Cats and mice fight, but unless the mouse gets into your house, it’s a tiny war unnoticed by most - except in Ni No Kuni. When the mouse gets in your house in Ni No Kuni 2, it puts the fate of entire kingdoms and even the world in jeopardy.
Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom eschews the personal approach of its predecessor in favor of a more traditional fantasy story, and while it does lose a bit of charm in the process, it gains a more refined combat system and stronger sense of place in the process, making one of the best RPGs on Switch.
Once Upon a Time
One dark and stormy night, the kingdom of Ding Dong Dell prepares to officially crown Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum its ruler, following the mysterious death of his father. Mousinger, Evan’s mousy minister, storms the castle and slaughters its inhabitants without warning, including Evan’s attendant and substitute mother.
If that weren’t enough, Mousinger also gains the blessing of Evan’s Kingmaker, a mystical being whose power bestows the right to rule, and silences dissidents with his demon-spawn mouse warrior, the Dark Knight.
Warped unexpectedly into all this is Roland, president from another world that’s definitely not the United States, following a tragedy of his own. Thus begins Evan’s journey to reclaim his throne and grow into a leader who can make an ending that’s happily ever after for all.
There was a Young King
Wrath of the White Witch is, in part, a magical tourist story. Like some of the best Studio Ghibli films, it delights in showing you the marvels of this parallel dimension without necessarily delving into them much, but Revenant Kingdom takes a different approach.
Ni No Kuni 2 is more concerned with the other world’s politics, those relationships between its people, and, sometimes, the systems that produce their unhappiness, though the narrative never goes too deep. That leaves fewer opportunities for standout moments like meeting Old Father Oak in exchange for an adventure that feels deeper, more cohesive, and a fair bit darker.
Evan is, admittedly, less charming and likeable than Oliver, though he also has a better growth arc than the pure-hearted hero of the original. It would be very easy to treat his goal of happily ever after cynically. But Ni No Kuni 2 is so heartwarming and sincere - Evan himself full of earnest determination to realize his dream - that you genuinely believe in his mission and can’t help but cheer for the unlikely hero.
Who Fought to Save His Kingdom
Higgledy management is simultaneously less endearing than caring for Familiars and much easier to deal with. Gone is that cute training area where hungry Familiars patiently wait for you to stuff them with desserts, so they can evolve. In its place is a standard RPG menu where you slot Higgeldies in, based on which skills you want.
Cute as Ni No Kuni 2’s enemies might be, they show no hesitation in pulling you apart. Revenant Kingdom retains its predecessor’s surprisingly brutal difficulty, even on normal, but also provides better tools to fight back.
A wider pool of character skills replaces the emphasis on type and skill matching, and as much as I adore Wrath of the White Witch, it’s a better system. Swapping skills and Higgledies is key if you’re struggling with a difficult boss, instead of grinding for a new Familiar and the money to buy their favourite foods.
That sounds great in theory and thankfully, it’s even better in practice. Minus some oddly sluggish movement and a capricious targeting system that works when it feels like working, Ni No Kuni 2’s combat is absorbing and just plain fun. Each character gets a normal and strong attack, plus four skill slots and an abundance of skills to match depending on your style.
Best of all, Ni No Kuni 2 resolves one of the original’s biggest problems — MP, and party AI that loved to drain it — by borrowing from modern Tales Of games. MP for skills replenishes as you use normal attacks, which creates a satisfying loop instead of one that punishes you for daring to use your special skills.
Not far into the story, you’ll start working on Evan’s dream of building a new kingdom for everyone, and Level-5 struck a perfect balance with this part. Kingdom building is involved enough where it’s a nice diversion from the main story without ever being overwhelming, and it’s a worthwhile detour at that.
Aside from giving you rewards such as experience, it sends you off to interact with the world and its inhabitants more than you get a chance to during the main story. Every citizen you recruit has a specific quest you need to complete before they migrate to your kingdom. Not every such story is as charming or engaging as others — Auntie Martha’s stands out as a highlight — but it helps underpin the idea of Evan forging connections with people and striving to build a harmonious world.
In short, Ni No Kuni 2 is a stellar RPG, but the Switch port has some issues. Resolution can go fuzzy at random, while the framerate stutters both on the overworld map and in some dungeons. This, too, seems random, a consequence of the uncapped framerate. However, it’s never so annoying that it hinders enjoyment, and having all the DLC - including the story pack that resolves Roland’s narrative - helps make it more palatable.
There’s little else like Ni No Kuni 2. It might not match the original’s sense of wonder, but there’s an inescapable warmth and charm in Level-5’s sequel wrapped up in a serious fantasy tale. With its improved approach to worldbuilding and combat, this is one Switch RPG not to miss.
Disclaimer: Bandai Namco provided the copy of Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom used for this review