Ni No Kuni 2 Featured Image
Ni No Kuni 2 | Higgledy Cost
The maximum total cost of Higgledy you can have will always be 10, so equip within that limit.

Higgledy are the fairies of this particular world. They come in 6 basic colors that represent the type of damage that they deal or protect against. Within those 6 colors they have three or four abilities possible for them to use within combat, and those abilities generally vary in strength by how high the cost is to make them part of your group (up to a maximum of 4). They get a little stronger when you raise their level in your Kingdom shop (up to level 10), but that does not affect the damage or healing nearly as much as the overall cost does. In general, it will be a while before you have access to the 3 and 4 cost Higgledy. There are many of them that you can find in the world or cook up in a pot, but they are not randomly produced. Unfortunately, they do not have nearly the personality or strength of the fairies in the first game. Higgledy are not really going to swing a battle for you one way or the other unless you play hyper conservative, they will just generally buff you and debuff the enemy. If you want them to make use of their major ability, you will have to walk over to them in the battle and press the X button. If you are a melee character, that can be super annoying, and often they will give up the requested move by the time you get to them. Just generally think of the combat as being a bit similar to the Tales series, only with far less move variety and almost no combos. Also, you can raise the level of spells and learn new ones in a shop, but weapon abilities cannot grow stronger with use and only are learned with character levels.

Ni No Kuni 2 | Tactic Tweaker
Skill points earned from combat are used to tweak some levers.

When I reviewed Final Fantasy XV a couple years ago, I was not a fan of how they combined the whole party’s skill tree into one unit and how it offered so little customization or individuality for the characters. I still stand by that assessment, but the Tactic Tweaker in this game is even worse. Not only is it a combined skill menu, there is actually no abilities learned from it and very little changes to combat itself. In that respect, at least, it was well named. You really can only tweak certain things like slightly increasing XP or loot rates, or slightly increasing the damage to certain monster types or reducing the elemental damage of some. But you can only have a small maximum to any adjustment, and always at the expense of something else. You can never enter the Tactic Tweaker menu and it will not effect your experience with the game at all. I hate to say it, but this is one of the worst uses of Skill Points I’ve ever seen in a JRPG. The one good thing about it is that you are not beholden to any choice you make, you can change the levels on anything that you have tweaked any time you are not in combat.

Ni No Kuni 2 | Skirmishes
The less said about Skirmishes, the better. They remind me of Brutal Legend.

The changes in combat are not something that I would have picked, but they are likely to please people who have a lower attention span or just hate turn based combat. But I’m not quite sure who the Skirmishes are for. The best thing I can say about them are that they make sense within the context of the story, having army versus army combat. Other than that, they are extremely basic real time strategy that are never really very fun and are easily exploited. You start off any Skirmish with a group of 4 battalions that you can muster from either the pre-combat menu or from your party menu. But Skirmish battalions gain experience and levels the more you use them, so you are going to mostly want to stick with the same 4 unless you find a set that is too much of an upgrade to pass up. Also these sequences were just not very fun, so I never wanted to grind optional battles in order to change past my first set of red/blue/green/yellow that I had. Each color of melee unit are strong against a corresponding type and weak against another and the yellow are ranged attackers. So you basically just turn your units to face the correct direction and move them next to what you want them to attack. Much like Brutal Legend, the RTS sequences just took me out of the game and felt very half baked, so I tried to avoid them as much as possible unless it was for the express purpose of gaining a new member of my city. Of course, that was until the game forces a very long sequence of Skirmish right at the very end of the game. So make sure your units are at least level 20 before you take on the end.

Ni No Kuni 2 | City Building
Recruiting new members of the Kingdom and building your city was fun.

But I want to end on a good note, so I’ve saved the kingdom building for the end. After being ousted from Evan’s original home kingdom, Roland helps him establish a new home. And a large part of the game revolves around recruiting new people from other kingdoms to join your kingdom and help build its power and its facilities. The facilities will really help you out a lot more than your Tactic Tweaker menu ever will. There are potentially 100 citizens you can find around the world (the last 5 or so are only found post game), and there are 64 facilities and buildings you can create. All of them can be upgraded several times to increase the services they offer and to increase your Influence. You may end up buying some items and possibly even some weapons or armor from other kingdoms, but generally you will want to avoid that. Your own kingdom not only provides those same things for deep discounts, but will offer many upgrades only available there. This was really the most fun I had in the entire game. That being said, it’s not without faults. That image you see above, everyone will eventually reach the exact same screen. There are no true options available to customize your city and make it your own. There might be up to 64 plots of land, but each plot can only have that one building on it, and each building can only have one upgrade path. So it’s busy work, but there is no real strategy to it. The only real difficulty is searching out the world to find new citizens and completing the quests required to convince them to join you.

Ni No Kuni 2 | Dimension Doors
Dimension Doors offer dungeons that are entirely optional.

Another idea that I mostly liked, which also suffered a bit in the execution, was Dimensional Doors. They lead to entirely optional procedurally generated dungeons. These dungeons do require a bit more strategy than anything else in the game because you do not have any map and you are also competing against a Danger Level that continually raises the longer you are in there. With each Danger Level the enemies in the dungeon raise an extra 5 levels. You have two facilities that you can build within your kingdom that will give you some very nice perks specifically for these dungeons, and for the last few Dimensional Doors I would strongly recommend you take advantage of all those upgrades before you enter (unless you are very overleveled). You need to defeat the 9 primary Dimension Doors in order to recruit the Professor NPC to your Kingdom, but your primary benefit is the loot you gain. You cannot save within the dungeons though, so there is always some risk, especially when you get into the really long ones like the above dungeon with 18 floors. The secret 10th Dimension Door represents the primary post-game content for this game, and is likely the last thing you will do for the Platinum trophy. Not only is it 30 floors long, almost double the 9th dungeon, but you need to be in the upper 90’s to stand a chance of completing it. You are rewarded with some nice gear, but I’m not sure the additional 20-30 hours it took me to level up my characters to level 99 was worth the trouble. Grinding the last story boss was the only way to even make that many levels manageable without driving myself crazy, but I still wouldn’t call it fun.

Ni No Kuni 2 | Great Moments
Overall the game is just uneven, both great and terrible moments abound.

While there wasn’t a huge drop in the art quality, you can still tell that the full Studio Ghibli backing was not there because of how few monster designs there are. More noticeable was the serious drop in music quality. The only really memorable song in the game was a remastering of the theme song from the first Ni No Kuni. The music isn’t exactly bad, it’s just nowhere near the quality that I was expecting after the first game. And that’s my overall feeling with this game. I do sincerely hope our readers have more fun with this game than I did, I likely would have had more fun if I never played the first title. This is not a bad game, just uneven and has a lot of different ideas thrown in without spending enough time in the oven. I wouldn’t call it a waste of your $59.99 even with the much shorter story. 30 hours is still not bad for a game, even a JRPG, and if you want to max out everything in the game it is double that. But if you end up going through the game and like it at all, I strongly recommend you go back and play Wrath of the White Witch, that is a true classic. Hopefully there will be a third game in this series that can get back to those heights.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the Publisher.

William Haderlie
Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.