The One True King

Let the banners of war never again be unfurled.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is the exceptionally enjoyable and engrossing sequel to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch that features an ever-expanding world to explore, an ever-evolving kingdom to lead, functional resource gathering mechanics, and more side quests than any one fledgling king could hope to complete. Much like the previous entry in the series there’s no shortage of things to do. You’ll be tasked with slaying powerful monsters, collecting songbooks, recruiting new citizens, learning new recipes, leading your armies to war, and so much more as you work through the main campaign.

The DLC adds a sizeable chunk of playable content, too.

Besides the overflowing number of things to do my favourite experiences were those of kingdom building. I’ve written before of how delightfully fun the process is, but kingdom building is superb and it never feels like a chore to return to Evermore after you’ve delved into a dungeon or tackled a tainted monster.

Being able to build and continually upgrade facilities to have access to increasingly powerful equipment, more varied Higgledies, more impressive spells, and further bonuses in combat is a rare pleasure. It never feels forced but it’s not required, either. You can quite easily finish the Dreamer’s Doors without the Dimensional Lab. Or you could simply buy equipment rather than craft your own. Or find it on monsters. That said, it’s entirely worth your time to invest in developing Evermore and I encourage you to do so. It’s a ridiculously useful hub location that unlocks more than a few useful things. It’s also a great place to engage in various side quests that (I do believe) are unavailable elsewhere. Or you could just catch up with your various party members and see what they’ve got to say.

I’ve also greatly enjoyed the various combat mechanics in the sequel. Opting instead for an action-orientated approach that allows your party members to act autonomously, but also lets you switch the playable character, offering the choice between long range and close range weaponry, while giving you full control of their spells and abilities. It’s almost entirely seamless, too. Unless you’re on the world map you don’t need to switch to a dedicated combat screen. Making for more fluid, engaging, and enjoyable combat. It also allows you to see when enemies have superior numbers or are of a higher level.

Which is quite useful inside of the Dreamer’s Doors.

The aforementioned comprise the majority of randomly generated content in the sequel. Each Dreamer’s Door leads to a labyrinthine dungeon which you’ll need to explore as an ever-increasing Danger Level promises more powerful monsters, and your aim is to either finish the dungeon or escape to safety.

I had great expectations for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom and it has far exceeded them by having a wealth of playable content and a surprisingly extensive main campaign. Which is a good thing. It’s always better to have more content than less especially when it is of the quality that this series is known for. The only drawback to being entirely absorbed in the series is that I’ve finished the majority of content in both, and I’m currently working through the DLC in the sequel. Which, really, isn’t a drawback, as it’s been an entirely enjoyable affair. I’ve not once felt that I’m forcing myself through the content to see what’s next. Which is why if you’re interested in enjoyable, engrossing, and downright fun JRPGs I can highly recommend anything and everything in the Ni no Kuni series!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

A Fledgling Kingdom

Where everyone can live happily ever after.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do have a slight problem when it comes to building houses in video games. Or building anything for that matter. I’d assume that Suikoden is entirely responsible for this, but you didn’t necessarily build Toran Castle and instead hired the playable Stars of Destiny who improved the facilities available therein. Hence why I’ve been overjoyed with the kingdom building in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, as it’s reminiscent of the concept present in Suikoden but feels much broader and has exceptional functionality. Each citizen recruited to Evermore makes an immeasurable difference.

Especially when crafting new equipment or cooking up Higgledies.

Crafting is actually one of my favourite things to do when visiting Evermore. With the different resource gathering facilities you’re able to collect endless quantities of materials, and through the production facilities you’re able to turn those materials into powerful equipment. It seems simple but it’s delightfully functional.

Unlike other crafting mechanics, where rare materials are so ridiculously rare that you don’t even attempt to use them, or where recipes are often obtained far too late for them to be useful, the crafting mechanics in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom are wonderfully accessible. You unlock sets of crafting recipes each time the relevant research is finished, and by crafting that equipment you’re able to heighten the proficiency of your citizens. As citizens become more proficient they can undertake more complex research. That’s it. No arbitrary requirements or excessive grinding needed. This extends to every facility available in Evermore, too. From the Dimensional Lab to Tasty’s Cookshop each upgrade remains as intuitive as the last. In fact, it was so intuitive I often built far too much for my current citizen count.

