Storybook Luster

High Exploring the vast, vibrant, and glorious world.

Low Mandatory side quests galore.

WTF No Studio Ghibli cutscenes this time around.

The first Ni No Kuni Game, Wrath of the White Witch, is a special title. Its masterful use of storytelling and symbolism, along with graphic design by the legendary Studio Ghibli, made it an unforgettable adventure. Three years after its original release, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom finally arrives on the Switch, and it’s fantastic. Though it lacks the intimacy and emotional complexity of its predecessor, Ni No Kuni II provides countless hours of top notch JRPG goodness.

Revenant Kingdom weaves the story of Evan, a young soon-to-be king displaced by a race of power-hungry rat people. Evan, alongside his friend and advisor Rolland, decides to create his own kingdom that will be free of war and conflict. The duo must travel across a vast globe to recruit citizens and sign peace treaties to pave the way for this new nation to be born.

The plot, presentation, and gameplay are all grandiose in scope – Evan and his allies will travel the overworld from a third person perspective, engage in battles with monsters, and explore bustling, detailed cities. Revenant Kingdom’s greatest joy is this simple exploration. Around every corner is a beautiful and unique new place to explore, or a hidden dungeon to get lost in. The game effectively creates the atmosphere of a grand adventure taken from a child’s storybook, and the player is fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

Revenant Kingdom‘s combat undergoes a complete overhaul from the first title – gone are the battle menus of Ni No Kuni, as RK leans fully into realtime combat. It’s a smart choice. Each character in the player’s party has weak and strong attacks, along with powerful spells and abilities that can be comboed into their normal attacks. For example, Evan is fragile, but can conjure devastating spells from a distance while Rolland handles the close combat with his sword strikes. Though only controlling one character at a time, the player can freely switch between three party members depending on the situation, each with their own specialties.

This battle system is incredibly engaging, complex, and has many dimensions. From different weapon types dealing more damage to different monsters, to recruiting adorable collectible creatures to fight alongside Evan, and even a menu that allows the player to sacrifice certain stats in favor of others. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but I rarely had trouble progressing through the campaign on Normal difficulty, even without a perfect understanding of the system’s minutiae.

Apart from combat there is so much to do in Revenant Kingdom, and it’s all elaborate and necessary for progression. Between kingdom building, skirmish battles, citizen recruitment, and enough side quests to turn this into a 100-hour experience, this title is bursting at the seams with engaging systems.

Take, for example, the kingdom building. As Evan recruits new citizens, he can assign them to different developing areas within his land depending on their strengths. Those with high combat experience can be assigned to the blacksmith to create stronger weapons, while those with a knack for cooking should head to the dinning hall to create meals that buff stats. As more citizens arrive, the kingdom will level up and create new buildings that are needed to progress the story. However, I must say that this form of multi-system progression was frustrating at times.

At one point, I needed to enlist nine citizens to build a boatyard before heading out to sea. Most civilians were eager to join me… but only after I bested five monsters of a certain breed 15 levels lower than my party. If a player wants to progress through the game without completing hours of sidequests, they should be able to. progression gates of this kind feel like padding in a title that simply doesn’t need it.

Also introduced in Revenant Kingdom are skirmish battles where Evan will take control of his army in top-down style and lead them in real-time tactical battles. Different factions of troops have their strengths and weaknesses (such as hammer-oriented troops being stronger than sword troops), and the player must rotate them around Evan for optimal positioning. While they are intended to break up the monotony of the regular party-level battles, I found them unnecessary due to the strength and depth of the normal combat. I would rather have spent more time understanding the intricacies of character-level combat rather than trying to learn an entirely new way to battle foes on top of the other systems.

While Revenant Kingdom‘s story is suitably gripping and epic to match the breadth of content, it fails to capture the same emotional impact of the first Ni No Kuni. While the previous entry followed the tragic story of a young boy trying to grapple with the grief of losing his mother, Revenant Kingdom offers a more generic, medieval-style tale about good versus evil and rising to glory against the odds with the help of friends. It’s not a poor plot by any means, but it’s not one that grips the heart like its predecessor.

Apart from the story, my only real issue is that while the character models and environments are a sight to behold, the framerate is exceedingly choppy at times, especially in frantic battles and when turning the camera quickly. I found turning down the camera speed was helpful, but I couldn’t help but be distracted by the missing frames. It never directly interfered with combat, but it certainly distracted from the otherwise-opulent visuals.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an adventure with a whole lot to do, and a whole lot of ways to do it. I cherished exploring this bustling world, and experimenting with the stellar combat system provided hours of entertainment. I just wish the developers focused a bit more on the strong fundamentals, rather than creating countless systems for the player to digest. Nevertheless, Revenant Kingdom is an exceptional title deserving attention from fans of almost any genre.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Level-5 and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on Switch, PS4, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an adventure role-playing game in which players assume the role of a man helping a half-human child defeat an evil force to become king. From a third-person perspective, players explore environments and engage in melee combat against fantasy creatures (e.g., half-human soldiers, skeletons, monsters). Characters use swords, fireballs, pistols, and arrows to defeat enemies. Combat is highlighted by impact sounds, cries of pain, and occasional gunfire. A handful of cutscenes depict quick splashes of blood when characters are shot.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles, which cannot be altered or resized. There are no audio cues required for progression, making this game Fully Accessible. 

Remappable Controls: The controls have two default layouts, but cannot be altered aside from that. 

Alex Prakken
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