The review will be at the bottom*
A Different Kingdom
Ni No Kuni II couldn’t be more different than it’s predecessor. Gone is the Pokémon-esque combat system of the original in which you had various monsters that battled for you. In it’s place is a free-flowing combat system that feels a lot like the Tales series. Each character can equip up to 3 weapons in their arm band and each weapon has a “Zing” gauge. This gauge is represented by a percentage and when it is maxed out, your weapon is at its highest potential. If you were to unleash a special attack, the effects are going to be maximized. Once it has been depleted, it is recommended that you switch to a different weapon as at a lower percentage, the weapon is not as effective. Each character is also given a long-range weapon represented by guns, bows, and magic wands. While combat seems simplistic, the player is given a tablet known as the Tactic Tweaker which allows you assign points that will help you during combat. Encounters can be easier if you take the time to adjust to each situation.
Now while the monster corralling of the first game is gone, it has been replaced by the Higgledies, small creatures who are physical manifestations of the elements. These little creatures will roam the battlefield with your party and on their own will attack, defend, and heal if necessary. They can also be utilized to super-charge your own special attack depending on the element. Every so often, higgledies will gather together to form an attack circle, once the player enters that circle and presses “x”, they will command the higgledy to perform their special ability. These come in the form of a cannon, a devastating magic spell, or a barrier just to a name a few. Like in the previous entry, you can level up these magical creatures, but only when at your home base.
Did I mention you have a Kingdom?
The biggest change from Ni No Kuni is that the player must build a kingdom as the goal of the game is unification. Just throwing this out there, but this game really reminded me a lot of Suikoden. The base building mechanic is a little more in-depth but its difficult not to draw comparisons. As the King you will have to assign your recruited citizens to various institutions within your Kingdom. Every institution serves a different purpose as some will gather resources, others will help build your Army, and there are those that will serve as shops for the player. A Higglery, a research site for higgledies, is the only place where you can create new higgledies and upgrade them. I really recommend that you invest in your Kingdom and visit as much as possible, the research that you conduct will provide dividends that will help you along in the game.
I mentioned that one of the purposes of building the Kingdom was to help raise an Army. In Ni No Kuni II there will be instances in which you will find yourself participating in skirmishes. These skirmishes act as small mini-games in which you will have to take your army and move them throughout the battlefield to fend off enemy forces. Your army is represented by four units, each with their own special abilities that can be deployed and those units surround your player character. These skirmishes tend to be very quick and it is recommended that you exercise patience and utilize every special ability because you can be overwhelmed easily if you do not pay attention to the might counter in the top left. Thus far I’ve only been in 4 skirmishes, but those were mandatory, there are skirmishes that are features as side-missions and they are represented by a glowing flag on the world map.
Like its predecessor, Ni No Kuni II is high quality in terms of its visuals and sound. The animation is top-notch and once again looks like something out of a Studio Ghibli production. While the world map does look a little out of place, it is very charming and will remind you of the early Final Fantasy entries, big-head and all. Every location is bright and colorful, each city is unique and is populated with well designed NPC’s. Voice-acting however, is a mixed bag as some characters sound very natural, while others sound like they are trying to force an accent, you’re better off using the Japanese dub. Whatever issue I have with the voice-acting though is immediately nullified when it comes to the music. It is fantastic and captures whatever location you happen to find yourself in.
I haven’t spoken much about the narrative primarily because you’ve seen this story before if you’ve happen to have played an RPG. A young boy, Evan, is looking to build his own Kingdom after he was ousted by a coup. He is looking to unify the five Kingdoms in the hopes to end war and improve the life of every citizen. It’s a hopeful story filled with unique characters, but it’s really nothing new. I was more intrigued by the story of Roland, your advisor, as he is a foreigner in this world. While you get to watch Evan and you Kingdom grow, it feels like Roland is the reason as everything he does has some effect on the outcome.
While I enjoyed my time with Ni No Kuni II, there are glaring flaws that prevent the game from being truly great.
- The amount of fetch quests present in the game acts toward artificially extending the length. Whether it is recruiting or helping to get coffers to help expand your Kingdom, there is generally a multi-layered fetch quest that requires you to jump to various points in the map. Searching for specific items within the request can be difficult as there are no hints as to where certain products are. What’s even more frustrating is that if you go out in the world to search for this item, it actually may be linked to another quest.
- Recruiting directly links with expanding your Kingdom. To advance in the game at two key parts, you must first recruit a certain amount of people and also expand a key facility. Once again, this is incredibly tedious as the easiest method to gain coffers is to complete Kingdom quests. and what’s the most likely objective in those quests? You guessed it, fetch quests. Near the end of the game is where it feels like the pace craters and while the trip-doors help in relations to travel, it still doesn’t remove the tedium involved.
- This is a minor gripe, but this games is incredibly easy in comparison to the first. Combat is fast, fun, and fluid, but you will breeze through most combat situations. In fact, I guarantee that experienced RPG players will feel unchallenged at points. At no point in the 20+ hour run through did I ever feel challenged in combat.
Overall, Ni No Kuni II shines with its fast and fluid action, stunning visuals, and Kingdom building mode. It is held back by its pacing, tedious fetch quests, and its predictable narrative. It is a very good RPG and a welcome sequel to the original.