There is such a thing as having too many Kingsguilders.

For these (and many other) reasons I’ve greatly enjoyed the ambitious sequel to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch even if it does do several things differently. The kingdom building is incredibly fun and I’ve often spent hours researching, recruiting citizens, and unlocking new spells or equipment with no regrets. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the main campaign by taking the time to outfit my party. It never feels forced, either. You never loathe having to spend time in Evermore because there’s so much to do. The only minor criticisms I have of the sequel concern both the skirmishes and the tainted monsters.

Both of which seem to be haphazardly peppered around the world map.

The skirmishes disappear and reappear with annoying frequency and seem to follow no particular order. Therefore, levelling troops can be a clunky affair. While tainted monsters, though presented in an order, and with what you would assume is increasing difficulty, make little sense when you actually encounter them.

That said, these are very minor criticisms that don’t affect the main campaign in any meaningful way. As you’ve no requirement to fight any tainted monsters (other than those for side quests) and the story-related skirmishes are surmountable if you’ve collected troops from side quests. These criticisms don’t detract from the general wonder of exploring the world map, either. Which is another thing that Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has done very well. It has a sprawling world map that’s fun to explore as you’re always finding treasure, new locations, or more Higgledies. It really encourages you to leave Evermore and to see what’s happening outside the kingdom walls. Not that I want to. I’ve got Kingsguilders to collect, citizens to level up, and research to undertake. I’m sure that things will work out without my intervention.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Pure-Hearted One

You’re a wizard, Ollie-boy.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is a magnificently exquisite JRPG that tells the enchanting story of Oliver’s quest to save the person dearest to him. Featuring (quite literally) hundreds of familiars to tame, a sprawling world map, numerous locations to visit, and more treasures than you can shake a twig at this experience is truly one-of-a-kind. There are scarce few JRPGs that are as enjoyable and as engaging as this, and fewer still that have such a diverse range of content to immerse yourself in that they don’t begin to feel stale after a while. It also has some of the best art direction I’ve ever seen.

Not to mention a truly outstanding soundtrack.

I’m also quite fond of the various puzzles and riddles found throughout the main campaign. The riddles are particularly fiendish as you have to type in a response, which means you can’t simply select every available option until you find the correct one. These riddles often encourage the use of the Wizard’s Companion, too.

I’ve written before of the wonderful idea that is the Wizard’s Companion. I’m also enthusiastic about the errands and bounty hunts which comprise the majority of additional content. Errands are (as the name suggests) tasks that NPCs will assign you which often involve collecting materials, travelling to new locations, or (rarely) slaying certain creatures. Bounty hunts reward you for hunting down especially powerful creatures. Completing either (or both) will award you with rare materials, powerful equipment, and more Guilders than you know what to do with. There is an abundance of diverse and interesting content to complete alongside the main campaign, and you’re highly encouraged to take the time to revisit each major city regularly for new things to do.

There are some interesting mechanics present in combat, too. While Oliver may have prodigious magical prowess he’s also a bit squishy, which is why he (and his friends) fight with familiars. Familiars are able to learn various Tricks which allow them to perform differently in combat. Some familiars are exceptionally powerful, some incredibly durable, and some have more spells than any one creature reasonably should. Each character has their own affinity with certain familiars as well. Finding the right combinations along with a balance of offensive and defensive Tricks is not easy but satisfying when it does happen.

At a certain level familiars will be able to Metamorphose.

Once they Metamorphose into a new creature they’ll regress to Lvl 1 but they’ll retain all previously learned Tricks. That said, in the process of levelling up their second or third forms they may lose certain Tricks as they can only know eight at any given time. So sometimes levelling from base to final form can be a wasted effort.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered has drastically exceeded all expectations. Not only is there a wealth of engaging and enjoyable content throughout the main campaign but the additional content is refreshing as well. Alongside this you have various alchemical recipes to cook up, familiars to develop, a casino to gamble at, a gauntlet of combat to engage in, and a surprisingly vast sea of equipment to swim through. There are various puzzles to solve, too. Hidden spells to unlock. Forests to visit. Treasures to find on the world map. There’s a staggering number of things to see and do in either world, and it’s definitely one of the best JRPG experiences I’ve had in many years. For that reason I highly recommend this to those who enjoy RPGs, JRPGs, or heart-warming wholesome stories.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

A Gateway Between Worlds

One who travels from their world to save another.

