Early Thoughts on Ni No Kuni 2

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Ni No Kuni 2 is here! Feel the joy… and the sadness. The art style, like the first game, is endearing and colorful. The story so far, also like the first game, pulls at the heart strings. Tear. (But I won’t get into that! No spoilers here other than the general setting.)

I only played the first 15 or so hours of the first game, but I really enjoyed it. It was hard for me to finish a PS3 game amidst all of these current-gen titles. With this in mind, I’m glad that the story in this sequel isn’t a direct continuation of the first game. It’s set in the same universe, but with a brand new cast of characters (at least that I’ve seen so far) and years into the future. I can enjoy this sequel without having to watch a recap of the first game. (Maybe I will get back to it someday!)

So what else is new besides the story? The combat. Familiars are no where to be found (at least not in the early hours of the game), but Auntie Martha does give you some fun critters – higgledies – to assist you in battle. Combat is no longer turn-based with a UI to select commands. Now, there are quick and heavy attacks mapped to square and triangle, respectively. Dodging can be performed by hitting L1. It’s definitely more of an action game this time around. In addition to this, your character can switch between 3 equipped weapons in battle using L2. This is super fun. There is also a “Zing!” system that seems to charge attacks and skills based on a meter – but I haven’t really seen this in action yet. I’ll provide an update to this later. And as for skills – think magic. You hold down R2 in battle and hit the face button mapped to the skill that you want to use. Fire bombs, ice magic, you name it. Using skills consumes MP, so use wisely! The combat is fresh and fun, and I get excited to jump into battles.

Did I mention yet that you can break pots to find items (cough Zelda cough)? There are treasure chests and glimmering items to find as you explore areas. Thankfully, the areas are large, but manageable. This is something that I also enjoyed about the first game. There was enough room to explore so that the world felt like a mystery to search, but not too much open space to get overwhelmed.

The beginning of the game is linear, and this is great for a story-focused game. I can appreciate the “open-enough” areas with some exploration, but I appreciate getting through them in a reasonable amount of time to continue the story. After the beginning sequence (maybe about an hour), you’ll reach the over-world. Oh boy, are the characters cute in the over-world. Wait ’til you see them! The over-world map does allow for more exploration between areas, but, again, it isn’t daunting. Find some chests and glimmering items, fight some enemies, then go to the next area to continue the story.

Need to keep up on what’s going on around the world in the game? Try Leafbook! It’s a new “tool” in your menu that is basically Facebook, but just with blog posts and comments. Ha! The posts aren’t by real people – the game is taking a jab at the internet and social media. It’s funny, and informative!

So all of this sounds great! What about the not so great stuff?

Well, one of them is a complaint I have in a lot of games – no pausing in battles or cutscenes. Before you say it, yes, I’ve played Dark Souls and Bloodborne (and I have the Dark Souls 3 platinum thankyouverymuch). I get that some devs do this for a “reason”, but honestly, that reason is never more important than being able to pause when my real life gets in the way. If I need to tend to the oven timer or answer my phone, I’d like to do it. Please allow me to pause at anytime, anywhere. (You can’t save everywhere in this game, but I don’t mind that as the save points are close enough together.)

My other gripe: text blurbs that pop up while walking around in an area. When exploring, the characters talk to each other via these text blurbs at the bottom of the screen. The game isn’t completely voiced. Voice acting only comes in during cutscenes and some other story heavy parts. I don’t care that every word in the game isn’t voiced, but don’t have a text conversation in really small font when I’m busy controlling my character. Make the font bigger, have those conversations voiced, or save these conversations for when I’m not moving around. I regularly feel that when these pop up that I just missed something. Alas. We can’t have perfection!

The biggest draw of this game, to me, is what I started this post with – the art style. Whether I’m in the over-world with the cute chibi characters or in a local area with the normal sized ones, the bursting colors bring me joy. The local areas with the full animation are beautiful and diverse. I’m now 10 hours into the game, and I get excited to see each new location. I wish I could pause life right now and just play this game. Okay, back to it!

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