Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an open world, action RPG developed by Level 5 and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It was originally released for Microsoft Windows and the PS4 in 2018 and is now available on the Nintendo Switch. The game is a sequel to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the Witch.
Okay, before we start I want to preface this to say even though this is a sequel, it has little to nothing to do with the original Ni No Kuni - Revenant Kingdom is set one hundred years after its predecessor and has none of the original characters, so you can play it as a standalone game with no confusion.
Roland Crane, the President of somewhere, is on his way to an important meeting when the city he is headed to is blown up by a missile. Roland is then transported and de-aged to another reality (at this point I stopped the game and laughed for five solid minutes because I could not get the image of this happening with Boris Johnson out of my head).
Roland then lands in the bedroom of Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, a young King who doesn’t know that his kingdom is in the process of being taken over, Evan is half Grimalkin (cat person) half human. In Ding Dong Dell, Evan’s Kingdom, there are three different species; the Grimalkin, the Mousekin (rodent people) and the Humans. The racial tensions between the Grimalkin and Mousekin are at an all time high, surprisingly the humans are staying out of it, perhaps because both other species could rip their throats out with their teeth.
Yes Evan, have you not noticed all of your ‘loyal’ guards are trying to kill you?
The previous King died of a ‘mysterious’ illness and on the day that Young King Evan is to take part in his trial to get his Kingmaker, which is a sort of spirit that helps run/protect the kingdom, the Mousekin take over and have one of their own people do the trial to get the Kingmaker, deposing Evan. Evan takes a stupid amount of time to figure out what is going on, while poor Roland is forced to help the clueless baby King. After some adventures Evan decides to steal some land and create a new Kingdom, of which he will be king and create a peace treaty between his new kingdom, Evermore, and the other kingdoms, Goldpaw, Hydropolis, Broadleaf and of course Ding Dong Dell. King Evan soon realises that a mysterious person is corrupting the other rulers with purple goo and making them dissolve their bonds with their kingmakers, so Evan has to defeat the mysterious corruptor while uniting the kingdoms.
Alongside Evan and Roland we are introduced to other characters along the way that can join the party. Tani and her father Batu are sky pirates and the first to join Evan in building his new kingdom. Leander Arisides, part of Queen Nera’s council in Hydropolis, agrees to help Evan fight the mysterious goo corruptor and is on hand to help Evan in politics. Bracken Meadows is one of the chief engineers in Broadleaf and right hand to Broadleaf’s ruler Zip Vector. Also helping is Evan’s Kingmaker Lofty, a yellowish creature who looks like a mutated Lisa Simpson. And I’ve just noticed this now but all the members of Evan’s team, apart from Evan and Lofty, are full human, which is weird for a story that started with racial tensions between cat people and mouse people - you’d think that would be a good opportunity to have one of each from different nations and have them work together. Hydropolis is full of merpeople and humans and we get the very human Leander, that’s a very weird message to have underlying this game.
I mean, I think I’m winning.
In terms of gameplay, this is a game that wears a lot of hats. Firstly there’s the basic fighting which is a hack and slash. This can be complicated to see clearly as everyone sort of ends up in the middle and you I finished up just mashing the attack buttons hoping that I was hitting someone. I don’t actually mind this approach and prefer it to turned-based combat, which can sometimes feel like it's going on forever. Here however, battles are generally quite quick. Fighting includes your basic melee attack, with Evan/Roland favouring swords, Tani/Leander use spears and Batu/Bracken use a hammer and axe respectively. These are coupled with long range attacks, with magic wands used by Evan/Leander, crossbows for Tani/Batu and guns for Roland/Bracken.
Long range attack can be charged and use up MP, which can be recharged by using melee attacks and catching blue balls that are distributed by enemies and Lofty. On the switch X is heavy attack with Y button handling quicker, lighter attacls. You can have up to three melee weapons attached to one character and one long ranged weapon. You can put the melee on automatic, semi-automatic or change manually between your melee weapons. To use your long ranged weapons you have to hold down the R button and hold down A, B, X or Y to use charged magical attacks and you can chose which button has which attack in the equipment section in the menu.
