Sometimes a new IP just comes out of nowhere and blindsides you; that was the case with the original Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch back in 2013. Few games are blessed with quite as much love as was poured into that game. Everything from the enormous, flavor-packed in-game spellbook to the delightful graphics and animation were clearly intended to make for a memorable experience. If you haven’t tried it, you probably should, and once you’re done you might also want to try Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.
It’s a game of cat and mouse as the kingdom of Ding Dong Dell is subject to a coup by rodent traitors. Young King Evan is left on the run without a kingdom. After he swears an oath to rebuild his rule and unite the world, Evan’s dimension-traveling advisor Roland and a cast of other colorful characters join the would-be king as he works toward this noble goal.
If you’ve played and enjoyed the first Ni no Kuni you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy here. There’s a similar fairy-tale influence that’s most clearly visible in the game’s colorful animated aesthetics. Even the writing and storytelling trend toward puns and quirkiness, though, and if you’re a fan of the modern take on Dragon Quest you’ll be right at home here. At the same time, Ni no Kuni II isn’t afraid to touch on some dark themes and handles them surprisingly well by video game standards.
Rather than just reiterating on the first game, Revenant Kingdom shakes up the formula in several ways. In particular, combat is now a more action-based affair that encourages active play and resource management. You control characters and their moves directly rather than Wrath of the White Witch’s psuedo-turn-based system. The heroes can carry and wield several weapons at once, switching between them as needed. Weapons gain Zing power as they’re used, providing enhanced special attacks and giving you a reason to swap gear often.
Later, you unlock the ability to spend points earned from gaining levels on boosts to elemental resistances, status effects and combat rewards, offering another means of enhancing the experience. There’s a lot going on here and in my view it’s all a sizable improvement, as I found that just about the only thing I didn’t care for from the original title was the mediocre battle system.
Combat and exploration are just one side of the coin, though, as Ni no Kuni II also integrates a full-on kingdom-building aspect into the mix. It’s possible to spend hours searching the land for new residents for your kingdom and cash to spend on its improvement. Once you’ve got some folks together, you can assign them to different jobs like food production, gear crafting and so on, then reap the rewards. This isn’t just a little side quest, it’s central to the game and there’s plenty to get yourself stuck into if you’re willing to experiment and discover.
Naturally, Ni no Kuni II looks and sounds fantastic. In this case, the former’s a little more prevalent than the latter. Like the first game, there’s a lovely cel-shaded art style that makes pretty much every scene gorgeous; unlike that game, voice acting tends to be significantly more sparse and even plot-relevant points tend to be presented solely via text. I found this to be a bit disappointing given the original title’s heavy reliance on memorable voice acting. At least the orchestral music is amazing.
There’s plenty that’s changed, but Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom manages to retain plenty of the heart that suffused Wrath of the White Witch. The improved battle system makes it a much easier recommendation on the whole, since combat no longer feels like the chore it once was. RPG, anime, and adventure fans of all stripes are likely to have a good time with Revenant Kingdom, so they should probably get to rulership post haste.