Preview: Ni no Kuni II's Combat Is Brilliant, and Vastly Improved Over the Original

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is finally upon us. The long-awaited sequel launches next Friday, and I spent the weekend getting to know its characters and systems. It was a hell of a weekend, and I'm so excited for you all to get your hands on this game.

For those of you who played and loved the original Ni no Kuni on PS3, you'll be very happy to know that some of that game's pricklier annoyances have been completely remedied. Combat, most notably, has been completely revamped in a way that makes engaging enemies more streamlined and enjoyable, without conceding the strategy or party planning which players enjoyed in the first game.

Familiars are gone. Good riddance. In the first game players will remember the constant familiar collecting, feeding, training, swapping, and battling which, while imaginative, often served as a tedious hindrance in combat. In Ni no Kuni II, you will befriend Higgledies. These spirited little sprites are colorful, adorable, and useful in combat. For the most part, they will act autonomously while in your party, attacking enemies, healing your party, or providing buffs. You can also occasionally trigger certain special abilities, unique to each type of Higgledy, with the tap of a button.

This leaves you free to control Evan or one of his party members exclusively, and that speeds up encounters considerably. Combat unfolds in real time, and players will tap normal and strong attack buttons to pummel their foes, or else blast them to bits with magic or ranged weapons.

There is a bit of micro-management for those who crave that kind of thing in battle. Each character will equip multiple weapons, which store charges as you execute attacks. When a weapon is fully charged, you'll be able to unleash special versions of certain spells or skills. Deciding when to deplete a weapon's charge for a beefed up attack and when to keep your energy stored presents some interesting tactical options, but it never feels restrictive. Weapons charge pretty quickly, and you can have up to three fully-charged weapons stacked up and ready to swap out with the tap of a button, so you'll never feel like you're "blowing an opportunity" when using a charged spell at the wrong time.

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(Photo: Bandai Namco)

Your MP is similarly charged over time as you execute regular attacks. By tapping the right shoulder button you can unleash a steady barrage of magical blasts which, along with spells, deplete your MP gauge. Instead of pausing the action to down a magic potion and replenish your magic points (which you can still do in a pinch), the more practical option is to start swinging your sword again. Enemies will occasionally drop HP and MP replenishing orbs as well, like in the first game.

It keeps things moving; it keeps combat fluid and animated, like the rest of the game.

I have much more to say about Ni no Kuni II, and you'll get to hear all about it in our impending review. I knew that this game was going to be on the top of my personal wish-list, but I also loathed combat in the original game after about 10 hours of playtime. Combat was my primary concern coming into Ni no Kuni II, and I'm happy to report that its been improved to a degree which surpasses what I could have hoped for. Get excited.

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