We go hands on with the PS4 version of Ni no Kuni 2.
In the wake of the critically acclaimed JRPG hit Ni No Kuni, comes the highly anticipated sequel from the developers at Level 5 with Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. Interestingly enough, Level 5 have decided to change routes with Ni No Kuni 2 in several key factors. Familiars will no longer be part of the game and the combat will now focus entirely on the story characters; the new Higgledies mechanics will enter combat to aid the characters; and kingdom building will be introduced. There are tons of other new elements within the world of Ni No Kuni 2, but the team at Level 5 isn’t quite ready to talk about them all just yet. Luckily I had some time to play the preview version at E3 2017; what little there was to play was very exciting, and it feels like it may lead to great things to come.
The world of Ni No Kuni is alive once again in Revenant Kingdom, and the story is off to an interesting start. You play as Evan Pettiwhisker; he’s a young king who gets his castle swept out from under his feet, and he sets out on an adventure to get his castle back. There will be several other characters that be controlled as well, and Evan will find them during his adventure. For the preview version our team was made up of Evan, Rolland and Tani. Evan seems like like a lovable character much like Oliver, his predecessor from the original game.
"Flying through the skies and past the barren mountain cliffs is a vast ocean; and once they pass the ocean its a river world of waterfalls, and sprawling trees where beautiful white birds fly over watching Evan and his crew riding along in their airplanes."
There were a total of two preview trials total, and both were boss fights. I’ll focus on King’s Cradle — Challenge of Courage, as both boss fights were similar enough. A small introduction of the synopsis pops up between loading screens; and we learn that Evan needs to form a bond with a kingmaker if he ever wants to become a king. So he and his friends fly off to a remote sanctuary where one of the kingmakers awaits in a sky pirate base.
As Evan arrives, he meets Tani, a local who decides to help the boy out on his adventure to see if he is worthy to become king. For a short moment, we get to see a small glimpse of one of the many worlds in the game. In King’s Cradle opening, Evan is in a small mountainous-cliff region. Hues of dusty browns and dirt reds line the backdrop of crumbled cliffs and dangerous ledges. Upon one of the many cliff’s is Tani’s small community where she decided to help Evan get to King’s Cradle via her airplanes.
Flying through the skies and past the barren mountain cliffs is a vast ocean; and once they pass the ocean its a river world of waterfalls, and sprawling trees where beautiful white birds fly over watching Evan and his crew riding along in their airplanes. Its majestic moments like these that really sets the Ni No Kuni franchise apart from other JRPGs of similar style. With inspiration from Studio Ghibli (no longer associated with the sequel) taking to the set of Ni No Kuni 2, there’s a lot to appreciate within each scene.
"Evan’s melee fighting style is similar to Oliver’s from the original game. You push the action buttons and Evan will perform light or heavy melee attacks that cause small bits of damage overall."
Oddly enough, when it’s at last time to battle we’ve flown to another barren set of mountains of bleak browns. Here, I had to climb the mountain to get to the cradle at the top. Sadly, there was no exploration in the preview version of the game. There was one path that went up the mountain and that was all. Reaching the top and entering a structure, Evan and company teleport to a half-circle brick dome floating in the sky.
Ni No Kuni 2‘s magnificence and grandeur are truly put to work upon entering the Cradle. The set of eyes painted on the sides of the upside down dome are eerily creepy but cool. Once Evan and his friends run the path, we find out that the Cradle is a massive stadium that looks fit for gladiators. Gold railing lines the stadium’s seating with flames of gold decorate the entrance to the battlefield. Lined with luminescent glows and covered in vibrant colors, the Cradle is a wondrous and majestic location within the game.
At last we meet our challenge: Thogg: Monstrously Muscled Mettle- Tester, as he’s referred to. This towering ape-like creature is huge and fits well into the mythology of the game based on his design. Thogg appears similarly shaped to that of a giant ape, with the face of lion, and horns of a bull. After his introduction the battle begins.
"Overall, Ni No Kuni 2 shows promise for a game that’s still mostly under deep in development. "
The first thing I noticed with Ni No Kuni 2’s gameplay was that my two teammates, Tani and Rolland, really seemed to know what was going on. One of the issues with the original Ni No Kuni was the familiars system. Familiars were little beasts that battled for you (think Pokemon); and each familiar had a weakness and resistance. The teammates in the original game would send out whatever familiar they used the most while ignoring the weakness and resistance system. However, in the sequel, the familiars are all gone and it’s up to each character to battle to his or her own extent. And though you can switch to these two during battle, Evan seems to be the best overall balanced character with incredibly powerful attacks.
Evan’s melee fighting style is similar to Oliver’s from the original game. You push the action buttons and Evan will perform light or heavy melee attacks that cause small bits of damage overall. Evan is also equipped with special moves that are allocated to each face button. These special moves include a group healing move, a thrashing attack that’s super powerful, a magic attack, and another strong melee attack. Evan can also block Thogg’s moves to reduce damage and evade by rolling out of the way. Unlike the original game, I found the controls more intuitive. Avoiding attacks seemed a lot easier and I was avoiding a lot of damage by just evading and rolling out of the way.
Higgledies are a new form of real-time, onscreen assistance that can help you during battle. They run around in specific groups waiting on you to activate their spells. They can heal, throw fire balls or freezing attacks during battle for extra punch. They have a cool down rate but I’m not sure how long it is. There was no access to stats or information of that kind available.
After beating down Thogg, avoiding his attacks and special power moves, I dwindled his energy down to almost nothing. Then eventually I was able to use a special move of my own and Thogg was down and out for the count. Afterward, Rolland explains that Evan has earned the right to rule, but I still don’t have a nation to rule over. So Evan tells Rolland and Tani that he is going to build a castle where everyone can live happily ever after.
"Higgledies are a new form of real-time, onscreen assistance that can help you during battle. They run around in specific groups waiting on you to activate their spells."
Interestingly enough, Ni No Kuni 2 takes place in a whole new world, but with familiar songs and musical beats. These songs may be special to the fans of the original game and they still fit in perfectly with this sequel as well. What new musical scores I did notice before, during, and after battle each had a pleasant melody that felt authentic to the franchise.
Overall, Ni No Kuni 2 shows promise for a game that’s still mostly under deep in development. Since there was nothing available to play outside of the two combat challenges, it’s hard to determine how the overall game is shaping up. What microscopic gameplay was available felt similar to the first game, so hopefully the sequel turns out well.
This game was previewed on the PlayStation 4.