Level-5 rose to prominence as a video game publisher thanks largely to the popularity of its
The lack of Familiars isn’t the only difference in Ni no Kuni II’s combat system; this time around, battles unfold entirely in real-time. There were traces of real-time elements in the first title; you could maneuver your Familiars freely around the battlefield, but the action would pause while you cycled through menus and issued commands. In Ni no Kuni II, however, Level-5 has done away with battle menus and mapped your attacks to different buttons instead. Evan can unleash weak and strong attacks with his sword by pressing either Square or Triangle, while holding the right trigger brings up four additional (and more powerful) skills to use during combat. There’s also a dodge button, allowing you to roll out of the way of enemy attacks. As a result, the game feels much closer to an action-RPG than before. Battles are more immediate and satisfying thanks to their heavier emphasis on action, and each confrontation plays out more briskly without the need to pause the battle and sift through menus.
Of the two battles available in the demo, the more difficult was against a dragon named Longfang. In addition to being the first major boss encounter in Ni no Kuni II, Longfang is one of the “kingmakers” in the game’s world–guardian beasts that are assigned to protect the different kingdoms throughout the land. For some mysterious reason, Longfang has begun attacking the kingdom he is charged with protecting, and it falls to Evan and friends to stop his rampage. As the first major obstacle you face in the game, Longfang poses a considerable challenge thanks to his high HP, but the battle with him also illustrates how vital the Higgledies are to your success on the battlefield. Like a typical dragon, Longfang’s most powerful attack is spewing fire at your party, and you’ll need to cast a fire shield at the right moment to protect yourself from the screen-consuming flames.
It’s difficult to tell whether or not Ni no Kuni II will address the other pacing issues that plagued the original when it launches for PlayStation 4 and PC later this year on November 10, but based on the small sampling we got of it at E3, adopting a more action-oriented, real-time battle system is a promising step. You can get a closer look at the revamped battle system in GameSpot’s E3 2017 stage show segment with Bandai Namco’s Dennis Lee, who showed off the game’s E3 demo and discussed some of the other Western influences Level-5 looked to while developing its new Ni no Kuni title.