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January 2019

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Level-5
Release Date: March 23, 2018


PS4/PC Preview - 'Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 20, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom features an all-new cast of charming characters, an emotional storyline, and innovative gameplay design that will delight and challenge players.

Pre-order Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

There are few JRPGs on the market as incredibly striking as the original Ni No Kuni. With character designs and general aesthetic from Studio Ghibli combined with the strong cel-shading design work of Level 5, it was about as close as any JRPG has come to looking like a moving anime. It's no surprise that Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is just as visually distinctive as the original. Fortunately, NNK2 isn't just coasting on the strong visuals and is polishing up the gameplay to create a strong new experience.

NNK2 isn't a direct sequel to the original, though it's set in a similar world. You take control of Evan, the young king of the charmingly named kingdom of Ding Dong Dell. Evan's father has recently passed away, after which a coup ousted Evan from his kingdom. He'll have to create a new kingdom and gather an army to free his people and reclaim the throne.

NNK2 is an action-RPG, so you have direct control over Evan and can manipulate him in combat. He utilizes standard controls for the genre, with access to both close-range melee attacks and long-range energy blasts. You can block to minimize damage or attempt to dodge, which can avoid attacks entirely and has generous invincibility frames. Magical crystals represent the amount of MP you have, and you can spend MP to cast special attacks, including powerful melee sword artes, deadly elemental magical spells, and healing arts. In the E3 demo, we were able to have four of those bound to the face buttons at once, allowing for quick swapping between various moves.

The monster-taming aspect of the original Ni No Kuni appears to have been replaced by a new system called Higgledies, which are cute elemental-based sprites that are scattered around the battlefield. They're context-sensitive, so they gather around and create a glowing blue circle you can step into that activates a special attribute or ability. In our demo, fire-themed Higgledies gathered to create a powerful shield against the boss' massive fire attack. They can also create defensive buffs, barriers or other special abilities. However, the Higgeldy moments are brief, so it's important to keep a close eye on the battlefield to understand when and where to take advantage of them.

Taking advantage of these moments allows you to use the Higgledies' other important attribute: charge attacks. Evan can use their elemental power to charge up his attacks and special moves. Of course, the charge attacks need time to charge, so the more you charge, the more vulnerable you are to an enemy interrupting the attack. Create the aforementioned fire shield, and you not only nullify your enemies' powerful fire breath but also buy time to charge up an aquatic damage spell.

This seems to be the key to battle. NNK2's combat system punishes random button mashers with subpar damage. Merely smashing the enemy with special moves still leads to a fight that took 10 minutes of repetitive dodging, leaving a lot of room for players to take more damage than they can reliably deal with. On the other hand, if you kept exploiting the Higgledies while properly charging moves, you would do boatloads of damage. A single strong aquatic spell can do more damage than a dozen weaker attacks.

One element of the game that was mentioned, but not shown off, was the kingdom-building simulator. Reminiscent of something like Suikoden, Evan eventually gains access to a new city that he has to build up by recruiting people from across the land. Doing so builds up his kingdom and grants him access to new abilities, new shops and other new features that are critical to reclaiming his throne. Unfortunately, this feature is still heavily under development, so we don't know much about it.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has a ton of potential. What we were able to play seemed like a very fun action-RPG in addition to one of the best-looking RPGs I've ever seen. What will make or break the game is what happens outside of the combat, but Ni No Kuni's off to a strong start there. The core story might be simple, but thus far, the cut scenes look charming and engaging. Add to that the potential for a Suikoden-style kingdom-building feature, and there are multiple ways NNK2 could hit it out of the park. Hopefully, the final version can live up to that potential when the title comes out exclusively for the PS4 later this year.

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