Ni No Kuni 2

I really enjoyed the first one.  It was a nice mix of Pokemon, Ghibli storytelling, and JRPG mechanics.  One of the best RPGs in the past 5 years.  The only real issue here was the tediousness of pet management at the tail end.  I figured NNK2 would be an easy pickup.

While it does scratch that itch, there are some odd parts within.  I’m at Chapter 5 – less than half way I think.

Setting

The art/sound are the similar to before, which is great.  I love Ghibli films, so this is a good itch.  The world-setting is the same as well, though set a few years in the future.  Which is good since there are familiar pieces, but also less good since the themes of the first one seem lost here.  That, and the map is different, which is odd.

The first game dealt with tragic loss, and how the characters dealt with their grief.  Start to end, I enjoyed the story.  This one deals with a deposed (young) king who’s blind ambition for a “world at peace” seems to know no limits.  It’s a noble goal, granted, but the way it’s played out lacks the maturity of the first game.

Mechanics

Pretty much everything changed here, like the Final Fantasy game iterations I suppose.  Combat is real-time, with 1 main character and 2 helpers (that you can swap to). There’s magic (with very finite mana), health points, combos, movement… it’s smooth and easy.  There are Higgles (think forest spirits from Mononoke) that provide passive buffs, and can actively be triggered for effects.  There’s next to no difficulty in any of the mandatory combat – 95% of it you can “face tank” without issue.  Some bosses require movement but nothing fancy.  There are optional bosses to take down, and some of them can be a challenge.

There’s the traditional item-management-mini-game of RPGs here too.  Stat buffs, bonuses, damage, etc… all quite trite.

There are skirmishes, a sort of rock-paper-scissors game where you roam a small map with a mini army, taking out opponents.  In principle it works, in practice the level discrepancies make it hard to focus on.  Most of the battles result in hit-and-run tactics as you’re often flanked and can do nothing about it.  Pretty much all optional.

Finally, there’s the kingdom building aspect.  Literally castle, buildings and finding citizens.   The buildings are staffed and provide numerous benefits (xp, loot, gear, spells, buffs).  It’s all gated by two things – Time and Gold (KG).  The KG part is ok, but the time one is pretty dumb.  Research takes 30-90 minutes, which is a timeframe that means you bookmark play sessions with kingdom activities.  KG comes in over time, enough to fill the limited coffer in 30 minutes.  It’s rarely enough to keep a decent float. I don’t mind time gated mechanics, but the caps are just too low.  Thankfully, 90% of it is optional.

You can farm/raise Higgles in the kingdom as well.  There are 100 to collect, with various benefits.  Extremely time consuming, but also optional.

Gameplay

I will say this, the overall gameplay is fun.  While the main story line is mandatory, the choices in what you do along that line are entirely optional.  Want to make equipment?  Go ahead.  Train Higgles? Sure.  Recruit Citizens?  Go for it.  Do side quests?  Why not.

None are mandatory, and none really have a dramatic impact on gameplay (so far).

It’s a good game, plenty of stuff to see and do.  It just seems overall less focused than the first one.  It got rid of the tedious aspects of the first game, but may have swung the pendulum a bit too far in the other way.

 

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