There are few things that I enjoy more than thoroughly satisfying JRPGs. They’re somewhat rare nowadays. Hence why I was quite excited when I saw that Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was being remastered and was due for a PC release. I’ve not experienced the Ni no Kuni series before, but I was entirely aware of the PC release of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom and it looked rather neat. However, in a display of restraint that would make Oliver Take Heart quicker than I clicked the pre-order button, I decided that I would abstain from the nostalgic JRPG hoping that the entire series would be released on PC.

Which it was. So, who’s laughing now? No-one. It wasn’t in any way humorous.

I’ve regretted more than a few pre-orders in my time but I definitely don’t regret this one. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is entirely reminiscent of the JRPGs of the SNES or the PS1, and you can tell that the developers truly cared about delivering a one-of-a-kind experience when telling the story of Oliver’s adventure.

The presentation is immaculate. The visuals are beautiful, the animations are fluid, the music is exceptional, and the art direction is incredible. Unlike modern RPGs (of any description) you don’t eventually hit a wall where the only way to progress is to engage in a frustratingly repetitive task, which serves only to artificially extend the main campaign as the actual playable content is sorely lacking. I’ve regularly returned to earlier locations like Ding Dong Dell or Al Mamoon only to find new errands or bounties to undertake. While there are islands between Castaway Cove and Hamelin which I’ve yet to explore. Mostly because the enemies on those islands were actually quite challenging when I first arrived there. I could probably quite easily return and explore those islands having progressed further into the main campaign now.

Welcome to the majesty of Teeheeti Island.

That said, depending on which familiars you have, and which familiars you’d like to have, you’ve already got ample reason to explore every location on the world map. Though you can’t always guarantee that you’re going to get the familiar you want, there are the usual rewards of combat that incentive you to at least try to collect more familiars. Especially when many of the rewards from combat are ingredients used to fashion powerful equipment. Or really tasty cakes and chocolate. I too would be okay with being locked in a cage if you promised me delicious food as a reward for engaging in bloodthirsty visceral combat.

The Wizard’s Companion can be used to discover new familiars as well.

I’ve never understood (or agreed with) the idea that less information equates to higher difficulty. The Wizard’s Companion not only tells you more about your familiars, but also where certain equipment comes from, and even illustrates various alchemical formulae. More than just being useful it’s thematically appropriate, too.

There are innumerable things that I’ve enjoyed about Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered and it just keeps on giving. Every time I believe that I’ve reached a major point in the main campaign it finds some way to introduce new dungeons, modes of transportation, or increasingly more interesting spells. I’m looking forward to the sequel as well. It seems to suggest new mechanics (and a lack of familiars) of which some of those mechanics feel reminiscent of my dearly loved Suikoden. It’s been a while since I’ve led a rebel fortress. As is usual I’ll be writing more about Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered in an In Retrospect post, but I can already tell that this series is going to be one of the highlights of my entire year. It’s been such a refreshing, engaging, and entirely enjoyable experience so far.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Urge to Climb

Ascending towards the surface and the sun.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares is an absolutely bizarre but enjoyable JRPG featuring satisfying dungeon crawling mechanics. It functions similarly to other dungeon crawlers and features a party of up to five characters, but allows you to develop those characters to conform to whichever party composition you have in mind. Presenting a typical JRPG party management system of being able to swap characters as and when you please. The development of the individual characters is tied to their classes, of which there are five unique classes and two characters embodying each class resulting in ten playable characters.

Of the ten one is a secret character unlocked near the end of the campaign.

Most character development is as expected with the acquisition of experience points leading to levelling up. However, there are the Blood Devolution mechanics (that allow you to reverse the levelling process) and the class change mechanics which both require increasing quantities of blood crystals. Blood crystals which are found at random in dungeons.

