For fans of the original, it’s been a long wait for the second instalment with the original launching in the west in 2013. However, that wait is finally over as Ni No Kuni 2 hit the shelves worldwide on 23rd March. Like the original this title has been made in collaboration with Studio Ghibli, a much loved and celebrated Japanese animation studio. The story is separate to that of the original and while in the same world it is set one thousand years later. The game follows Evan, the young king of the nation of Ding Dong Dell who early in the story is an unfortunate victim of a coup, of course, the royal adviser. I’ve been busy playing the game, so feel free to read my early findings below.

Now, I will admit that in the first 30 minutes, I wasn’t all that sold on the storyline. The whole ruler without a kingdom, struggling to regain what they’ve lost, story has been done a lot in RPGs. However, the storyline soon branches out and becomes more immersive than it at first appears. The gameplay is smooth and polished. The new combat system takes on an action RPG style with quick and  heavy attacks and dodge and block mechanisms.  More gameplay elements are also added as you advance through the game, a sim feeling kingdom management system and skirmishes encounters which have you control an army of up to four units against enemy forces. These, added to some wonderful environments and dungeons to explore, makes the game a pleasure to play.

Studio Ghibli’s influence is most obvious in the designs of the characters and a lot of the environments. There have been quite a few moments when I enter a town for the first time, or meet a new character that I think “yep that’s Studio Ghibli”. However, the game does have its disappointments. A lot of even the main cutscenes aren’t fully voice acted. Now, this is a big game with a lot of quests, and I certainly wouldn’t expect every conversation to be fully voiced. However, I would expect all quests in the main storyline to be fully voice acted. Instead, all you get is a few short scenes, here and there, which are fully voice acted and then it’s back to text and few multi-purposed expressions and this does detract from the games otherwise polished look and feel.  The other area that game feels less than perfect is the skirmish encounters which feel restrictive and clunky to play. However, at least those are mostly optional.

Overall, I am really enjoying this game. The visuals are delightful the gameplay is enjoyable and varied and there are some great scenes and characters. The few niggles have to this point remained just that and haven’t ruined the experience, other than give me the odd moment where I feel, for a brief second, that it could have been made even better. I haven’t yet completed the game but once I have, I’ll certainly do a full review, as my experience of the storyline is still in the early stages. If you enjoy JRPGs or are a Studio Ghibli fan then you’ll certainly enjoy this game.