The original Ni No Kuni is one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. It’s charming, emotional, had a beautiful soundtrack, and had great gameplay. Level 5 came out with the sequel in 2018 and now that I had chance to platinum it, how does it hold up compared to the original?

Normally when you think of sequels to a video game, you would imagine that the core gameplay is the same with minor tweaks. Well, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom said, “To hell with minor tweaks, let’s reinvent our series!” What was once a pokemon-esque game went to a more generic modern RPG. Instead of capturing monsters and making them battle for you, Ni No Kuni II gives you 6 characters to choose to go to battle with. These characters share some of the same abilities and weapons but still are unique enough to mix and match.

In battle, there are light attacks, heavy attacks, skills, and higgledy powers. For the most part, you can live with button mashing dodge and your light attack (this is for hard mode), but there are certain enemies that take a little more strategy to overcome. This is where the real fun begins. When pit against a tainted monster or boss, it is imperative to use your abilities that might stun, do heavy damage, or have a big area of effect, as well as using your higgledy’s powers to give you that extra edge.

So what are these higgledies? Well they are these little creatures that help you in battle with magical powers and stat boosts. You obtain them by either crafting them or offering an item to a stone. How exactly they aid you depends on which ones you use. Some of their powers include elemental cannon, a hammer that comes down on the monster, lighting storms, a summoned knight, reviving fallen teammates, etc. Personally, I was a huge fan of the knight and reviving higgledies, but it’s definitely something you have to experiment with throughout the game.

Ni No Kuni II also decided to throw in a new type of battle mode in the game, called skirmishes. These battles are introduced a little later in the game, and I’m not sure if I 100% enjoyed doing them. They aren’t bad exactly, but there just isn’t much to them. Skirmishes give you a tiny army of up to four characters to help defeat your enemies. There are different classifications you can choose to be in your army that each has their strengths and weaknesses, kind of like rock, paper, scissors. Swords beat hammers, hammers beat spears, and spears beat swords.

There are a few other things you can pick like archers, and it is up to you to figure out what classes you need with you on the battlefield. You are able to inspect your enemies forces before you go to battle (although there is no consequence to losing), so if you see your enemy with armies of spears you will most likely pick some hammers to fight in battle with you. In the battle, you move around freely and have your 4 characters placed on each side of you. The main path to success in these missions is to just simply rotate your characters to pit them against their strength. There are a few other things to go along with it, like reviving your army or using the character specific abilities, but overall there isn’t much depth to skirmishes. It’s not something I hate that they put in, but I won’t miss it if they get rid of it for the third installment.

One thing I will miss if it is not in the third game is building up your kingdom called Evermore. Early on in the game your main character, Evan, vows to fulfill a promise to a friend that is about building a kingdom and uniting all the other kingdoms. To build your kingdom, you get to decide what to build, who to put there, and recruit other people to come live in the kingdom. Getting people to come to your kingdom is probably the most important part of this experience, because it helps you obtain the in game currency faster to help build and research projects.

These buildings and projects can help improve many aspects of the main game. If you build gardens, mines, or lodges (and assign people to them) you can obtain items to either help finish side quests or craft items. If you build the higgledy center, you can craft new higgledies or even increase the levels of the ones you have. Each building can play a vital role in finishing the game and it’s up to you to decide how you want to prioritize how your kingdom is built.

Going back to recruiting citizens, this is what I believe gives meaning to the side missions. I didn’t find the stories of the side missions to be all that thrilling, but it was exciting to know that most of them lead to them staying in my kingdom and helping me do new research. I loved that this system made me want to do all the side missions first over the main game, which is different than most other games for me. Often, I just play side missions in other games for trophies or gaining extra exp, but I’m glad that Ni No Kuni found a way to make them more meaningful.

One of the less meaningful parts of the game is the procedurally generated dungeons dreamer’s mazes. The goal of these mazes is to find the door for each floor to get to the next floor and then beat the final floor boss. There are 9 mazes you do before unlocking a very long 30 floor maze that is a much higher level than the first 9. Each maze has a different difficulty and number of floors. While in the maze, you have a danger meter that continually goes up the longer you spend time in the maze. As the danger meter goes up, the harder the enemies get. However, there is a cap on how high they go for each maze since the danger level maxes out at 5. Depending on what level you enter the maze in will depend on how challenging you find them. I didn’t start going through them until I was about level 70, and I found most of the dungeons to not be challenging.

The time you spend in the dungeons also changes how long it will take to beat them. I’m one of those people that have to look and find everything, which meant it took me much longer to get through them. It could take me hours just to get through a single dreamer’s maze, which made my wife very upset at me because she wanted the TV. Unfortunately, you can’t save in the dreamer’s mazes, so you will have to make sure you have time on your hands to go through them. I definitely recommend leveling up for the last maze. It has 30 floors and it ramps the difficulty up quite a bit. I believe enemies maxed at around 80-85 in the 2nd to last dungeon, so I thought it wouldn’t be much harder in the last one. Well, at danger level 5 some enemies reached 120. It was a challenge I loved until the last floor boss, who killed me almost instantly. 4 hours down the drain and I nearly chucked my controller at the TV in anger. There are definitely some fun moments while being in the maze, but overall I felt they were more of time filler rather than a vital part of my experience.

One thing that drew me in to the first Ni No Kuni was the story. While the 2nd installment wasn’t as good in my opinion, it still was entertaining and had me engaged. I definitely thought it was going to be a story about revenge when it first started, but you find out that it’s more about forgiveness and giving everyone their “happily ever after”. The main character, Evan, sets out to get all the kingdoms to join forces and sign the “Declaration of Interdependence”. In this universe, each king has a kingmaker that protects their king/queen and kingdom. This is a vital part to the story, as the villain takes each kingmaker so he can summon a huge kingmaker to bring back a lost city. There are also these brief intermissions between each chapter that has Evan and another young boy talk to each other. These interactions often prepared you for what was to come next in the story, and I loved how they delivered those scenes.

The one thing I can’t wrap my mind around is the way they did the dialogue. Some dialogue is completely voiced and most others have the character say one word while the player reads the rest. It was quite annoying and disappointing to discover parts of the game that resembled cutscenes didn’t have any voice over. It detracted from the story and immersion in my opinion, and I think it was clearly the wrong choice for the game.

Lastly, let’s talk about the trophies. I felt that for a RPG, they were very fair. A good chunk of them you will get through playing the game normally. The rest are not difficult but may require some time to complete. If you are a completionist, this game does not ask for too much grinding to do everything. That’s probably the most important thing to me. To get all these trophies it may have taken me 70 hours to do, but I was not often grinding hours upon hours like final fantasy to boost my levels. If you loved the game like I did, you will want to platinum this game. My personal trophy score (in terms of how well I thought they made the list) is a 9 out of 10.

Overall, the game is great and I enjoyed my 60-70 hours that I played it. Even though it’s the 2nd in the series, anyone can jump in without playing the first (but go f’n play the first one!) The gameplay is still fun, especially when facing harder opponents, and there is plenty to do in the world. You will often find yourself wanting to build your empire and recruit anyone you can. You will be engaged in the story throughout the entire game, and find yourself prancing around the open world listening to another stellar soundtrack. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom does have a few stumbles along the way with things like framerate stutters and mediocre skirmishes, but it quickly picks itself up with all the other components within the game.