Bandai Namco and Level-5 have teamed up once again to bring you to a magical world of monsters, magic, and that wholesome feeling that only an old-fashioned JRPG can deliver. The first Ni No Kuni is a cult favorite on the PlayStation 3, and after what seems like an extended development period, its sequel is finally running in a playable form.
Studio Ghibli is sadly not involved this time around, but with the way things are looking, Level-5 is up to the taste of replicating the legendary anime studio’s look and creating a brilliant game at the same time.
As has become tradition, as soon as the doors opened in the morning on my second day of Tokyo Game Show 2017, I made a dash to the game I wanted to play the most and also knew would be the most crowded. Ni No Kuni II filled up to an hour and a half wait within the first 15 minutes of the show, leaving me no time to linger. And I figured would rather go frolicking around with a cat-eared youth and his anime friends then suffer through both the longer wait and the actual playing of Detroit: Become Human.
The game looks brilliant on the PlayStation 4. The characters animate well, bringing the first game’s “playing a Ghibli movie” appeal to a whole new age. The gorilla monster too was a blast to look at, and the bursts of color from the elemental sprites that trounce around at your feet add to the rush.
The gameplay vastly differs from the previous game, though. First and foremost, you now directly control the main character rather than have him bark out commands to his Pokémon… I mean… Familiars. In fact, this game totally does away with the monster collection element, and while fans may miss that element, your companions have been replaced with charming elemental sprites that will aid you in battle. They gather around enemies on the battlefield and provide a small, dedicated area where you can retreat to when your character needs a break.
Crowds of red elemental critters grant fire powers that can be cast at a distance, and green ones heal you. They act as a fun support while your character hacks away at foes. Kingdom Hearts clearly had an influence on this game since its action has been nearly perfectly recreated. Heavy attacks, light attacks, special abilities can be accessed by holding down the R buttons. It’s a formula that has worked for every Japanese action RPG over the last decade, and it fills its role here.
Keep in mind that all I had access to was the combat in my demo. I didn’t get to experience the new RTS system or hit the road and explore the beautiful world. All that can wait I suppose because as it stands now, Ni No Kuni II is a safe bet for a purchase.