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NI NO KUNI II Has New Characters and Mechanics, Same Gorgeous Graphics (E3 Preview)

NI NO KUNI II Has New Characters and Mechanics, Same Gorgeous Graphics (E3 Preview)

Whatever your feelings on the gameplay itself, it’s hard to deny that Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a beautiful game. The 2013 action RPG was like a Studio Ghibli film come to life, making it one of the best-looking games of the PS3 era. More than four years later, we’re finally getting a sequel, and it’s just as visually impressive as its predecessor. If you’re direct follow-up to the first game, though, this isn’t it.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom starts a century after Wrath of the White Witch and introduces the audience to a new protagonist. It’s another young boy, this one a would-be king displaced from his throne. Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum should be reigning over Ding Dong Dell, but the nefarious Otto Mausinger has usurped him. We’re not sure how Evan is related to the first game’s feline Ding Dong Dell king, but he appears to be a human boy with animal ears—you do the math.

With all the aspiration of royalty and no land to call his own, Evan decides to start his own kingdom, with a little help from his friends. The new sidekicks this time around are Tani, the daughter of the air pirate boss, and Roland, a middle-aged president from another world who provides that extra-dimensional connection Oliver had in the first game. One of the interesting things about Wrath of the White Witch was the connection to the “normal” world. Oliver didn’t start out as an RPG character; he was just an average boy in a magic-less town before falling into an extraordinary adventure. We’re curious to see if we return to that world in Ni no Kuni II and what Roland’s like when he’s not hanging out with a boy king.

In the world of Ni no Kuni, one does not simply become a king; there are bonds to forge and trials to complete. In Evan’s case, he makes a kingsbond with Lofty, a glowing creature who serves as a mascot of sorts. Our hands-on experience took place during the Trial of Courage and gave us a first-hand look at Ni no Kuni’s battle system.

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The fighting is entirely action-based this time around, described by the game’s brand manager as “the best of Eastern and Western game design philosophy.” This made our boss fight a fairly chaotic experience, but to be fair, that’s expected when one jumps right into an RPG fight without any lead-up. One of the reasons for the chaos was the appearance of Higgledies: element-based, sprite-like little things that show up on the battlefield and offer help to the pure-hearted. There’s even a class of special Higgledies called Higgledy Heroes, who are there in a pinch to heal and perform special commands and charged attacks. It’s a lot to take in during just one battle, but we were able to grasp the concept enough to beat it. For what it’s worth, the satisfaction of collecting a randomly spawning gold orb and delivering that final blow is just as great as it was in the first game.

We’re particularly interested in Kingdom Mode, which lets the player grow and manage Evan’s reign. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it in action, so we’ll have to wait until Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom launches for PS4 and PC on November 10.

How do you feel about Ni no Kuni II’s new direction? Drop a comment and let us know.

Images: Bandai Namco

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