Changing classes requires a quantity of blood crystals and Job Rights, while Blood Devolution requires a (significantly greater) quantity of blood crystals and Devolution Rights. Every tenth character level you are awarded both a Job Right and Devolution Right. This is one of the earlier justifications for utilising the Blood Devolution mechanics, as you can easily devolve a low level character to acquire another Job Right with which you can unlock more classes. Unlocking a class makes every skill available to that class permanently available to the character even if they switch to something else. For instance, Alice will retain Cover or Intimidate (if invested in) even if she switches from Paladin to Destroyer. So unlocking each and every class is actually a viable strategy to maximise the number of skills you have available.

There are some unusual classes, too. The Item Meister is an exceptionally useful utility class that is second only to the Blood Hunter for making the most of each dungeon. Both classes increase the drop rate of items in combat while the Blood Hunter can also increase the amount of gold earned in combat, and utilising one of these classes will have you buried under mountains of loot. Loot, which, even if it isn’t immediately useful, can be sold. I had an Item Meister for the majority of the campaign and I reached the point where I had millions of gold that I couldn’t carry due to the gold cap being just shy of ten million.

The Paladin is quite a unique approach that really excels with higher level equipment, too.

My only minor criticism of the mechanics presented herein is that the acquisition of blood crystals can be quite unpredictable. Often only one or two creatures of a particular type (of a particular floor) will drop the crystals you need, but unless you’re planning to engage in Blood Devolution repeatedly you should have more than enough of even the rarer blood crystals to get by.

I bought Mary Skelter: Nightmares on a whim as it looked like a reasonably enjoyable JRPG dungeon crawler. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to experience something that’s genuinely enjoyable and engaging that doesn’t necessarily challenge you but remains fun to play throughout. The characters and their respective classes were quite interesting and varied, while the dungeons featured actual puzzles (albeit not complex ones) and particular mechanics that required you to use the unique abilities of each character. The main campaign was also quite a bit longer than expected. If you’re a fan of JRPGs or dungeon crawlers (or both) I highly recommend Mary Skelter: Nightmares!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Crawling Through Dungeons

Truly one of my favourite things to do.

My long history of playing through Diablo II can attest to that fact. Though, to be fair, Diablo had far more dungeon crawling than the sequel considering that you were descending beneath the cathedral. But there were numerous optional areas in Diablo II filled with loot, monsters, and unforgiving winding corridors. Curse those winding corridors! That said, it wasn’t until I first heard of Legend of Grimrock that I realised there is a whole genre built around the concept. Or, perhaps more accurately, that there was a whole genre built around the concept. It feels as though the genre has been forgotten by modern developers.

The concept of dungeon crawling is certainly prevalent in ARPGs.

There are also a few wonderfully enjoyable RPGs such as Darkest Dungeon that embrace the harsh, unflinching, puzzling nature of dungeons present in dungeon crawlers. However, in most modern RPGs there are few incentives to explore and fewer still to form a particular party to overcome various challenges. In fact, most of those mechanics are simply absent.

There are a few modern CRPGs such as Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity that embrace complex character generation, numerous dialogue options, and party-based adventuring. But it does seem that complexity is slowly but surely disappearing from RPGs in general. In fact, that was one of the reasons that Fallout 4 felt so stale compared to either Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. There wasn’t really any incentive to explore besides collecting more crafting materials. Most weapons could be completely rebuilt and few unique variants actually performed differently from their base weapon class. There was something ever so slightly addictive about the exploration in both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. That and your character could actually resolve problems in different ways due to their character builds.

I get the feeling that we’re being watched…

I’ll admit that this post might seem slightly random but I do have reasons for the things that I do. In this case, this post was conceived during the time I’ve spent with the bizarrely enjoyable JRPG dungeon crawler Mary Skelter: Nightmares. While it features much of the typical JRPG busywork it also executes the dungeon crawling concepts nicely. I wasn’t expecting to actually have to solve puzzles or utilise different character abilities to overcome the challenges presented therein. It’s certainly not as complex as Legend of Grimrock (in either the puzzle mechanics or dungeon design) but it’s really fun to play.

