Ni No Kuni 2, an adventure-RPG that puts you in the shoes of a young boy named Evan who’s one goal is this: to create the happiest kingdom in the world. To do this Evan believes that an end to all war is the answer, which is pretty naive but also admirable and brave.
Speaking of brave, the first time you come across Evan he’s in a bit of a tough situation and it is here where you first learn how to fight. At this point, you can only play as Roland, but that doesn’t stop the basic fighting mechanics being the same.
We learned even before the game released there wouldn’t be any turn-based combat, but that didn’t stop me from being overjoyed all the same when I got into my first combat situation. There’s nothing wrong with turn-based combat, but after playing so many for so long it was great to get a break from it. And if there’s one thing that Ni No Kuni 2 has done well, it’s the combat. Not only is it fast and fluid, it’s flashy and just really pretty to look at.
Rolling and blocking are just two of the aspects I liked about combat. Blocking, in particular, has saved my life many of times, especially when I was having trouble as my dumb self just wanted to keep mashing button after button. But no, the game does want you to think tactically at times so after getting my ass handed to me a couple of times I did learn to press that pesky L1 button every now and then.
I suppose if I’m speaking about combat then I should talk about the Higgledies. You know, those cute little rag-doll things that follow you around and can help you in various ways. That’s right, they can heal you, launch firebombs at enemies, affect your damage/enemy resistance and most importantly: they look cute while doing it. Which is a shame, because for at least ten hours into the game I barely used them. My party was just that strong and I had oh-so-many items that when I did manage to use them, it was far too late to do so. I kinda felt bad about it. Maybe next time, eh Higgledies?
Combat aside for the moment, as you can see from these screens you’ll know that the game looks gorgeous. Keeping up their Ghibi-esque art style, Ni No Kuni 2’s world is colorful and inviting with different words on land and over water. It is honestly just a fantastic looking game. Even when you’re in ‘chibi’ form, the world you traverse through is spectacular and full of nooks and crannies you can investigate.
So you probably already know that Ni No Kuni 2 is a big game, but you can actually complete the game in about 25 hours or so if you just do the main storyline. Of course, like most people out there, side quests managed to distract me enough that it took more than double the time to get to the actual ending of the game. Anything to pad the game, right? In Ni No Kuni 2’s defense, it did have some really great quests that added more personality to the characters, but there were still far too many fetch quests for my liking. Please guys, please stop putting in fetch quests. They are never not boring and I hate doing them. I’m looking at YOU too Boddly. Fetch your own bloody rose.
Snark aside, let me go back to a new type of combat: Skirmish Mode.
In Skirmish Mode you take hold of Evan’s forces, a variety of groups that will help you win battles if any invaders come knocking. While it pretty much is combat, it doesn’t feel like it and it makes the switch between actual in-game combat with Evan and co and the combat in Skirmish Mode feel stale and hollow. It’s not that the mode was terrible, it just felt as though I was moving my soldiers around and not doing much else.
Coincidentally, this is pretty much how I felt about the ‘Kingdom Building’ mode where, you guessed it, you manage and build the kingdom that you want Evan to run. Granted, it was fun seeing my kingdom thrive and ransacking my coffers to spend them as frivolously as ever, especially as it helped me in battles and foraging.
But after a while, it started to wear on me how lifeless Evermore was. Where were the citizens moving to talk to one another? Why did they just stand still when you placed them to their respected research post? Why was this a kingdom everyone seemed to want to come to when there was no show of activity at all? However, it isn’t just Evermore with this problem. The people you meet in cities such as Goldpaw don’t move around either and while it isn’t a dealbreaker, I think Breath of the Wild spoiled me in how I expect NPCs to interact.
But regardless of my feelings about that, what really dragged me into the story of Ni No Kuni 2 was its beloved characters. Naive but loveable Evan, brave yet troubled Roland, ferocious but kind Tani, brazen but loyal Batu and yes, even the annoying little Kingmaker called Lofty. They were fun, intriguing characters that I was worried you wouldn’t know much about by the end of it.
I was wrong. While the game starts slowly when it comes to introducing the deeper aspects of the characters, it does pick up and you do start to learn more about the people you’ve chosen to travel with. My favorite character? Roland. Just… Trust me, you’ll love Roland.
As someone who’s super cynical, Evan’s desire to save the world through friendship and love made my eyes roll into the back of my head. But that was before I played the game, and so you may not be so surprised to know that after 40 hours of spending time with Evan, Roland, Tani, Batu and the others that I’d actually found myself changing my mind.
Not just about Evan’s goals, but my own thinking in general. There’s a lot of bad happening in the world right now and while I find what Evan wants unrealistic, it made me pause and wonder why I was so against the idea in the first place. Evan is a young boy who wants to make the world happy for everyone, not just him or his friends, but for everyone.
Was it the lack of realism about that goal? More than likely, but that thinking made me feel ashamed. If I wanted change, then shouldn’t I strive to be part of that change? Games aren’t real of course, but they make you feel very real things with their characters and worlds. And so, by the end of the game, I had not only realized something very important about myself, but I was actually glad to throw my lot in with Evan and his friends. To embrace a world where being loving and compassion was the answer. It felt good.
So give this game a chance. Maybe it’ll show you parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed, either.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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