Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is the latest title from Level-5, and a sequel to the team’s earlier collaboration with Studio Ghibli, confirmed for release on PlayStation 4 in 2017.
Both Level-5 and Bandai Namco have remained uncharacteristically quiet on the details of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. With only two trailers and a handful of interviews released so far, little more than baseline information is currently available for the game.
Despite sharing a number of elements with its predecessor, 2013’s Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (originally released in Japan in 2011), Revenant Kingdom is not a direct continuation of that story. Indeed, Oliver, Mr Drippy, and the remainder of the original’s cast have not been mentioned in connection with this new game, their roles being filled by new characters involved in a new conflict within the world of Ni no Kuni.
At the centre of this new adventure is Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the boy-king of Ding Dong Dell, whose throne is usurped by a weaselly foe. Evan will be joined by a number of character who have appeared in the media released thus far, though only one has been named: Roland, a stranger who, like Oliver before him, is transported to Ni no Kuni from another world.
The game’s debut trailer hinted at an emotional story that, in concert with its child protagonist, promises a unique tale of self-discovery that, according to director Hino Akihiro, can be enjoyed by both adults and children.
This desire to appeal to as broad an audience as possible extends to the gameplay. The little shown so far is highly reminiscent of the first game, mixing overworld exploration (this time in full 3D with the characters appearing as Chibi figures) with the returning towns and other sectioned-off domains, and an ATB-based combat system. Players will once again face off against both sentient and bestial foes, though the Pokémon-like Familiars that fought alongside Oliver in the previous title have not yet been confirmed to return.
Although the gameplay of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kindgom appears similar to that of its predecessor, Hino has promised “many differences,” the flagship feature of which is kingdom building. Whether that will take a form similar to that seen in the developer’s previous game, Dark Cloud, or be something entirely new remains to be seen. Given its ties to the game’s overall theme, however, the feature should be a very smart inclusion.
The Ni no Kuni series began with a Japan-only Nintendo DS title in 2010, before its ideas were expanded with new artwork and story details to appear on the PlayStation 3 the following year. Made in partnership with Studio Ghibli, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was lauded for its whimsical visuals and story, and widely praised as one of the best new JRPG IPs in years.
Despite the strong critical reception, the series’ future was never certain, but the developers expanded the series further with a pair of mobile games that, like the DS entry, were never released outside of Japan.
Years of silence were broken, however, at Sony’s PlayStation Experience 2015, where Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was announced with a trailer that showed a few story details but little else. 2016 was quiet, but the game resurfaced at the same event with a new trailer, this time offering glimpses of gameplay, and received the confirmation of a 2017 release date, though whether that it worldwide or only in Japan remains to be seen.
Studio Ghibli is not directly involved in the production of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, though the title retains the anime house’s distinctive visual style. Despite this, many key staff are returning for this sequel, including writer/director Hino Akihiro, composer Joe Hisaishi, and artist Kuriaki Toshihiro.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was one of the most surprising games of the last console generation. Although it carried plenty of promise, its aesthetic married with an emotional story and engaging gameplay to create a singular experience capable of transporting even the most hardened gamer back to their childhood.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom may have even higher hopes riding on it, but if it can match its predecessor for whimsy and charm, it will have more than earned its place on OnlySP’s list of the most anticipated titles of 2017.