Feature Article

Ni No Kuni 2 Makes Some Dramatic Changes To The Series' Battle System

Goodbye Familiars, hello Higgledies.

Level-5 rose to prominence as a video game publisher thanks largely to the popularity of its Professor Layton and Yo-Kai Watch franchises, but the company's highest-profile release is arguably Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a touching and visually stunning collaboration with legendary animators Studio Ghibli. Despite its pedigree, however, the title was ultimately mired by its uneven pacing and clunky battle system. Whether or not Level-5 has addressed the former with its follow-up, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, remains to be seen, but the developer has certainly revamped the latter, taking a more action-oriented approach to combat for this installment.

Set hundreds of years after the events of the first game, Ni no Kuni II follows the story of Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the boy-king of Ding Dong Dell. After his throne is usurped in a coup, Evan embarks on a journey to unite the different peoples of Ni no Kuni and build a new kingdom. With the aid of Tani (the daughter of the head of the Sky Pirates) and a mysterious visitor from another world named Roland, he undergoes trials to prove himself worthy to be a king and drive back the darkness that has been engulfing the land.

The demo we got to play on the E3 show floor revolved around two boss battles, showcasing the radical changes Level-5 has made to the series' combat system. In the first Ni no Kuni, players battled foes primarily with the aid of their Familiars--Pokemon-like monsters that could be tamed and evolved when sufficiently leveled. Ni no Kuni II eschews Familiars completely, and in their place are tiny elemental sprites known as Higgledies. Higgledies have a more passive role in battle than Familiars; when a group of them congregate on the battlefield, you can stand in their circle to cast a spell. These spells vary depending upon the type of Higgledies that have gathered together and typically provide buffs and other beneficial attributes to your party for a brief period of time. Fire Higgledies, for instance, grant the party a temporary fire shield, allowing you to withstand flame attacks for the spell's duration.

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The lack of Familiars isn't the only difference in Ni no Kuni II's combat system; this time around, battles unfold entirely in real-time. There were traces of real-time elements in the first title; you could maneuver your Familiars freely around the battlefield, but the action would pause while you cycled through menus and issued commands. In Ni no Kuni II, however, Level-5 has done away with battle menus and mapped your attacks to different buttons instead. Evan can unleash weak and strong attacks with his sword by pressing either Square or Triangle, while holding the right trigger brings up four additional (and more powerful) skills to use during combat. There's also a dodge button, allowing you to roll out of the way of enemy attacks. As a result, the game feels much closer to an action-RPG than before. Battles are more immediate and satisfying thanks to their heavier emphasis on action, and each confrontation plays out more briskly without the need to pause the battle and sift through menus.

Of the two battles available in the demo, the more difficult was against a dragon named Longfang. In addition to being the first major boss encounter in Ni no Kuni II, Longfang is one of the "kingmakers" in the game's world--guardian beasts that are assigned to protect the different kingdoms throughout the land. For some mysterious reason, Longfang has begun attacking the kingdom he is charged with protecting, and it falls to Evan and friends to stop his rampage. As the first major obstacle you face in the game, Longfang poses a considerable challenge thanks to his high HP, but the battle with him also illustrates how vital the Higgledies are to your success on the battlefield. Like a typical dragon, Longfang's most powerful attack is spewing fire at your party, and you'll need to cast a fire shield at the right moment to protect yourself from the screen-consuming flames.

It's difficult to tell whether or not Ni no Kuni II will address the other pacing issues that plagued the original when it launches for PlayStation 4 and PC later this year on November 10, but based on the small sampling we got of it at E3, adopting a more action-oriented, real-time battle system is a promising step. You can get a closer look at the revamped battle system in GameSpot's E3 2017 stage show segment with Bandai Namco's Dennis Lee, who showed off the game's E3 demo and discussed some of the other Western influences Level-5 looked to while developing its new Ni no Kuni title.

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kevknez

Kevin Knezevic

Associate news editor, Star Fox Adventures apologist.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

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Thanatos2k

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Edited By Thanatos2k

The push to turn all JRPGs into action RPGs is not a welcome one. It didn't work for FF15, and we'll see if it works here.

Although, the battle system in the first game was probably the weakest part of the game.

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DaShaka

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@Thanatos2k: I can't stand turn based combat (and obviously a lot of other people too) considering how well action oriented RPGs sell compared to turn based in the west.

This is a very welcome change, and I'll actually buy this one.

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sladakrobot

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Yeah...lets go the way of Front Mission...it worket out well,hasnt it?

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chrishughes571

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The description above makes it sound like the first Ni No Kuni was a failure - yet Gamespot gave it 9/10!

The first game was fantastic and the battle mechanic, in my view was excellent and the closest thing we've had to a Pokemon RPG to date. - It wouldn't surprise me if the new Pokemon Switch RPG has a lot of Ni No Kuni elements in it.

I applaud a studio for constantly innovating to improve and I'm not writing off the new battle mechanics until I've seen it first hand but this fundamental change does worry me

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everson_rm

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Edited By everson_rm

@chrishughes571: Now, imagine if Level 5 could get theyr hands on pokemon franchise, just for one rpg!

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RaveNRolla

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Looks intruiging, i like the look. might give this a try, although i haven't tried the 1st. i like longer boss battles as well.

you control the whole party i assume? do the party members have a behavioural system you can manually assign (like "in case A do action B", like e.g. Dragon Age) so you don't have to swap characters all the time?

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deactivated-5a191f2c70ab1

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I hope it works out. Enjoyed the first one. Turn based system is always reliable. If you want to transition into real time action you better know what you're doing cause it's so easy for everything to fall apart and become hectic, or simply bad. That's why you'll see Dragon Quest 11 and Persona 5 still sticking to the formula and doing great and you see FF15 try to transition and destroy what is left of the franchise.

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DaShaka

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Edited By DaShaka

@blood-souls: Saying action oriented real time battles are worse just because one publisher made a shitty game is pretty ignorant.

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starcrunch061

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Edited By starcrunch061

@dashaka: He didn't say that "action oriented real time battles are worse". Ever. Before commenting on another poster's ignorance, you should probably brush up on your reading skills.

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DaShaka

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Edited By DaShaka

@starcrunch061: Maybe you should think before commenting. The post of his was edited, moron. Second, even in the state that it’s in, it STILL somewhat implies that the turn based system is overall superior than action oriented games, which is just a matter of opinion.

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starcrunch061

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@dashaka: LOL! Yeah, I’m sure that he edited a post, more than three months after he posted, just to make you look ignorant. Good one...

Solid observation, though, on noting that the superiority of turn-based battles is merely opinion. Truly an intellectual giant here...

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DaShaka

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Edited By DaShaka

@starcrunch061: lmao, you’re truly a dip shit aren’t you... the post was changed because of my response. Go outside and stop commenting, no one wants to listen to a moron. Blocked.

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starcrunch061

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@dashaka: Blocked?!?! <clutches pearls>

Again, no one edited their post, THREE MONTHS AFTER POSTING IT, solely to make you look like a moron. After all, you do that so well yourself.

But you're still not blocked. Because...LMAO at threatening to block someone!

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NeverMore0

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The combat of the first game was definitely not a strong point, but I still like turn based.

I hope the fights aren't as tedious as they look on video. The bosses seem to have waaayyy too much HP.

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GirlUSoCrazy

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy

That's a shame, I loved the first game. No turn based = no buy.

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SoNin360

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I really liked the first game, but I did have issues with the combat for a good amount of time I spent playing it. So I'm fine with it being more or less overhauled completely. I do have doubts the story will be as good, though.

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snugglebear

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Spent a long time with the first game. Hope this one has as many little things to do.

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