You can also use special attacks using the Higgledies, a group of sprites which have different elemental powers; normal, fire, water, light and dark. You get your first Higgledy fairly early in the game and after that you can find Higgledies in special rocks, but you have to give them items that they ask for before they will join you. You can also brew your own Higgledies, but I’ll get to that later. You can take up to four Higgledies into battle with you, if their value doesn’t add up to more than ten, which means you can take at max four Higgledies with values of two, or take less Higgledies into battle with higher levels, a simple way to prevent overpowering your characters. Each Higgledy has its own value and stats, and they have their own party menu. Higgledies multiply themselves in battle and each element can help the player in different ways. Most Higgledies have special attacks, but the water Higgledies have a party healing ability instead.
When you’re playing the main storyline there is also a puzzle-solving element. This usually only shows up once a chapter, with Evan’s Kingmaker trial as the first of these, but any time you are heading towards the level boss, you are also fighting regular enemies that respawn, and solving a puzzle.
Next there are skirmishes where Evan leads the charge to take down enemy armies. He is surrounded by four squadrons; sword, axe and long ranged. You are given a baseline of your armies Might which you can use to revive your allies or utilising special attacks. This was my least favourite part of the game, and at least twice the game ground to a halt because you had to do this irritating mini-game.
Then you have your Kingdom building gameplay, in which you are given a different kind of Kingsgold that is specifically for your kingdom. In your kingdom you can collect lumber, ore, food and other special items which you can manage in your Kingdom management menu, which is the same place you can collect the Kingsgold. You can also build facilities that can help you in battle - there are two blacksmiths, one for armour and one for weapons (I barley used these as I always had better equipment/weapons from battles). There is the food shop, where you take ingredients so that the cook can make them, after making them once you can buy the cooked food for a higher price without using any ingredients. There is apothecary and a training ground, as well as an area that helps you in skirmishes. Of the several other facilities, the most important places in the Kingdom are the magic institute, which is how you level up your magic skills, the church, which helps Lofty produce more MP, healing balls and the balls that make you temporarily invulnerable and the Higglery which is how you level up your Higgledies. LEVEL UP YOUR HIGGLEDIES. There are times in boss battles where your Higgledies are the only thing that can damage the boss.
I just got the hang of it, then they drop this on me.
Apart from the main story there are side-quests, whihc involve fetching or defeating monsters/tainted monsters, the latter of which are monsters that are surrounded in purple goo. These monsters are harder to fight but give out special weapons/armour/accessories when you beat them. There’s also a battle point system, where you can change your strengths in battle against certain enemies, which enemies drop items/money/extra experience... its very complicated.
The graphics in this game are excellent, both in the cutscenes, which are beautifully animated, and just walking around. I’m not so keen on the graphic when you are travelling between destinations, the map is made simpler and the characters are chibified, the same graphic style is used in the skirmishes. These graphic are ugly, they all look like they’re made out of plasticine, which I could look past if the game didn’t lag so much when using this graphic style. This is particularly annoying during skirmishes some of which are on a timer.
You live in a city with fishermen and merpeople, why are you dressed like a French fop!?!
I like most of the main character designs, they make sense with regards to both who the characters are and which kingdom they live in. Except for Leander - firstly, lilac and yellow are a terrible combination and I hate looking at him, but when Leander is in his chibi graphic his hair is green! What is going on? To be fair green would make more sense, Leander is from the kingdom of merpeople. Leander is just a disaster of a design all around.
