Ni No Kuni 2 (NNK2) is an anime style rpg set in the parallel world, Ni No Kuni.
The game doesn’t follow on from the original Ni No Kuni at all. The combat is a dramatic departure, with an emphasis on action rather than the JRPGish style of its predecessor. Indeed, the only similarities between the 2 games are the art style of the game and that they are set in the same world (albeit centuries apart). Although apart from the overall map of the world and a few location names. The games are completely separate. But this is a good thing, as fans from the old game, with the love the familiar style. But newcomers won’t be left floundering.
NNK2 starts with Roland, a president of an unnamed country in our world, who after an explosive introduction, is transported across to the alternate ‘Ni No Kuni’. Specifically into the bedroom of a shocked Evan Perriwhisker Tildrum, the young king of Ding Dong Dell. But before they can properly introduce themselves a coup occurs and Roland save Evan from a certain death. The young king and his unintended protector escape from Ding Dong Dell and flee into the mountains. Where Evans decides to start a new kingdom, rather than try to take back Ding Dong Dell. This is where NNK2 suffers from it’s first slip up, it feels strange and some suspension of disbelief is required, it just doesn’t seem sensible that a young king give up his birthright and legacy of his parents, to run off and form a new kingdom. These kinds of story flaws are a continuing issue of NNK2’s narrative, you need to frequently suspend your disbelief for quite a lot of the stories events. Such as when a band of outlaws joins Evan’s kingdom, when they were all set to execute him a few hours earlier. Pretty much everyone is constantly falling all over themselves to swear fealty to Evan. This can often pull you out of the moment, but the characters are all so loveable and the plot fun and enjoyable, you can forgive these flaws if you just don’t take it all too seriously. It’s not that the story is bad, it just feels a little bit too convenient for Evan and you find yourself pulled out of the moment by that convenience.
The characters of NNK2 are typically Ghibli and reminicist of Ni No Kuni 2. From corrupt city officials to threatening bandits to loveable old aunties. The characteds in NNK2 fill the world with life and make it come alive. The characters of NNK2 are outstanding and no real flaw can be found in them or their presentation.
You can immediately feel the Studio Ghibli essence in NNK2, although this time Studio Ghibli wasn’t involved. But the style is still ever present and it shows, from running through the courtyards of Ding Dong Dell, to the homely style of the Auntie Martha’s cottage, NNK2 is a gorgeous game with detailed environs and characters.
In particular, as soon as you enter Goldpaw you will feel like you have stepped straight into Spirited Away and Niall’s Forest elicits memories of Princess Mononoke. This game’s art style is simply amazing. The sprite and animations are simply unforgettable, visually this game is just amazing.
The soundtrack of NNK2 is once again enchanting, it is an orchestral masterpiece that fits the world perfectly. To the gloomy melodies of the caves and dungeons to the lively upbeat tunes of Goldpaw’s street this game sounds fantastic. But I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention an unfortunate bug I experienced during the ‘Kingmaker’s Trial’. Shortly after entering the Trial of Knowledge my sound went terrible and started a horrible high pitched feedback screech. I tried everything I could think of, leaving the zone and returning, rebooting my PS4, reloading my game. None of these things worked. But of course my TV’s mute button worked just fine. It’s a minor bug, but it does impact upon the fun of an experience like this, hopefully it will be fixed by launch and no one else will have to endure it.
NNK2 doesn’t really open up until after about 10 hours in to make the combat start to feel more challenging, without being overkill, but this isn’t really a selling point, if you have to wait 10 hours for a game to open up it’s challenge, it’s more of a flaw, if a relatively minor one.
A new aspect of NNK2 is the army battles, these are more of a mini game than anything else, but they are quite fun. They function with squads of units that Evan can set up around him and then walk them into the enemy.
Obviously a big part of NNK2 is building the kingdom itself, this involves starting with a plot of land and a castle then, using a unique currency calling ‘Kingsguilders’, placing buildings onto pre-designated plots. It’s a fun little system, but there isn’t really too much depth to it. You simply build each building on it’s corresponding plot. E.g. Put a farm on the farm plot, put a barrack in the barracks slot. There isn’t really any customisation on the building locations themselves. Then, if you don’t have enough ‘Kingsguilders’ you just need to wait and they will generate up overtime letting you build the building pretty quickly. As a result the building part of the kingdom building is quite shallow, which is a bit disappointing. But the buildings are charming little artworks. There’s just no depth here.
Once you have started building your kingdom, you need to find citizens to man the buildings and there is a lot of citizens to find. (over a hundred), with most of them require a quest to unlock. The quests can be really simple, such as just fetching that citizen a basic crafting item. But they can also be complex, such as completing multiple dungeons.
All this is still before mentioning the Higgildies. Which sort of replace the familiars from the first game. You can equip up to 4 ‘Hero Higgildies’. These little guys will Healing and MP restoring balls from time to time that can come in handy. But their real use is when they form up into a group. Once that happens you can run into the group of them to use their special skills, which can vary from elemental attacks, healing and resistance skills. In addition that is over a hundred of these Higgildie Heros to track down and befriend.
NNK2 is a pretty simply game to pick up, but this is a bit of a problem. The combat is often way too easy, or when it’s hard, it’s way too hard. As a result the combat tends to feel a bit shallow, as just as you are ready to really open up on an enemy it’s already dead. This also causes the food buff system to be a bit wasted, as if the fight is too hard, it’s not enough to make a difference and most of the time the fight is so easy it’s not worth wasting the food.
Overall, NNK2 is a fun and addictive game, with a truly immense size. But it does feel like a lot of system haven’t been fully polished and fleshed out. Which weakens what would be a great game. It’s still good, but just feels like it hasn’t quite fulfilled it’s potential.