I Should Have Enjoyed Ni No Kuni 2 More Than I Did

  • Completion Date: October 2020
  • Platform: PS4
  • Completed: Main Story, ~75% or more of side quests, ~75% of Evermore
  • Score: 7 out of 10

I have problems. I have many, many problems.

I remember the first time that I disliked a game. It wasn’t even that I disliked it. I just wasn’t absolutely in love with it. I was working at EB Games (a brand of Electronics Boutique, which is now GameStop). At that time, I would say it was the peak of my gaming “career”. I was in college, and I would game until the late hours of the night. I remember I had to quickly turn off my PlayStation and jump into bed when I heard my dad get up around 5AM for work. I loved games, and would play them all day long. Then one day, I brought home a new one. I think it was just a demo if I remember right. It was some sort of mech shooter game. I booted it up, full of anticipation, and just remember thinking, “why don’t I love this?” Well, I can now answer that question with another question. “Why, Steve of 20 years ago, did you expect to love it? Do you enjoy the mech genre? Do you know anything about it? Does the game offer anything different from other games that you’ve played in the past? Did it get good reviews from any critics?” I can assure you, I wouldn’t have been able to answer any of that. I just thought I would enjoy the game because it was a video game. Silly Steve. So young. So naïve.

Thus, my trouble began. I found, year over year, that enjoying a video game was more and more difficult to do. There’s no doubt that I still enjoyed them. But that pure and simple joy of gaming began to diminish. Maybe, just maybe, I was growing up. Let’s shed a collective tear for me please.

I remember when I started a new job at a small company. I certainly didn’t expect to work with anybody I knew there, but to my surprise, one of my friends that I hadn’t seen in years worked there as an intern. His name was Jonathon. I remember talking to Jon frequently about what he was playing, what I was playing, and how we were enjoying it. One thing he said quite often was to look at me with a look of exasperation, and say, “So many games!” I think he was probably joking. At the time, I honestly wasn’t sure what he meant. So many games? And you’re upset by this? Why? You should be excited beyond belief that the thing you love in life has so many options.

It took me years to realize what he was getting at. The more games that are available to you, the more choices you have. The more games that are available to you, the less certain you are that what you are playing is what you should be playing. Is there something else out there that I would be enjoying more? Should I stop playing this game and pick up something else? What if I stop playing this game and I miss out on one of the best gaming experiences of my life? Oh, gaming collection, you cruel mistress, why do you have to be so mean to me?

Choosing your games is a serious business. I now have a PS4, PC, and a Switch (I don’t own an Xbox, don’t @ me). I find that this issue of choosing the right game is becoming more and more prevalent. It got to the point that I wondered if I just wasn’t a gamer anymore, since I wasn’t enjoying any of the games I was playing as much as I thought I would (this turned out to be false, as I soon found that this is an unfortunate but unavoidable by-product of growing up – you get a little grumpy and less excited about anything exciting #Truth).

Now we come to Ni No Kuni 2. Ni No Kuni 2 is the sequel to Ni No Kuni (surprise). It isn’t a direct sequel. The characters and story are completely different, and even the combat has changed substantially. In the first game, you were more of a Pokémon trainer, where you had to catch certain monsters, train them, level them up, and have them fight on your behalf. In NNK2, you do the fighting yourself. It has a hybrid system, somewhere between old-school JRPGs and the newer games like FF15. There are no random battles. You see the enemies on the map, and you can sometimes choose whether to fight or run (although sometimes they will chase you and catch you, which will cause you to enter the battle surprised). In combat, you control one of three characters. The other two are mostly automatic. You press a light attack or heavy attack to make your character swing their weapon, and you can chain attacks together into a 5-hit combo. You also have magic attacks that cost the equivalent of Mana, and you have to swing your weapon to build up that bar. The system is… okay. I mean, it’s kind of fun. However, I was really waiting for the combat to evolve in some way, and it never did. I actually never even ended up using the heavy attack, because it was really slow, and didn’t really do much more damage. There is an option to dodge and roll, and to block, which adds some variability. However, for the most part, when combat starts, I just started my 5-combo attack until everyone died.

Now, to say that I didn’t enjoy the game is not correct. I did. As you may know, I’m a sucker for JRPGs. It’s what I ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner growing up. I enjoy leveling up and getting stronger. I like numbers, and I like when numbers go up. It makes me happy. I also really liked the art style. The NNK2 art style was heavily influenced by Studio Ghibli, the very famous Japanese Animation company, and this was very apparently, as it was in the NNK. Some parts of the game were breath-taking. However, I felt as if the game thought that showing you pretty things was enough to make a game great. It’s not. A single-player game is all about the narrative. If you don’t have a good story, then you don’t have a good game. I kept waiting for the story to go somewhere unexpected, but it just never did. It was a pretty typical run-through of a pretty straight-forward narrative.

The other issue I have with Ni No Kuni 2 was the side missions. Please hear me when I say this. I. HATE. SIDE MISSIONS. I have never understood why games add them. Don’t get me wrong. Putting optional challenges in a game is great. Almost every Final Fantasy game has some optional, nearly-impossible boss fights you can do during or even after the main story, and they’re great. But they’re great because they are unique challenges. Let me break that down. a) unique – something rare, not found easily; b) challenge – something not trivial to complete. Most side missions these days are neither of those things. The side missions in Ni No Kuni 2 are mostly fetch quests, the worst kind of side mission ever. Now, I don’t mind a few side missions, even if they’re fetch quests, but if you have more side quests in the game than the actual main story, that is a very big problem. The short story is, I don’t like side missions. Capiche gaming community? Can we get rid of these please and thank you? Great.

Here’s the thing. I should have liked this game, and I did. But did I love it? No, I don’t think so. Were there times when I felt a little bored? Yes. Were there times when I felt like I wanted to stop and try something else? Yes. This is the unfortunate circumstance when you don’t have all the time in the world, and your gaming backlog is about to fall over on you and crush you to death. When you aren’t thoroughly loving a game, it’s just way too easy to start thinking about the next thing. The grass is always greener, as they say.

So, am I recommending this game? The answer is: that depends. If you like JRPGs, then I would say, go for it. However, if you’re like me and have a little more backlog than time on your hands, then I say, still go for it.

Just skip the side missions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Game On.

By Steve Bongiorno

I write about gaming, books, faith, and family.

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