Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4/Steam)

Title: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Systems: PS4/Steam

Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum is a boy preparing to become king when a strange man appears from nowhere in his room. Roland is equally surprised—one moment he was watching the destruction of his world, and the next, he was in a different one. But Roland recognizes the danger Evan is in as a coup sweeps through the palace. Together the two escape, and Evan vows to build a new kingdom where everyone can live in peace.

I’ll say up front I did mostly enjoy the game, but there’s a lot of weak points that bugged me.

I have a high tolerance for silly or nonsensical things in game stories (sometimes you just have to in order to make a game play in a more interesting fashion). That said, even though I generally enjoyed Ni no Kuni II’s story, there are a number of times it got noticeably bad. Like a man who has loved a woman for a very long time, and when they finally propose and agree to get married . . . she kicks him out of the kingdom and tells him to go away until their wedding? REALLY?

The worst example is the final boss asking Roland if what he’d done was wrong. And Roland goes, no, you were living according to your ideals, so you’re good. Despite the fact that the entire world was thrown into chaos and lots of people died. This is when the game should’ve grown enough of a spine to say yes, there is right and wrong, and you were wrong, but it’s possible to repent, rather than throw up that complete lunacy. After all, by that logic, as long as humanity’s worst dictators were true to the most important person, themselves, who cares about the people they trampled underfoot to get there?

So….. although I sort of enjoyed the story on a very superficial level, I actually don’t like the plot. Not for being too-sweet and cheesy, but for being nonsense. Roland also needed a far bigger role, since he was more interesting that just about everyone else, but the game had a bad habit of only paying attention to one person until the next thing came along, and then that person is more or less background for the rest of the game.

The gameplay is somewhat better. There’s a sim element with the kingdom-building, a real-time strategy element with the skirmishes, and the regular action-rpg gameplay. The regular fights are extremely easy, especially for those with familiarity with other action-based games, so if younger kids or people new to action games are playing it they shouldn’t have a hard time picking it up. I do really wish there was a hard mode. More than that, though, I’d like more types of enemies. Although the bosses have good variety, the regular enemies most definitely do not. This also applies to field dungeons. If you’ve seen one cave, you’ve seen them all. Same with the forest areas. They use the same area maps for the random dungeons too.

The skirmishes were my least favorite part, because it’s difficult to level up multiple units since you can only take 4 on the field at a time (so I basically used the same 4 most of the game). Also, the lack of any coherent way to organize or warp to the skirmishes makes it difficult to tell which ones you haven’t done yet. There aren’t a lot of story-based skirmishes, but since the final story boss is one of them, some optional skirmishes are pretty much required to beat the game.

I did like Evan’s character design (though I wish his tail had more animation as most of the time it behaves more like a stick-on tail than a living body part). And it’s fun to watch his cape bounce around as you run, as it looks impressively like actual cloth (some other characters like Tani also have short capes). I wish they’d done more with the concept of Roland, a president from Earth who somehow ends up here. Having an adult character crossing could have been all kinds of fun, but the majority of the game moves the focus away from him. The visuals are generally solid, and the low-stakes story was good to relax (when it wasn’t in the aggravating parts).

Overall, I mostly enjoyed my time playing, but I wish the writing had gotten another draft. My play time isn’t exactly accurate since I left the game running while I ate dinner or whatever to let the sim portion gather money for me, so I’m not sure what my actual time invested worked out to be, but I beat the final boss and upgraded the kingdom to level 4 at about 65 hours.

Between the weak story and somewhat weak gameplay, I won’t recommend the game, but if it tickles your fancy it might be worth picking up a used copy. I rate this game Neutral.

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