Change for the better
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was a beautiful, yet flawed, game. The 2010 PlayStation 3 RPG developed in collaboration with Level-5 - the makers of Professor Layton - and the famed animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Ponyo), was a magical tale that was so close to being amazing, but had several hard-to-overlook flaws. The problems were only made more obvious when compared to the areas where the game succeeded magnificently in - like the score.
There's plenty Wrath of the White Witch did right, but with the announcement of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom - this time sans direct Ghibli involvement - here are five things that the second game can hopefully do to make Ni No Kuni 2 an experience that is as good as it has the potential to be.
Revamp the battle system
A good battle system can be the difference between a great and memorable RPG...or a mundane and mediocre one. Sadly, Ni no Kuni's battle system just wasn't that good. The DS version of the game was turn based, while the PS3 version tried desperately hard to not be turned based, throwing in elements of real-time strategy while not shaking itself truly free of its turn-based roots.
If a game is going to pull off a real-time battle system, it needs to make the AI that controls the other characters competent, especially when one of those characters is your healer. Instead, NNKs AI-controlled characters would drain magic, often send out the wrong familiars, and overall just be a giant pain in the keister.
Hoping for a entirely turn-based battle system in the new game may be asking for a lot in today's age, but either way, the battle system as a whole really needs to be addressed. The combination just didn't work well. Personally, I'd vote for making it turn based, but anything here to spruce up the battle system would be appreciated. Playing as a young wizard should be a fun experience! Please make it that way.
Remove the randomness from the capture system
Close your eyes. Imagine a world filled with cute and cuddly creatures. Imagine the cutest and cuddliest one you can. You want it? Sure, ok, you can have it.
Oh wait. Sorry. That creature only has a five percent chance of joining your party. And well, luck wasn't with you today. Infuriating, isn't it?
The problem is that about sums up Ni no Kuni's capture mechanic. It's central to the game, and collecting the colorful cast of creatures is an important part of both the story and the game's battle system. The problem is that the creatures decide when they want to join your party before you can attempt to catch them, and it's such a slim chance you'll waste hours just trying to get the familiar you want. It's a credit to the game that it had familiars I was really drawn to capture, but also annoying when it was such an affair to actually go out and do it.
It would be about the same as if Pokemon decided to get rid of Pokeballs and instead the game randomly decided when you are allowed to try to catch monsters. In a game that is so based around collecting and training monsters, it's almost downright mean how hard and infuriating the capture mechanic. Mean, I tell you! Mean.
If capturing creatures is going to be important again in Revenant Kingdom - and hopefully it will be! - there needs to be a better system to actually snare the familiars you want.
Smooth out the difficulty spikes
Ni no Kuni suffered from quite uneven difficulty, and very uneven pacing. Slowly ramping up the challenge so players don't have to grind can be tricky in RPGs, but you shouldn't have to grind for hours just to make it through certain areas. There was one boss in particular I wasted a bunch of time on, only to find that the best strategy was to level up so I was higher than it was, and come back with a vengeance. Pig tanks, I tell you. Theyll be the death of me every time.
In fact, that ended up becoming my strategy for most of the game: grinding to make sure I was high enough level that I could just plow through most of the fights. Again, it's an instance where I'm playing the game in spite of itself, and that's just doesn't make for a super fun experience.
Or you can just get a Dinoceros (the strongest familiar in the game, almost to the point of being broken) and call it a day.
Introduce a more colorful cast
A game is only as good as its cast, and while Oliver, Ni No Kuni's lead, fits the bill as a cute little boy on a quest to save his mother well, some of the other characters are less than stellar. Swaine is an annoying character from the moment you meet him (he steals from Oliver, actually), and later joins your party and keepsbeingannoying.
I can't remember a time where there was a character in an RPG I so actively disliked, only to have him then promoted to being in my party. No matter what NNK did, it never managed to redeem or make Swaine more than an annoying third wheel.
Given the colorful cast of characters milling around NNKs world (talking cats! wizards! fairies!), it's weird to be stuck using three humans, especially when one of them is pretty much the worst ever. Give me fun, memorable, and well, likable characters. And hopefully no more Swaine.
More puzzles, please
Ni No Kuni is a wide-open world, begging to be explored. Full of magical and enchanting locations like the Golden Grove, The Glittering Grotto, Old Smoky, Ding Dong Dell, and the Fairygrounds, there's a lot to see and do as you follow Oliver's story.
However, the first few dungeon-like areas of the game make you think that NNK is going to play out like many other RPGs, filled with dungeons with puzzles and spells you learn that you use to overcome said puzzles. Lighting torches and placing bridges to cross to new areas seemed like just the beginning... but then it wasn't.
Eventually the dungeons are reduced to areas you just walk through, made even more disappointing by the way the game was seemingly starting to ramp up to more interesting and intricate spell-based puzzles. I'm not saying the game necessarily needed them, but it was a weird game-play element to drop, after laying such an enjoyable foundation for them.
Next time around, NNK 2 should decide early on if dungeon puzzles are something it wants to commit to, and if so, keep them around for the long haul.