Return to the Another World: Ni no Kuni II

The video gaming world has had its fair share of unlikely success stories in recent memory, and among them was Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for PS3. When it was a sales failure in Japan, many wrote it off as an unfortunate experiment for developer Level 5, who overestimated the amount of Japanese gamers who wanted a new console RPG. Fortunately for them (and publisher Bandai Namco), that is what western fans of the genre wanted, particularly those who lamented how the genre drifted to handhelds in the last decade. It’s why the game is receiving a sequel with Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom for PS4, a title announced for the first time at PlayStation Experience in America at the end of 2015.

Despite this title being designed with western fans in mind, Level 5 isn’t making as many changes as you might have expected in terms of its tone. The main character is once again a young boy, typical for a Japanese-developed RPG. That’s despite how Level 5 CEO Akihiro Hino mentioned that this title will have a more mature perspective compared to the first one, whose target audience was kids. However, even those sick of young protagonists aren’t complaining here, as you probably don’t need me to tell you that stories involving kids can still be entertaining for adults, though this tends to apply more to movies and novels than video games.

The young protagonist here is Evan, who was promised the position as king of Ding Dong Dell after his father, the previous king, was assassinated. His position as king didn’t last very long, as the mouse tribe, desperate for the throne, stole it after a successful coup. In addition to recapturing his rightful throne in his quest, Evan also plans to mend the broken world of Ni no Kuni.

Another playable character is Roland, a valiant 20-year-old man who’s skilled with a sword, and possesses a strong sense of justice. He’s also seen wearing a suit in the first trailer, which hints at his actual identity of being a 48-year-old company president in the real world. Hino explained that players will either relate to Evan or Roland depending on the player’s age, which implies how they also want to attract kids here.

The third character shown in battle screens and footage is Tani, the daughter of the air pirates’ leader, who’s bossy but strong-willed. Also, little creatures called Higgledies will be taking the place of the familiars in assisting the characters in battle, and can use elements like fire, water, and wind. Their powers can also temporarily be used by the characters they’re bound to. Expect more characters and Higgledies to be revealed as its release date approaches.

With Evan being usurped from the throne of his kingdom, he desires to establish another one elsewhere in Ni no Kuni. This will be built by the player in a kingdom creation minigame, a feature that sounds similar to some found in other Level 5 games. It hasn’t been shown in any of the trailers yet, so whether it takes cues from, say, Dark Cloud 2’s town creation remains to be seen.

While it’s visually and aurally clear that Ni no Kuni II is a successor to the first game, the existence of kingdom creation is only one of numerous changes being made to its gameplay systems. There’s no way the developers didn’t hear the complaints about the first game’s battle system, regarding how repetitive encounters became around halfway through, the skirmishes themselves being slow-paced, and the poor ally AI. Here, they addressed those issues by replacing the partly turn-based system with a real-time one, one that resembles previous Level 5 RPG Rogue Galaxy. That’s not immediately encouraging since that game’s battles also could have used fine-tuning, but their development teams are more experienced than they were in 2005. Yes, it’s been that long.

The world map will be free of encounters this time around, with the character models taking a chibified appearance. This will be good for exploring potentially obscured portions of the map in peace. The battles are being saved for alternate fields and dungeons, the latter of which will also have puzzles and obstacles which can be overcome with the help of the Higgledies.

Hino claimed that Ni no Kuni II is currently 45% complete, meaning it’s still a while off. Despite that, Level 5 still plans on releasing it simultaneously worldwide by the end of the year for not only PS4, but also PC. That completion percentage means there’s a higher-than-average chance it could be pushed into early 2018, especially if the latter half of 2017 is packed with AAA titles from western publishers. A delay would be fine if it makes for a more improved product, so there wouldn’t be many complaints.

Despite taking a hiatus from the public eye between December 2015 and December 2016, expect to see a steady amount of info and media for Ni no Kuni II released throughout the year.

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