The first Ni No Kuni game arguably pulled off the biggest art coup in the history of games: getting the renowned Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli to magic up a living, breathing game world that looked (and sounded) just like their beloved films. Its sequel, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, never benefited from the same Ghibli wizardry as its predecessor, but put the two side by side and you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference. Sure, Revenant Kingdom doesn't have the same Ghibli film-grade cutscenes to sit back and admire, but this handsome JRPG is still a spell-binding entry in Level-5's ever-growing series, and, whisper it, but I think it's actually miles better than the first one.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch wasn't actually on PC at the time Revenant Kingdom arrived in 2018, so unless you played the PlayStation 3 original back in the day, it's likely that your first experience of Ni No Kuni was via a tour of Revenant Kingdom. That's since been rectified with last year's release of Wrath Of The White Witch Remastered, but having recently played both in quick succession, it's the sequel that still comes out on top for me.
Indeed, part of Ni No Kuni II's charm is that it's just chock full of great ideas, making it feel like one of the most refreshing JRPGs I've played in ages. More importantly, a lot of its ideas tap into the rich veins of my favourite PC genres, from a light bit of town management to head-scratching RTS battles. It's not going to trouble the very best examples of those respective genres, of course, but as someone who once enjoyed these sorts of games many moons ago, the chance to reacquaint myself with my PC gaming past became the kind of diversion I actively looked forward to when I needed a break from the main story.
The central plot will be pretty familiar to anyone who's played a JRPG before (a prince dethroned, a land in peril, friends and nations to unite, evil to overthrow etc), but it's those extra PC-friendly nods that make it so engrossing. Every sidequest feeds back into growing your new, titular kingdom, whether it's the reward of a new villager who comes to live in your town or ingredients for crafting new weapons, spells and armour in your newly-constructed shops. There is always something to improve or get to the next level, and it's one of the few games where I've actively sought out as many sidequests as possible.
Round that off with smart, real-time combat (with AI-controlled companions who've actually been given a brain this time round instead of floundering around doing single-digit damage like my party did in Wrath Of The White Witch), a fantastic voice cast, a gorgeous Joe Hisaishi-composed orchestral score and Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has all the makings of an all-time classic. Fancy giving it a go? You can get on Steam or Humble.