Ni No Kuni II starts with a bang — literally. Within a few seconds of the opening scene, a missile flies past the US president and detonates over a city. Moments later, the president has woken up in a strange land full of talking animals. His first question is: “Am I dead?”
The measure of Ni No Kuni II can be summed up in how quickly the president, Roland, discards that question and instead focuses on the magical world around him. Shortly into the opening section, Roland decides to stay in the strange kingdom of Ding Dong Dell and help its young prince Evan take back the throne. After fighting away a horde of malevolent, usurping mice, Roland glances down at the precocious Evan and the narration extols: “Roland decided to stay, because he saw something special in the young prince.”
Ni No Kuni II requires the same sort of faith from its audience. You need to forget the world around you and dive headlong into the magic. If you do, the reward is a remarkable journey, the kind not seen often enough in modern gaming.
After escaping the mouse uprising in Ding Dong Dell, Roland and Evan set out to find a ‘kingmaker’, a special creature who can anoint Evan a king, so he can take back the throne. Their journey takes them all over an astonishing world, from a land of sky pirates to a gold casino city to Mediterranean-style islands. This is the closest we’ve ever come to an interactive Studio Ghibli movie in gaming, which is no surprise, considering Ghibli worked on the first game in the series.
The original game was a charming, but slow affair, in which combat was turn-based and strategic. It suffered from simplicity and poor pacing. This sequel, which bears no connection to the plot of the first game, has rectified those mistakes by making combat real-time and packed with action. Ni No Kuni II plays like a beginner’s version of Nier: Automata or any other third-person action title. While special moves and tactics play their part, this is mostly a game about attacking, blocking and dodging.
The switch to action-packed combat may annoy traditional RPG fans, but the result is a system that will engage a much wider audience than before. Ni No Kuni II deserves to reach that audience, as this is a true fairytale world that can be enjoyed by all ages.
Roland eventually finds answers about why he is in the world of Ding Dong Dell, but that question won’t be on your mind as you play. You won’t be asking why you are there, you’ll be asking why you have to leave.
If Ni No Kuni II is a little cartoonish for your tastes, then we have just the antidote. The return of Kratos is just a few weeks away, meaning gaming’s greatest revenge artist is back to paint our screens in red.
We’ve seen surprisingly little of God of War, but we can safely say that it won’t be a game for the weak of stomach. In his previous outings, Kratos took savage revenge upon the gods of Olympus for destroying his family. This time around, Kratos is living in the realm of Norse deities and he has a new son, Athreus, to protect.
Previous games in this series were some of the most brutal ever, but this modern update seems a little more restrained. From the clips shown, Kratos does as much wandering and exploring as he does killing, making this God of War seem more like Tomb Raider. Has God of War grown up? We hope not. Only three weeks until we find out.
Ready Player One hit Irish cinema screens last week and could well become the most successful video game film of all time. Well, that’s if you consider it a video game film at all.
While Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster is based on a novel by Ernest Cline, it features a plethora of cameos from famous video game characters, too numerous to list.
It’s also a film about virtual reality and an online world.
With Tomb Raider again languishing in the doldrums, we’ll happily adopt Ready Player One as one of our own.