When Ni No Kuni 1 was published in Western Regions back in 2013, it took the gaming world by storm. Returning to a worldwide audience 5 years later, was a big task that the team at Level 5 had to nail in order for it to be as widely accepted as it’s prequel.
Without delay, we are thrown straight into the story, Ding Dong Del has a new king named Evan, but before it can become fully official by making a Kingsbond with Ding Dong Dells Kingmaker, Evan’s Kingdom is overtaken by his late father’s most trusted adviser, Otto Mausinger.
To make everything seem even more chaotic, a man named Roland appears literally out of thin air from another dimension and helps young King Evan escape Ding Dong Dell. Now on the run, Evan and Roland are desperate to find the last Kingmaker on the planet and start a new Kingdom, one of peace and happiness, a place where people of all kinds can live in harmony.
Evan, Roland and new friends that join the journey along the way make their way from Kingdom to Kingdom in the hopes that they will join their treaty so that they can start this new era of peace. What could go wrong? Well obviously, a lot does and it causes us to help and be helped by a large number of unique characters each as interesting and well written as the last.
The map isn’t amazingly large but within it’s boundaries are awe-inspiring set pieces, a gambling city with a Japanese theme that leaves everything up to a roll of a dice including their taxes, a water city that is kept under the watch of a giant eye where love is forbidden, a large city that was a technology business that grew so large that it became it’s own Kingdom and everywhere in between.
Travel from treacherous mountains to grassy plains and across oceans where even harder enemies lie in wait in snow scaped cliff-side. Each section of the map is so well made that it has to be explored multiple times in order to find all the secret chests hidden within.
The map isn’t amazingly large but within it’s boundaries are awe-inspiring set pieces
A solid 90% of the story is told with just written dialogue, though the main sections of the game include cutscenes with expert voice overs from a cast that doesn’t have a weak link.
Each new area of the map is littered with enemies of a relevant skill level to the section of story you are at. Early in the game, you will find it quite easy to keep up, but if you don’t actively seek out battles, then you might find yourself quickly falling behind the level mark. For most of the game, I found it to be exceedingly easy; I went into each boss fight of which there are many without flinching or even trying.
For the most part, Ni No Kuni 2 offers no real challenge where combat is involved; I found myself growing increasingly bored during combat due to its unchallenging difficulty that I skipped fights. Little did I know that this would affect me greatly towards the conclusion of the main story. I was suddenly at least 5 to 10 levels lower then each foe was, and I required a considerable number of items each main fight to keep myself and my team alive. But at least now things were interesting which makes me wonder if the option of a difficulty setting would have been a big positive for this title.
In most RPG’s we are given a choice to explore more and to take on more side missions, but in Ni No Kuni it almost seems mandatory in order to keep up to the average level of the monsters in the next area you were required to go.
Luckily, skill level does come into play in battle sequences. Square is a weak attack; Triangle is a strong attack, pair them to together to create combos that are unique to each of your allies. One of the best things about Ni No Kuni 2 is that you can use the character you prefer. To begin with, we use Roland that focuses heavily on the sword and his distant weapon of a gun. Evan himself can use swords and a wand while the other party members use a combination of the swords, wands, axes, hammers, spears and bow and arrows.
Before each battle, you can choose any 3 members of your party which can make for some epic visuals when your special moves are all being used. As you level up, characters unlock new abilities such as flaming sword combos, moves that help your allies and skills that are as simple as shooting a fireball. These skills once again paired with the right choice of character, mana management as well as your skill to use the block and evade technique means that you can tackle opponents of a much higher level. To help us further, the world has a very strange creature called a Higgledy. Higgledies are extremely adorable but also deadly and they are all unique with there being a rough total of 100 of them to collect. During the battle, they will attack your foes by turning into a cannon or stunning them as well as many abilities that I haven’t seen yet. In 40 hours of gameplay, I have only collected 16. After each battle, your whole party gains XP and can unlock new items that have a chance of being dropped.
There is so much loot that it would take me probably 3 hours to sell all the things that I have acquired to a vendor. Since each character can have their weapons of choice as well as armour, footwear, rings and necklaces, there is plenty to manage. The rings can add extra damage to any elemental skill that you can use such as wind fire or water, and necklaces tend to be for more defence related reasons.
Without spoiling anything, one of my favourite things to do in this game is managing the new kingdom Evan is building. Build weapon and armour shops as well as shops that let you level up your skills and Higgledies, the more work you do in this town, the more influence you will receive in your newly founded kingdom.
In Nu No Kuni 1 a collaboration with Studio Ghibli themselves drove the art style, however in Ni No Kuni 2 this collaboration is no more however with the return of former Ghibli character designer Yoshiyuki Momose this game looks just as amazing if not better then the first. As I mentioned before the voice acting is perfect and to accompany this, the composer did an astonishing job of making each scene and moment in this game feel grander then it was.