The audio is a mixed bag. The music, in general, is fine apart from Goldpaw, where the music tinkers along chiming nicely then DUN-DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN, it’s on a loop so every five minutes or so I though I’d stumbled on to a boss battle, so I ended up muting it. Secondly the voice acting. This is much better. Different worlds are based on different locations from our world; Ding Dong Dell is based on Britain, Goldpaw is China, Hydropolis is based on Greece, and Broadleaf is Silicone Valley. A lot of thought was obviously put into the voice acting for the characters from around the area of Ding Dong Dell, I was impressed by how many different British accents were used by the characters. Batu is obviously inspired by Long John Silver (West Country accent) and Aunt Martha, the woman who tells you about Higgledies, is Cornish (Cornish Pixies’ come to mind), though when I first saw her house I thought she’d be Welsh. Don't worry though, Lofty has the Welshe accent covered, which makes sense in the context of the game., Evan and Tani have accents more in line with the "Queen’s English". Though overall my favourite voice actor in the game was Trevor White as Zip Vector. He did an excellent job, with a very enjoyable performance and I thought his voice fit the character perfectly.
I have very few nit-picks with this game that I haven’t already mentioned, though my main gripe is the camera, which you have to move manually. This is very annoying in battle, where enemies doge and jump behind you - the amount of times I got smacked down by an enemy because I had to move the camera to see them, just to find that they were right behind me is ridiculous. This was also a problem in skirmishes. Ironically there is a boss battle in which the game briefly turns into a platformer - and why not its been everything else - where the game locks the camera which, due to my terrible depth perception, made this point in the game almost impossible, and being able to move the camera would have made this part one hundred times easier. Apart from that, there is the usual putting something in the middle of the left joystick problem, this isn’t a problem in battle, but there are point in the game where you have to take a running jump when BAM you’ve accidentally entered the Leafbook and fallen down the cliff you were trying to jump.
And I will never understand your plot my Queen, so I guess that makes us even.
There’s also some plot holes, pretty big ones in fact. and the one that bothered me the most was in the Hydropolis chapter, Okay this is your spoiler warning…
Hydropolis was crumbling into the water, so Queen Nerea puts them in a time loop, which means no more people in or out of Hydropolis or it would ruin the balance. She places a giant eye to watch everyone, bans love and increases prices extortionately for anyone who wants to trade in order to encourage them to go elsewhere. This mechanism has been place for three hundred years.
So, 1. If the day is in a time loop what about people with relatives outside of the kingdom, did they ever visit, did the people in the time loop remember them visiting or did they see cousin Liz one day and the next time they saw her she was ten years older, and then they forgot they saw her. Are all their relatives dead any they don’t know?
2. What is the point of the giant eye? It's mentioned that it is there to stop crime, but if they are in a three hundred year old time loop every possibility has run out, you know every variation and know who/what/where/why crimes are taking place, so what is the point of the eye?
3. Why does Leander know he’s in a time loop? Queen Nerea didn’t tell him, when did he figure it out and how.?
4. Is there a woman in the kingdom who has been pregnant for three hundred years unable to give birth?
5. How does memory work here? It's so unclear, citizens remember that they haven’t seen the queen in a long time and that Leander has been basically doing her job for ages, how do they remember this when they are in a time loop?
6. At the end of the chapter Queen Nerea is like ‘I’m done with this time loop, I wanna get married’ and the town stays fine. Leander claims ‘the town will be doomed!’ and nothing happens. They sign the peace treaty and I thought ‘ah I get it, her citizens can be evacuated to my kingdom’ but nope, we poach a bunch of her people for our kingdom but other than that, NOTHING HAPPENS! Which leads me to believe Queen Nerea is full of it.
I did actually enjoy this game quite a bit, I did, I promise! The plot makes sense, most of the time, the characters were a joy to get to know, it covers some serious subjects in a sensitive way, with Zip and Bracken's friendship was my favourite storyline.
I can tell playing it through that people put a lot of thought into the game and it feels like a labour of love. I enjoyed questing and building my kingdom, I liked fighting and upgrading my weapons, I even liked the Higgledies as a nice nod to British folklore. I do think some minor tweaks could have improved the game greatly, but what is here unfolds at a decent pace, laying out an intriguing and beguiling story with only the odd niggle marring an otherwise excellent game.