Ni no Kuni II : Revenant Kingdom is an ambitious JRPG that keeps on giving.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has done a fabulous job of hiding its best feature. It’s an open world action JRPG, but at its heart is a building sim starring a dollhouse-like kingdom. You raise buildings, generate resources, and research tactics and sciences. Managing your realm is not just a thing to do between quests. It’s what connects Ni no Kuni II’s many systems and keeps them running. And it’s what keeps me coming back.
Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the half-catfolk prince of Ding Dong Dell, loses his crown to a coup staged by the ratfolk faction. During his escape, Evan meets Roland, a mysterious leader sent from another world. With Roland’s help, Evan resolves to build a new kingdom, Evermore, and unite the four other kingdoms under a single banner.
You visit each kingdom to convince them to sign Evan’s Declaration of Interdependence and to protect them from Doloran, a sorcerer who’s using magic and manipulation to force rulers to oppress their citizens. Each kingdom is facing serious issues – brutal taxes, untenable work hours, absurd behaviour laws. For a game filled with animalfolk, Ni no Kuni II tells a very human tale.
Each kingdom contributes a well-rounded short story, a thrilling and unique Kingmaker boss fight, and a valuable lesson for Evan. Which is to say nothing of the sheer joy of
exploring them. The meandering streets of one kingdom are lined with detailed casinos based on Chinese temples, food stalls packed with adorable dogfolk citizens, and rose lanterns which drench everything in crimson light. Another revels in the futuristic; all towering brass monoliths and rigid, starkly lit geometry.
The best part of allying with a new kingdom is the flood of new citizens into Evermore. Different citizens specialize in different fields, from farming to blacksmithing to magic. You can only craft certain items and research certain bonuses after you recruit specific citizens. The more of the world you’ve seen, the stronger Evermore becomes.
Build to order
The cycle of discovering, working toward and finally unlocking things in Evermore delivers a gratifying sense of ownership. I can upgrade my armour because I recruited better blacksmiths. I’m stocked up on consumables because I upgraded the general store. I want to build better mining nodes so I can make a stronger sword. It never ends, and I never wanted it to.
Combat improvements are especially rewarding because the real-time battle system is so much fun. You use light and heavy attacks to build combos, punctuate them with flashy area-of-effect attacks and finishes, and dodge and block enemy strikes in between. You build a party of three characters and swap between them whenever you want to make use of their unique skills.
Combat is further enlivened by the Tactic Tweaker, a collection of settings that lets you deal more damage to certain enemy types, take less damage from certain attacks, and even change granular stuff like your dodge roll’s invincibility frames. To upgrade the Tactic Tweaker’s options and potency, you just need to level up. Killing stuff to get better at killing stuff is nearly as engrossing as upgrading Evermore.
I’m also impressed by the streamlining and improvements. Instead of having to tediously pick up items, you automatically hoover up loot. Instead of loading into a pocket dimension after bumping into an enemy, you just approach and fight normally, improving the pacing and making exploration more tense. These are things I wish every JRPG did.
Ni no Kuni II is gorgeous, charming and constantly evolving. Its combat is layered and exciting, with systems that let you finely tailor your play style. Its coming-of-age story is saccharine but well told, with an ending that still occupies my thoughts. The crowning achievement, though, is that Level-5 tie it all into an involved and satisfying kingdom building sim that enhances every other part of the game.
Ni no Kuni II is gorgeous, charming and constantly evolving