★★★★☆

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom introduces young hero Evan, the newfound rightful king of Ding Dong Dell after his father is killed in a mutiny. With the help of adviser Roland, a cast of colourful companions and the fairy-like Higgledies, Evan builds a brand new kingdom, Evermore, and sets out with the hope of securing peace treaties throughout the continent to bring an end to war.

This is a game that does almost everything a great sequel should. The years have clearly changed this beautiful world, but the flawlessly charming style of its predecessor is not lost in the past. It’s still full of the quirky, cute and curious, and has mostly evolved for the better.

The shift toward real time combat is one of the biggest changes the sequel has brought, coming as a relief to many players who struggled in the first game. Unfortunately, to the game’s detriment, this has significantly reduced the difficulty of the combat. Higher difficulty has to be sought in places outside the main quest, but defeating bosses in the story doesn’t create as much of a feeling of accomplishment.

Making up for this, the combat is undoubtedly more enjoyable and tactical; the different party members’ fighting styles are now more elaborate and stylised. It’s a massive improvement from attempting to play as Esther or Swaine in the first game, characters who never felt balanced or fun to use. Switching between the hand-to-hand combat, long range weapons and spell casting abilities of the characters adds new layers of strategy and the addition of adorable supporting Higgledies works well. Watching Tani cartwheel around the battlefield firing her arrows away, you’ll soon realise the previous battle system is scarcely missed.

The new kingdom building aspect of growing Evermore is implemented both as a story quest and a result from completing side quests. Completing tasks for the citizens and recruiting them to Evermore is a fun way to get to know the game, adding a level of attachment to the kingdom by getting to know the the to-be inhabitants. Although the amount of dialogue can be extensive, each side quest tells its own little story if you have the time to be whisked away into the game’s fantasy.

In order to protect Evermore and his new allies in the continent, Evan is required to muster his forces in a new mini-game component of Skirmishes. This type of gameplay will definitely not be every player’s cup of Sage’s Secret, but fortunately these are not required for the story to progress.

Ni No Kuni II is a good RPG, but its biggest weakness is that it will always be compared to the first game. Its biggest strengths are the ways in which it keeps all of the right components from the first and introduces some of its own welcome additions, with only a few imperfect implementations. Fans will be pleased that the magical core of Ni No Kuni most certainly remains, as they adventure alongside Evan to that triumphant title track.

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