Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was a major shift for the series. Gone were the semi-turn-based battles of the original, replaced with action combat reminiscent of the Tales of series. Instead of collecting spirits, we collect citizens for kingdom-building and army battles. The story focus shifted, with a stronger focus on the characters of the fantasy world and much less on the events of the connected real world. There were a few different reactions to these changes, but ultimately the sequel received positive reviews and built its own fanbase. For me, the shift elevated the series to one I’d like to see evolving for years to come.
This context is crucial to note when speaking about the Switch version, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Prince’s Edition, because while it’s hard to take away from the stellar core that Ni no Kuni offers, its minor changes weigh lightly against the crushing weight of technical sacrifices.
Prince’s Edition starts with a promising value proposition, including the three meaty pieces of DLC for the original and some tweaks to integrate this DLC smoothly into the core game. This means you can start each DLC in sequence with your initial playthrough, though, as with the originals, the meat of the experience requires a post-game party to complete.
Special DLC equipment is scattered throughout the game, popping up in shops for a negligible price at times when the equipment is an upgrade, but not so much that it invalidates the loot you find in dungeons. From a structural standpoint, this is the best way to experience the DLC within a normal first playthrough.
And that playthrough is still a treat. Charming character designs by Yoshiyuki Momose and music by Joe Hisaishi give the impression of a Studio Ghibli project despite Ghibli’s lack of involvement in this sequel. Combat is snappy with simple inputs and a range of equipment and abilities, while the kingdom-building section of the game adds depth to the whole experience. Finding new citizens and assigning them to your various facilities in the best way remains an engaging path to optimizing your experience throughout the game. Useful tweaks, from increased speed on the world map to upgrading magic spells, come from fleshing out your kingdom and offer a tantalizing sense of progression no matter what is happening in the game. But for most of the game, you’ll be in comfortably familiar RPG land.
Perhaps the only obvious weaknesses in this core experience are some overly simple army battles and characters who often fade into the background for long stretches at a time. You won’t find many challenges or surprising gameplay shifts after your first few hours of the game, either.Otherwise, it’s safe to call the game a complete delight. The characters aren’t too deep, and the story isn’t stacked with surprises, but there’s undeniable charm to the upbeat tone, the colorful world, and the beautiful designs. Locales are varied, from a city where gambling is the only law of the land to a technological marvel built into the core of a giant tree. The overworld you travel is dotted with army battles, powerful monsters with valuable rewards, and hidden areas with a variety of sidequests.
The whole time, battles fall into a comfortable action rhythm. Each character comes packed with mêlée and ranged weapons, as well as a variety of skills and spells, making each feel varied enough to stay interesting. Dodging and blocking feel snappy, though they’re rarely needed outside of some truly impressive boss battles that can change the game’s mechanics in an instant. And best of all, the party is pretty well balanced. Each character feels viable either in your party or under your control. The game is packed with fun activities and delightful design.
All of these are present on the Switch. But unfortunately, the system struggles to run the game. Technical hiccups are pronounced no matter how you play. While these won’t be deal breakers for some players, they’re severe enough to be noticeable to even the most untrained eye. There are two fundamental problems with playing Ni no Kuni II on Switch: the framerate and the resolution. While both exist no matter how you play, you can pick your poison to some degree. Framerate issues are most prominent in docked mode, and resolution is a more significant issue in handheld.
Framerate issues are the most likely problems to interfere with the gameplay experience. The problem here is that the framerate isn’t just low, but extremely variable. Everything can look completely normal running through a dungeon, then when the camera spins to a longer hallway with a few too many enemies, the framerate drops to the floor. While the game is still technically playable in this state, it does introduce a noticeable degree of input lag. In an action RPG, it’s a hard sin to forgive, but the issue isn’t exclusive to battle. Even when exploring the world, dropped frames often led to difficulty lining up to speak to an NPC or trying to run up a narrow path. Luckily, such instances aren’t too common, but exploring the world is a choppy experience even at the best of times.
These specific issues decrease somewhat in handheld, but the resolution hit that the game takes with the move to the Switch gets even worse playing that way. In docked mode, the resolution drops are most noticeable in the details. Shadows look a little off, background objects lack definition, and the world map is a little less sharp, but it doesn’t sacrifice the core aesthetic like handheld mode does. With the drop to an even lower resolution, the rough edges of the semi-cel-shaded art style come into stark relief. Character outlines are jagged, as if they came from two or three generations past. Details in the foreground become difficult to make out in bustling locations. The world becomes a bit less engrossing when you can tell it wasn’t modeled for this level of detail.
Perhaps the most haunting issue I saw was with lines disappearing. Several times playing in handheld mode, a character would deliver a line, then their mouth would close… and completely disappear. It’s surprising and elicits a laugh at first, until the horror edge of it hits your frontal lobe. King Evan, how can you make a phone call… if you cannot speak?
These stumbling blocks make the whole experience feel a bit more low-rent than the original. Some of the magic gets lost in the transition, and the DLC doesn’t offer enough to entice an additional playthrough. It is primarily post-game content, with the increased level cap from each piece of DLC becoming a requirement to engage in the next. They are also mainly combat content with only a handful of story beats that’ll offer more than a passing curiosity. The DLC may appeal to completionist fans, but most players won’t stick around for the full experience.
Ni no Kuni II is still an excellent game. In most respects, I find it superior to the original, with fewer barriers between the player and the game itself. It’s packed with quality-of-life features, cool subsystems, and interesting side content to conquer. Unfortunately, the Switch version is the worst way to experience a fantastic game. For most players, the original will provide the best experience. There’s no new content to speak of here, and the visual setbacks make taking advantage of the Switch’s form factor a dicey prospect. You should absolutely play Ni no Kuni II. But you probably shouldn’t play it on the Switch.