Best Real-Time Strategy Game
Best RPG Battle System
Best Playable Anime
I didn’t really care about the original Ni no Kuni.
I thought of it as a rather pretty novelty. The general idea appealed to me and I was glad that it existed, but I never really immersed myself in its world. I played it because I had to, but then largely put it out of my mind when I was done.
I feel very differently about Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. This game built upon the original so well and does so much more, it can’t possibly be ignored. I couldn’t stay away from it. I had to go back to recruit more people for Evan’s kingdom. I had to explore more of its vistas and see where its story went. I wanted to collect more Higgledies, so I could bring these fanciful friends into fights with me. I had to have more.
There were so many reasons why things were so much more inviting this time around. The story, which is super anime by the way, pulls people in by kicking things off with a nuclear bomb going off over America Land USA and the gun-toting President Roland being caught up in the aftershock. He wakes up (much younger) in a fanciful other world just as a half-human, half-cat boy king is being usurped. He takes the lad under his wing and acts as an advisor as King Evan find a new kingdom, acquires citizens and even saves the world.
It is just so satisfying. There’s this constant sense of joy and whimsy, even when rival Kingmaker creatures are running rampant and trying to upend their former masters and our determined allies. Perhaps that is also thanks in part to battle systems that make so much sense. Standard fights involve active battles where three major characters and a number of Higgledies run around attacking a foe. There are different strengths and weaknesses to play to, and you can even adjust settings outside of battle to turn tides in your favor.
Even the real-time strategic battles taking place on the world map make sense! When Evan’s group comes across some opposing foes, you will fight in the actual overworld territory, using pre-assigned units in specific locations to fight through enemy leaders and take control of an area. If you can keep track of a paper-scissors-rock unit triangle and manage basic DualShock 4 controls, you can constantly guide Evan to victory.
Maybe it all comes down to progress. We have seen the series as a whole grow between Ni no Kuni and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. We have watched the battle systems evolve into something involving familiar management and collecting to a more traditional action-RPG with Higgledy assistants. We watch a president regain a sense of purpose and a young king earn a kingdom. There is a constant sense of change and growth, and we get to be there for every moment.