Bandai Namco has released plenty of quality JRPGs in recent years. Yet very few have captivated the attention of a wider ranger of players like the PlayStation 3 launch exclusive Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The warm reception from both press and gamers surely made it easier to green light the development of a sequel.
In Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom players control a young man called Evan who must overcome various trials to earn the right to rule over a magical kingdom. It’s a noble quest and one that is about improving the quality of life of those who live in it. Unlike in the original title, the human character is given a supporting role and acts more as an adviser.
Although the playable sections of the title primarily focused on the revamped combat mechanics, it was still possible to get a glimpse of what to expect when exploring. One of the areas consisted of an arid mountain range where some of the characters were waiting for Evan to prepare before moving on to the location of the objective. As expected, a shop set up by a pirate type gives players the opportunity to purchase equipment. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem like typical JRPG items such as healing items are sold in shops. It made more sense once taking part in combat, given that there was no apparent way to make use of such items.
Like with its predecessor, Ni No Kuni 2’s story also seems to be predominately driven by the urge to help other characters. A character in one of the few areas that could be explored mentioned being grateful for Evan helping rescue another character. It’s nice to see the sequel most likely continue the exemplary work of demonstrating how rewarding it can be to help others.
It’s only a short glimpse of what to expect, but the attention to detail is already looking promising. The locations shown off included the likes of a giant floating arena high up in the sky. The bottom of this arena was decorated with designs that made for a view that wouldn’t look out of place in a Studio Ghibli film. The continued use of an anime style for the character models makes for a striking look against the more traditional game environments and is just as effective as in the first game. In fact, the extra power that the PlayStation 4 provides gives the development team the opportunity to focus on finer details such as facial expressions.
It was the same case with the beautiful cut-scenes that once again wouldn’t look out of place in a new Studio Ghibli film. Even the dialogue has the same confident style that made the original title such a memorable experience. Those wondering if this sequel has any unique characters like Drippy and his Welsh accent will be happy to know that it does indeed. A spunky sidekick called Lofty kept encouraging the characters during battle in what sounded like a Jamaican accent.
It’s clear that Bandai Namco felt that the combat mechanics in the original could have done with some improvements from the time spent playing the sequel. Two of the combat sections being demonstrated consisted of boss fights that perfectly showcased all of the changes made to the combat mechanics. One of the biggest changes is the use of cube shaped icons, earned by performing certain actions such as hitting enemies, to make use of skills that the character has at his disposal. These skills are easily used in real time (like all aspects of combat) and each of them is assigned to a button.
The lack of an ever growing list of magical spells to pick from a list, like in the original, means spending less time in menus. If anything, it’s a lot more tactical, given that it is vital to make good use of cubes available to always have access to the different skills. After all, it’s likely that players can only rely on a healing skill to regain health, since the title doesn’t seem to make use of an items system.
Characters can also make use of physical attacks and that is where the previously mentioned shop comes in handy to purchase better equipment. One of the more unique ideas in terms of fights is the use of little brightly coloured guys called Higgledy. These tiny chaps will help out with a different ability whenever a group of the same colour gets together and the player presses a button. They also boost the use of a skill if a player presses down the button for a couple of seconds longer. Tidy indeed.
Another change which will hopefully be part of the retail version is the behaviour of supporting characters. In that they don’t seem to die quite as easily as those from the original title. Although it’s odd that it doesn’t seem possible to order these AI controlled characters. It would make sense to at least have some basic orders assigned to buttons or even the d-pad, like getting them to defend or focus on attacking. This would create the possibility of coming up with more advanced strategies, such as focusing on attacking when an enemy was getting ready to do a devastating attack and hopefully toppling it.
Defending and dodging in this sequel is more or less the same as in the original. Using the block button with the right timing will mean losing less health and the familiar “Nice” prompt appearing on-screen. The character can also dodge attacks and it proved handy when dealing with a giant dragon boss.
Although battles can still take a long time to complete, at least it’s for a good reason. A dragon boss kept changing strategies when attacking, such as throwing explosive boulders at one point, which made it vital to make good use of the available skills. Another bear like boss called Thogg could be toppled if players were able to deal enough damage whilst it prepared to unleash a devastating attack. If anything, the combat mechanics in Ni No Kuni 2 felt more proactive and like it was possible to properly rely on the help of allies.
It would have been nice to have been given the opportunity to get a better idea of what it’s like to explore the world of Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. However, it’s certainly promising to at least see how confident Bandai Namco is to focus almost exclusively on its revamped combat mechanics for the demonstration. It’s a gamble that has paid off and one that should leave fans of the original and hopefully new players feeling eager to jump back into another magical adventure in a couple of months.