The first Ni No Kuni was a wholly unique game, and a meeting between the talented studio Level-5 and the legendary animation company Studio Ghibli. Now that Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has finally gotten a release date, the Fall is quickly approaching. Recently at E3 2017, we got a chance to sit down with Dennis Lee, Brand Manager at Bandai Namco Entertainment America. We tried to dig in and get as much info as possible, especially on those Kingdom Building elements we still know so little about. While you’re at it, make sure to take a look at all the ways Ni No Kuni II’s combat has drastically changed, from our hands-on time with the game.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Ni No Kuni II: Story Details
Hayes Madsen from Twinfinite: Where does Ni No Kuni II Take Place In Relation to the first game?
Dennis Lee from Bandai Namco: Ni No Kuni II actually is a completely different world than Ni No Kuni I. Even though you will see a lot of similar areas and themes, so of course there’s still a Ding Dong Dell, and it’s still a kingdom of cat and mice people; but the world itself is actually a completely different world But, there is no parallel, it’s not the same world in a different time period or anything. Completely new world and new character, but there still is a lot of similarities in the world.
Twinfinite: Is there still a kind of parallel world, like how Oliver traveled to the magical world in the first game?
Lee: There is. So Evan’s world is of course the magical world, which is known as the Ni No Kuni, but then also Roland comes from the other world. So Rolan in the other world is the president of a country. So because of that, he already knows what it takes to be a good leader. And once he meets Evan and couple things transpire, he decides he’s going to help mentor him on how to be a good ruler.
Twinfinite: Anyone that’s played the first game knows it starts off with a pretty heavy note, can we expect similar types of storytelling or emotion in the second game?
Lee: Definitely. While it won’t be like a one to one, there is a lot of the storytelling that Level-5 wanted to create. What they were looking to do is kind of blend the sensibilities in a lot of what goes into theatrical animated films with a video game or a role playing game, and kind of put those together; while the story may not be the same thing. Evan of course at the beginning of this game, his father does pass away, and at that point he is brought in, he’s basically thrust into becoming the ruler of Ding Dong Dell and he might not be ready for it.
So one of the themes for Ni No Kuni II is that it’s a coming of age story, very similar to a lot of Studio Ghibli films. But it really is about learning how to become a leader, how to become confident in yourself. But there are elements where people might be able to pull in emotional ties while they’re playing.
Twinfinite: How intricately is Studio Ghibli involved in the development process?
Lee: For Ni No Kuni II what Level-5 has done is kind of bring back the core dream team of developers for the game. So of course Level-5 worked on the story, characters, world, gameplay, all those mechanics. But they did bring back who also worked on the first Ni No Kuni, Yoshiyuki Momose, a former animator and characters designer at Studio Ghibli. He worked on Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away, so you can see a lot of his influence in the character design of Ni No Kuni II, very similar to Studio Ghibli films because he worked on a lot of those as well.
Ni No Kuni II: Combat and Dungeons
Twinfinite: The combat system is drastically different in this game, it honestly reminds me of the Tales series. Is there any other JRPG series Level-5 looked to as an inspiration?
Lee: Level-5 when they worked on Ni No Kuni 2, they evaluated what they did with the original, and of course they took in a lot of feedback from the fans, and so they really wanted to elevate the game and surpass what they did with Ni No Kuni. One thing that they really did a great job with in Ni No Kuni II, is they streamlined everything into full real-time combat. And so with that it really immerses the players into the combat while they’re playing. They wanted to make sure the combat felt really visceral, and in that they looked a whole lot of different games and genres, and experiences.
They really looked at a lot of different things, like adventure and actions games, and even a little bit from fighting games. One little element which typically isn’t in a traditional role-playing game combat system, is where if you time hitting the defend button right when you’re gonna get hit, then it’s almost like a parry in a fighting game, and then you can negate that damage completely. Even little cues like that they wanted to create something that had a nice hybrid balance for action role playing games. They worked very hard on the systems and including things that rewarded the skill [of players].
Twinfinite: Is the focus solely on playing as Evan, or will there be options to play as the other party members?
Lee: Yeah, so of course Evan is the main protagonist so the story does revolve around him. But during the game any of the characters that are in your party, you’ll be able to swap to any of them instantaneously. So you can start a battle as Evan, but then you’ll be able to swap to anyone else that is in your party.
And then one other change we did not’ show at E3 but we showed earlier in the year, is that the dungeon areas have been completely redone to where those are just large expansive areas to explore, and all the enemies are just populating the area. A lot of other RPGs might have random battles or symbol and you go into an arena to fight, with Ni No Kuni II it’s just one expansive area and you’re able to explore, run away, fight.
Twinfinite: So it’s just seamless?
Twinfinite: I noticed bosses have quite a bit of HP in the demo, is there some kind of scaling difficulty or selectable difficulty levels?
Lee: So we haven’t talked in that much detail about the difficulty, of course, the E3 demo Level-5 did tune the balance so they were difficult, meaty enough to where players if it’s the only chance they’re going to get to play, that it’s a long enough battle so they can experience a lot of different things. Bosses of course will have a lot of HP, in general, but there’s a lot of different strategies that you can implement, so many weapons in your arsenal and different nuances in the ways that you can play.