Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was something of a surprise hit back when it was released in the west in 2013. A turn-based JRPG with some monster-collecting elements, designed in partnership with members of Studio Ghibli, the game received widespread acclaim. Hell, there’s some that consider it one of the best RPGs and games in general of the last console generation.
Of course, something with this much praise is due for a sequel, and Level-5 and Bandai Namco are all too happy to oblige. Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom was one of the key games present at Namco Bandai’s booth at this year’s E3, and they definitely went all out with it – a floor display with a king’s throne, some photo opportunities in the South Hall foyer, and plenty of demo stations.
Revenant Kingdom once again has strong links with Studio Ghibli in the form of character designer Yoshiyuki Momose and composer Joe Hisaishi, along with writer Akihiro Hino returning from the first game in the series. While the artistic presentation is remaining rooted in familiarity, the gameplay is undergoing some changes, namely the transition from turn-based gameplay to an action-RPG style.
This game follows Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the whimsically-named young king of the kingdom of Ding Dong Dell. Unfortunately, an uprising has caused Evan to be ousted from the throne, and the new king, Otto Mausinger, has exiled him from the land. Now, Evan must journey the world to find the strength and companions to help him reclaim his kingdom and rightful place on the throne.
I had a chance to go hands-on with Revenant Kingdom, playing one of two available demo scenarios. The one I tried was a trial of courage that Evan must pass to meet his “Kingmaker,” also known as this game’s mascot character, “Lofty.” The game controls much like you’d expect in an action-RPG, as I took direct control of Evan while my other teammates were controlled by AI. Evan has basic light and heavy attacks, along with some long-distance magic and some special skills that can be called up by holding a shoulder button.
The unique spin that this game puts on the formula comes in the form of creatures called “Higgledies.” In universe, these are sprite-like creatures born from natural phenomena. In gameplay, they act as a kind of extra party member in a way. Various colors of these Higgledies were wandering the battlefield, occasionally gathering together in certain areas. When they did so, I was able to approach the group and press a button to give them a command, which varies from performing attacks to healing, depending on the Higgledies’ color.
The Higgledies can also be used to power up your skills and special attacks. Each special available to me had a corresponding Higgldie color, and when I stood near sprites of that color and held down the attack button, power from them would be absorbed to strengthen the attack.
Overall, the battle itself in the demo was fairly easy. I assume it’s taken from early in the game, and it allowed me to experiment with the various mechanics without much worry. The main enemy that had to be fought was a bit of a damage sponge, but it went down quick once I figured out how to use special attacks effectively.
What was presented here at E3 seems to just skim the surface of what will be in Revenant Kingdom. The demos didn’t even include another system a PR rep mentioned to us; a mode in which you build and expand your kingdom, convincing people to join you and researching tech and magic much like in strategy titles. Without an actual demo of it, though, it’s hard to say how deep that mode will be.
The presentations of the game here at E3 did what they set out to do: catch my attention and interest. Revenant Kingdom seems to be shaping up to become another incredibly solid JRPG, even with the slight genre change. Strong gameplay mechanics, a still-beautiful art style, and what looks to be an interesting plot have put this game on my to-watch list. The game is set for worldwide release this year, on November 10th, for PS4 and PC via Steam.