To date, it has been 2121 days since Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was released. Not that I’m counting or anything. (I’m not really. This handy tool gave me the answer). In other words, nearly six years have passed without another full PC/console entry in one of my all-time favorite RPG series. So, I have a question for developer Level-5 and publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment. Where the heck is Ni no Kuni 3, mun?
Proper Tidy, Mun
I fell in love with the Ni no Kuni series with Wrath of the White Witch (try saying that quickly when tipsy) on PS3 back in 2013. In fairness, it wasn’t a particularly difficult sell. Take a whimsical RPG created by renowned masters Level-5, add animated cutscenes by the legendary Studio Ghibli, and a score composed by Studio Ghibli stalwart Joe Hisaishi. The result was Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, the first Ni no Kuni game to release worldwide. As such, it sold in excess of a million copies.
Wrath of the White Witch blew me away with its surprisingly mature story. When protagonist Oliver suffers a heart-wrenching loss right at the beginning of the game, it shows how childhood innocence can be destroyed in mere moments. Following the famous Hero’s Journey structure, Oliver finds himself in another magical world on an adventure to try to overcome his loss.
Beautifully written and voiced, with more charm than an old-school Legend of Zelda NPC, Wrath of the White Witch‘s winding tale of friendship, loss, and responsibility kept me hooked from start to finish. Of course, the beautiful aesthetic, Studio Ghibli-created animated sequences, and stirring Joe Hisaishi score certainly helped.
If there’s one area where Wrath of the White Witch lacked, though, it was the gameplay. Specifically, combat. All too often, battles descended into running around with Oliver like a headless chicken, trying to get off spells. NPC companions had a habit of “contributing” to the encounter by charging up to the enemy and promptly getting themselves incapacitated. It improved a little in the later game when you could become so OP that most fights were a breeze. But there’s no doubt that the lackluster combat still marred what was otherwise a brilliant game.
Gosh, A Sequel!
When Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom scooted onto my radar, therefore, I could barely contain my excitement. I’m sure my family got tired of me bouncing around the house yelling, “Proper tidy, mun!”, but I never did. All Ni no Kuni II had to do to be a nailed-on masterpiece was tell a new, equally emotional story, create a cast of charming characters, and keep the aesthetic splendor. Oh, and one other thing. Fix the flippin’ combat, mun!
And boy did Ni no Kuni II fix the combat. Fast and fluid, and with more of an action focus, it fixed many of Wrath of the White Witch‘s issues. Your companions were actually of some use this time and, crucially, didn’t immediately get kamikaze. It was a shame that the Familiars and Fairies were ditched in favor of far less interesting higgledies, but the sequel’s combat was undoubtedly more engaging.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the other aspects of Ni no Kuni II. Although the story was serviceable, protagonist Evan didn’t have as engrossing a character arc as Oliver. Further, the game’s themes felt muted, as if Level 5 were afraid to be as bold as they had in Wrath of the White Witch. The cast of colorful characters was charming but largely unmemorable, unlike the unforgettable Drippy.
I felt that Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom had taken one step forward and two steps back. Although it introduced promising new mechanics like kingdom building, it never fully capitalized on them. Worse, it failed to nail the storytelling basics like Wrath of the White Witch did.
Sadly, worse news was yet to come. My health has already taken a pounding this winter thanks to rampaging viruses and too much Baileys. I’ll refrain, therefore, from indulging in a full-on rant about Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds. Suffice to say, though, that the jump to mobile, complete with the shameless, aggressive monetization that so often plagues titles on these platforms, is not the direction us Ni no Kuni fans want the series to go in.
Cross Worlds isn’t going away, though. It’s making a small fortune, particularly in Asian markets, so there’s no reason for Level-5 to pull the plug. That said, there’s no real reason why a full PC/console sequel can’t be developed alongside efforts to support Cross Worlds. It has been nearly six years since Ni no Kuni II was released, so perhaps it’s a slim hope. If a third main installment could build on Ni no Kuni II‘s exciting combat but bring back the story depth and incredible humor of Wrath of the White Witch, however, I daresay Ni no Kuni 3 could be one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Make it happen, Level-5. It’d be proper tidy.