Japanese role-playing games tend to come in the form of long series. Final Fantasy is perhaps the most well-known example, along with Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts (a one-story saga 15 years in the making), and Dragon Quest. Then you have the ongoing Pokémon, Atlus’ Persona, and Megami Tensei franchises, Nintendo’s Fire Emblem, Koei Tecmo’s Atelier series. And of course, Bandai Namco’s Tales of series.
These are just some of the franchises that are still putting out sequels to this day. I haven’t even begun to dig into defunct classics. So you can see why it would be easy to get sequel fatigue if you tend to gravitate towards playing JRPGs.
A Beautiful Sequel
Ni no Kuni II is the sequel to 2011’s Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, which was an enhanced version of the 2010 DS title Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn. In Wrath of the White Witch, players set off on an incredibly long (hundreds of hours) journey with a young boy named Oliver on a quest to save a mysterious world and revive his dead mother.
The game is dripping in magic and mysticism and looks and feels like a Studio Ghibli film, which makes sense given the actual studio’s involvement with the game. Ni no Kuni is upbeat and cheery and dark in turns, and as with most JRPGs, it includes complex systems of navigating the world and combat to memorize.
The original Ni no Kuni introduced us to a world of magic and brightness unlike what we’ve seen in more modern JRPGs, which tend to lean into more darker themes and plots. It was Ghibli to the core, with charming characters and locations painted in technicolor strokes. It felt almost like being in Oz with Dorothy.
Ni no Kuni II also features a story of beating back the impending darkness, starring young King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who is usurped from his throne and must fight to reclaim it. It, too, is a colorful, beautiful affair with some of the most gorgeous-looking art direction we’ve seen in some time. The visuals alone are enough to give you a break from the gray, black, and red palettes of some current games. It also gives a breath of reprieve from the heaviness of death and destruction for a plot equally as dire but not quite as serious.
Battles against enemies are in real-time so it allows you to free roam the battlefield, as well as use adorable little sprites named Higgledies to help you achieve your goals. It’s a welcome kind of light charm.
Something a Little Bloodier
On the flip side of Ni no Kuni II is Code Vein, set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with vampires with gameplay more akin to Dark Souls. In the Souls games, players often find themselves up against terribly strong boss enemies with high amounts of health points and devastating attacks. These are the enemies you most commonly fight in these games, and sometimes you have to die and lose over and over before you can master a technique to vanquish them.
The Souls games have gained wild popularity and are a favorite among the hardcore gaming community. So it’s a high compliment to compare Code Vein to such a daring and challenging family of games. In Code Vein, you spend much of your time wandering an open world environment and have some stylish weaponry in your arsenal. Once you beat an enemy down enough, you can then drain them dry and move along.
Ni no Kuni II and Code Vein are two wildly different games, but they may just be your cure for sequel fatigue. They come out on January 19, 2018, for PlayStation 4 and PC, and sometime in 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC respectively.