We've spent around 15 hours with Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, and in that time, we've been weighing up the game's completely overhauled combat system. Indeed, the sequel scraps the system that was introduced in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, but should it have stuck to its guns?
Okay, so what's changed in Ni no Kuni II? Well, first of all, the sequel opts for a combat system that's totally real-time and action based. What this means is that there's no waiting around for bars to fill or energy to replenish -- you're free to move, attack, defend, or evade whenever you want.
Aside from an item menu that pauses the fight, there are no action menus or move lists to worry about, either. Attacks are assigned to face buttons on the DualShock 4, and holding down R2 brings up a simple special move wheel, with X, circle, square, and triangle each mapped to a different technique, skill, or magic spell. It's all very intuitive.
Of course, those of you who played the first game may not like the sounds of this new system, but give it a chance and it'll more than likely grow on you. As noted in our Hands On article, the game controls like a dream. There's a fluidity to movement that translates especially well into battle, and that's a huge plus when fights often have you dashing around the environment to better position yourself against the enemy.
There's some nice enemy variety, too, and various types of foes usually band together during one battle. For example, you can come across a group of rat bandits who are accompanied by a couple of flying bird wizards, and this combination forces you to think a little more about your approach.
This is where long range attacks come into the equation. Alongside their melee weapons -- like swords, axes, and spears -- each party member also has access to projectiles. You can whack a rat bandit with a quick combo, dive to one side, fire off a quick blast with your pistol to bring down a flying opponent, and then finish things off with a flashy special attack. Admittedly it's all quite standard action game fare, but again, responsive controls and lovely visual effects make the system stand out.
Extra depth is added when you consider character switching and higgledies. You can have up to three party members in combat at once, and you can swap between them by hitting either up or down on the directional pad. Although all of the heroes share the same controls and basic actions, they each come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Stern swordsman Roland, for instance, strikes a wide angle with his slashes, making him a good option when it comes to fighting enemies that are jumbled together. Protagonist Evan, meanwhile, has access to long range spells as well as quick sword attacks up close, making him a solid all-rounder.
Much like the party members that you're not controlling, higgledies are managed by the artificial intelligence, and it does a good job. These little elemental creatures roam the battlefield, their main purpose being to boost the abilities of you and your allies while also dishing out big damage when you need it most. When they're ready to pull off a super attack, all you need to do is run over to them, hit X, and watch the fireworks. They're cute but definitely deadly.
Ni no Kuni II's combat system is relatively simplistic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The core gameplay is strong enough to support it as you roll away from danger and retaliate when the time is right, and the spectacle certainly doesn't disappoint, but is it better or worse than the first game's hybrid system?
It's a tough question to answer. On one hand, this is definitely easier to wrap your head around. The basic rules of an action title apply here, and whacking your way through hordes of monsters is undeniably satisfying. As far as we're concerned, it's one of the better overall combat systems we've experienced in quite a while.
On the other hand, the difference in depth may turn returning Ni no Kuni players off -- at least initially. Couple that with the lack of Pokémon-esque monster wrangling from the first game, and some players might find themselves yearning for more complexity and challenge.
With all that in mind, there's an argument to be made that developer Level-5 should have simply built upon the original Ni no Kuni's system, but in our opinion, this new combat's still a clean cut above what you find in most action role-playing titles, and we can see a lot of players preferring its more streamlined approach. Ultimately, it's just fantastic fun.
What did you think of the original Ni no Kuni's combat system? Are you a fan of more action based combat? Let us know how you like to play in the comments section below.