Even if it does feature endless winding corridors in some areas.

Hence the reason that I ended up spending several hours looking for other dungeon crawlers. Unearthing everything from the Eye of the Beholder series to The Bard’s Tale trilogy and many other classic dungeon crawling experiences. I’d even forgotten that I do own both The Elder Scrolls Arena and The Elder Scrolls II Daggerfall which fit into that genre.

While the search didn’t necessarily yield the results I was hoping for it did reignite my interest in the many video game adaptations of Dungeons & Dragons rules. Given that many of these earlier dungeon crawlers were either inspired by or developed with those rules. I’ve long been considering rekindling my nostalgic love for Neverwinter Nights, which was one of my first CRPG experiences over ten years ago. When arguing with video card drivers was the true final boss of any gaming experience. Not that I fully understood or appreciated the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rules, and so didn’t actually get too far into the campaign. But those experiences did encourage me to get into the Baldur’s Gate and the Icewind Dale series. So it’s not the worst mistake I’ve ever made.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Kamurocho Revitalization Project

The deadliest real estate agent.

Yakuza 0 is a wildly unpredictable but ridiculously enjoyable JRPG. Featuring a broad main campaign, two substantial minor campaigns (the Kamurocho Real Estate Royale and the Sotenbori Cabaret Club Czar), an overwhelming number of mini-games, and hundreds of optional challenges to complete. There’s over a hundred hours of diverse content to explore which is quite an impressive feat. My only minor criticism is that with so much to do it’s hard to know when the best time is to do what. That said, a Premium Adventure mode unlocks after completing the main campaign that allows you to revisit both cities.

This progression then goes towards the New Game+ save file.

I greatly enjoyed exploring both Kamurocho and Sotenbori as they’re beautifully detailed, vibrant, living locations overflowing with myriad (optional) Substories allowing you to explore the personality of each protagonist. They also allow you to buy video games for children, pretend to be someone’s boyfriend, train a dominatrix, and go disco dancing.

The sheer absurdity of some of these Substories is what makes them so enjoyable. In fact, the entire experience is somewhat absurd. It’s heavily exaggerated but amazingly enjoyable. I can’t say that I’ve ever enjoyed playing through mini-games as much as I have when going bowling or Pocket Circuit Racing in Yakuza 0. These mini-games are fully fleshed out, entirely playable, quite complex slices of optional content. As if the main campaign content wasn’t enough. Yakuza 0 also serves as a prequel to (the remastered) Yakuza Kiwami and the titles to follow. Very lightly skimming through the rest of the series has confirmed that many of the characters, events, and locations are representative of the stories to follow. It’s a sensible prequel that does an excellent job of explaining the events to follow and allows players to become fully immersed.

I think it suits him well as a real estate agent.

As if this wasn’t enough the optional challenges consistently reward you for actually going out and doing things. The CP acquired for each challenge completed can be invested in bonuses towards combat, adventuring, or your business ventures. With some of the business venture bonuses being quite significant. These challenges may be to play certain mini-games, defeat opponents with certain combat styles, eat local cuisine, play pool, or sing karaoke until your lungs burst. There’s such a diverse selection available that everyone will find something that they enjoy and that they can earn CP doing.

I was also most impressed with how fluid and satisfying combat was.

Both Kiryu and Majima have three combat styles (with a hidden fourth style) and each represents a concept. Be it versatility, strength, or speed. By attacking enemies in any of these styles you’ll build up Heat, and once Heat has reached a certain level you’ll be able to unleash ridiculously powerful special abilities. These abilities differ depending on the style used.

If there’s one thing that stands out to me about Yakuza 0 it’s the massive scale of the content available. I wasn’t expecting something that was as broad or as developed as this is. The main campaign was engaging, exhilarating, and beautifully presented which for most series would be enough. But the Yakuza series kept layering more and more content on in a world that despite its size puts most open world video games to shame. For such a small map there is so much to do, so much to see, and so many characters to meet. I absolutely adore the art direction and voice acting, too. It’s an exceptionally well presented experience that is quite unlike anything I’ve played before. But highly recommended if you’re looking for something a little different but incredibly rewarding.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie