It’s been a long time between drinks for the Studio Ghibli influenced Ni no Kuni series, with Wrath of the White Witch releasing on PS3 way back in 2011. Here Level-5 draw from their early roots to paint a beautiful and heart felt tale of one young king who wishes for all to live in happiness. While sharing similarities to previous titles, Revenant Kingdom very much stands apart from the series and offers a unique mix of things to do as king.
Your quest to create the most wholesome kingdom ever takes you across the globe, sweeping up as many people as possible in the name of happy times. While these adventures allow for some fun action RPG combat and exploration there is also a kingdom to attend to. Building up your fiefdom impacts and influences your abilities in the field, in battle and other mini games sprinkled here and there.
Equal parts Disney and Studio Ghibli, the story winds its way from person to person, each sensing Evan’s determination to unite the world rather than crush it. The world is rich with lore, every kingdom and every area is distinct. One kingdom is of an Asian culture filled with dog people partaking in a gambling system of faith while roving bandits pepper you with Australian slang and Scottish woodfolk fairy’s teach you how to magically grow mushrooms the size of cars.Each character is given a surprising amount of depth that peaks out during side quests, feeling connected to them and their reason for joining in the quest for a happy kingdom for all to enjoy.
There is no room for cynicism in Ni No Kuni, Evan and his allies work through every roadblock and request that comes their way (of which there are many). You’ll end up tracking down materials for the reddest red lipstick, the carniest fake fortune teller in all of Goldpaw and deliver hot noodles to customers post haste. Even those who first seem drenched in evil show more sides of their character, the shinning beacon of Evan giving them the strength to do good in their world.
Like any good RPG exploration is a massive part of Revenant Kingdom. As the journey moves from continent and across the sea you battle wild creatures that roam the lands while finding spots and chests of treasure. Finding towns, forests and other intricate areas moves the exploration into closer quarters with much greater detail visually as battles are undertaken in real time with your 2 active companions. Every character has a range of short and long range weapons, equipment and abilities as you’d come to expect. Adding to the combat are up to 4 batches of higgledies who have unique attributes to help on the battlefield and can be collected on your journey, allowing for a helpful cannon or heal in the heat of battle. Other characters will battle automatically with you and you cannot control their actions but the AI is generally fantastic. You can invest in interchangeable modifiers before battle, allowing for resistance against whatever specific type of monster or ailment in the area and boost certain abilities.
The battle system is easy to grasp and allows lots and lots of tinkering if that’s your kind of thing. Keeping within your experience level makes the game quite easy while still being very fun, suitable for a relaxing rather than punishing experience. Various spells and abilities can be unlocked and upgraded, these can be used when your MP gauge fills up from attacking or collecting spheres in battle. Battles in the over world move to an arena while exploring forests or dungeons have battles take place in real time which allows for strategic timing of combat. Once you gain armies you can take part in skirmishes with bandits and other kingdoms, taking notes from strategic battlefield games and is a nice break from the main combat systems.
The backbone of the game is the kingdom building. Starting out small you grow your empire by building similar to older RTS games. If you want to research new items to sell a member of your kingdom can jump into the relevant dwelling and invest some time and money into learning new things that can then help you out in the world or give you more options to buy or upgrade. This system is as fun as it sounds, each person joining your kingdom will appear and can give you more quests or simply just fun tales to tell. Setting up farms and mines create items for you to pick up from the coffers from time to time for you to use in battle or exploration. While not on the same level of Dark Cloud’s village building, the kingdom builder offers an easy but enjoyable way to improve the experience the way you want, rather than just throwing XP at gauges in your menu.I’m sure everyone has already noted how absolutely breath taking the art style in Ni no Kuni is. Originally working with Studio Ghibli on designs, as far back as Jade Cocoon in the PS1 days, Level-5 has finally achieved what was set out in the original game. Playing in 4K with HDR on PS4 Pro is stunning. Every piece of artwork looks cohesive and amazing with impressive animation to tie it all together. It really is a visual showcase for the PS4 and seeing it in motion with HDR is delightful. The art team have knocked it out of the park with each character looking great, each faction in the world having there own look while still feeling like part of the Ni no Kuni universe. Lighting and effects are also top notch. Aliasing is an issue at times which can take away from the stunning artwork here and there, hopefully something they will look at post release (or could possibly be less of an issue super sampling on a 1080p TV). Frame rate issues also pop up from time to time when there is a lot going on but is fairly rare and doesn’t impact the combat for the most part.
Like previous Ni no Kuni releases the score is absolutely fantastic with great range and will likely stick around my playlists for a long time to come. A handful of music queues felt out of place in certain areas, a pounding foreboding score when calmly walking through a cave area rather than the serene after the battles have long finished. Voice acting is also great, especially with the wide variety in accents and style for each character. A major drawback for the title is only some of the dialogue in the game is voiced, with the rest conveyed through subtitles with a quick exclamation at the start of each text bubble. It is really jarring as these text only sections are interwoven into fully voiced scenes as well as either side of full cut scenes. I’m unsure if this is due to localisation only having a budget for a certain amount of dialogue or if the Japanese language version is the same, in any case it’s really disappointing for such an epic adventure, especially when other games of its size have gone fully voiced (such as Yakuza 6 and The Witcher 3).One important thing to note is the localisation which is absolutely magical. An already happy tale is made laugh out loud funny at many moments along the way. Dialogue is consistently engaging and a lot of the characters lean a long way into the weird and wonderful world around them. The wide variety of accents and speech patterns is likely to delight those who enjoy some spice along with the olde English style showcased by Evan. For a lengthy RPG focused a lot on story it made the experience very engaging despite the aforementioned issue with voiced versus text delivery.
THE PLAYSTATION 4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. PHYSICAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Ni No Kuni 2 is a wholesome adventure that improves on the first game. New additions like the kingdom building adds another to the franchise. The art design and visuals are some of the best on the PS4 and the combat and exploration are both fun and engaging.