Game Review: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Prince’s Edition

Game Review: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Prince’s Edition

As an avid JRPG fan, I was very much aware of the fanfare surrounding Level-5’s Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom when it was first released for the PC and PS4 back in 2018. Now that I’ve finally gotten the chance to try out the definitive “Prince’s Edition” of this game on the Switch, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on this new addition to the console’s extensive library of JRPGs!

A Whole New World

Ni no Kuni II starts off from the perspective of Roland, the leader of an unnamed country (which kind of resembles the USA) in the real world. Following a missile attack on his city that knocks him unconscious, Roland wakes up to find himself spirited away to the kingdom of Ding Dong Dell in an entirely different world, and in the process reappears as his younger self but with his memories intact.

That being said, the situation in this unfamiliar land isn’t any better: following the untimely death of the king, Ding Dong Dell finds itself embroiled in a coup by the power-hungry Mausinger, with the heir of the throne, Prince Evan, being forced into exile. Roland, who so happens to have arrived in the middle of this mess, offers to lend a hand to the young prince and with that, their quest to crown him as the rightful king of his very own kingdom begins.

If you couldn’t guess by now, Ni no Kuni II’s story isn’t the kind that ventures into crazy territory like many modern JRPGs do these days; you won’t find yourself having to check the wiki for an explanation of major plot points and events. Despite the elements of the isekai genre in the beginning, the weirdness factor doesn’t really go any further than that and the rest of the narrative is by and large a very simple one. But that isn’t to say that this simplicity is a detriment; if anything, it’s pleasantly refreshing to experience a non-convoluted JRPG plot that still manages to have a lot of heart. Seeing how Evan grows as a prince as well as a person most certainly gave me the warm fuzzies, and this bolstered by the game having a genuinely likable cast of supporting characters travelling alongside him in a beautiful fantasy world.

Unlike the previous entry, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Ni no Kuni II does not feature the renowned Studio Ghibli’s direct involvement, but former Ghibli character designer Yoshiyuki Momose and composer Joe Hisaishi still reprise their roles in this entry and the Ghibli-esque influence really shows in the charming aesthetics and music, kind of like how Dragon Quest has that distinctly Akira Toriyama feel to it. If you’re really into Studio Ghibli’s movies then I would most certainly encourage you to give this title a whirl.

Skirmishes, Higgledies, and Kingdoms

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A large part of Ni no Kuni II’s gameplay revolves around exploring the vast overworld and the plethora of locations dotted around it until you encounter an enemy (or a group of them) and head into combat. Rather than using turn-based systems, Ni no Kuni II opts for hack-and-slash action gameplay instead, which adds to the game’s accessibility and fun factor. Players control a single party member in real-time, with the other two characters being handled by the AI, and unleash a barrage of attacks and colourful spells while trying to dodge and block the enemies’ own maneuvers. After a certain point in the beginning of the game, tiny elemental companions called Higgledies also join Evan and the rest in combat and assist them in all sorts of ways, from providing recovery to unleashing elemental skills of their own, and fiddling around with them to optimise my party’s performance was unexpectedly engaging.

On that note, trying to min-max your party’s combat capabilities at every step of the game isn’t necessary as the battles are quite easy even on Normal difficulty, and the free EXP boost accessories in this edition of the game reduce the need to grind. But for those who enjoy a challenge, harder difficulties are also available and can be accessed from the very beginning.

Outside of exploration and regular combat, at a certain point in the story you will also unlock the ability to develop your very own kingdom. Through progressing in the game you will be able to invite citizens to live in your kingdom, who provide all sorts of helpful facilities and features to make your path to the throne much easier. It’s a delightful process to see your settlement gradually grow into a bustling nation and definitely adds to the immersion of being a ruler.

Another gameplay mode included in Ni no Kuni II is Skirmishes, where you command your very own chibi-fied army into battle to conquer objectives and defeat equally-sized threats. It’s basically like a simplified real-time strategy game with battles having a rock-paper-scissors element to it. Like the kingdom management mode, Skirmishes are the game’s way of making you step into the shoes of royalty rather than just watching the experience unfold on screen, but unlike the former Skirmishes felt more like a chore especially during the parts when they are mandatory to engage in. You might need to put in a little elbow grease to grind and level up your armies, but thankfully with the game being 3 years old there’s a lot of online resources and guides that can make your experience much more bearable.

For those who love a meaty and long JRPG experience, you will be delighted to know that Ni no Kuni II on the Switch also comes with all previously released DLCs included at no additional cost and without any extra downloads, which add more hours of gameplay for you to sink into. It’s a steal!

A Gem in the Rough

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Unfortunately, for all the good things I’ll say about this title, performance won’t be one of them. Given that Ni no Kuni II first launched on the PS4 and PC, I had already mentally prepared myself for the inevitable performance woes, and sure enough I was right. In the more graphically intense parts of the game, such as the overworld and battles with lots of particle effects, the framerate suffers and the resulting slowness is rather noticeable in both docked and handheld mode. It doesn’t get bad to the point that it drastically affects gameplay, but I do admit it soured my experience in an otherwise really good game and made playing through it a bit of a slog.

Visual fidelity was also reduced a little from the versions on other platforms, but Level-5 still did a decent job in preserving most of it. It would really be a shame if I couldn’t enjoy the Ghibli-esque designs because of it, but thankfully my fears in this area were unfounded for the most part. For those who are very particular about performance and visual crispness in their games I’d recommend you opt for the versions on other platforms, but otherwise I would still say that the Switch version of Ni no Kuni II is playable from start to finish.

Conclusion

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a far cry from many of the modern JRPGs we see these days. Rather than going for an off-the-rails narrative riddled with insane plot twists that is all so common in the genre as of late, Ni no Kuni II instead presents a simple yet moving coming-of-age story of a young prince trying to create a peaceful world for everyone. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me, it was a refreshing breath of fresh air that was accompanied with accessible and engaging gameplay. If you aren’t too particular about the performance side of things, I would wholeheartedly recommend you giving this game a shot on the Switch! Whether you’re a newcomer to the genre or a veteran who has saved all kinds of worlds countless times, there is something in Ni no Kuni II for everyone to enjoy.

Pros:

  • A simple, non-convoluted story with a lovable cast of characters
  • Hack-and-slash real-time combat that plays fluidly and is simple to pick up
  • Charming designs and a beautiful soundtrack that captures the Ghibli influence the series is known for
  • Lots of additional content and DLC included from the get-go for no additional cost

Cons:

  • Poor performance in graphically intensive sections
  • Visual fidelity has been reduced compared to other platforms, which is a bummer for those who want to appreciate the distinctive art style
  • The predictability of the narrative might be a turn-off for some

Verdict: Like a familiar bowl of soup that you enjoyed from your childhood, Ni no Kuni II is filled with all sorts of wholesomeness and warmth that make for a wholesome JRPG experience that everyone can enjoy.

Rating: 8/10

Thermometer 8

 

A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.