Ni no Kuni isn’t a long RPG if you’re judging it by, say, Final Fantasy XII or Xenoblade Chronicles. Its level-pacing is a mite off, but grinding isn’t the slog it can be in other games, and you can usually do it in concurrent sidequests without really noticing it. All in all, I can get to the Ivory Tower and defeat the White Witch in about 20 hours if I’m in a no-frills story mood, and a 20-hour interactive Studio Ghibli cartoon is nothing to sneeze at.
However, I just finished a replay in anticipation of the new game, and I really hope that they have tweaked their post-game strategy a bit because the original game’s post-game was kind of badly designed.
The setup is pretty basic. New bosses and sidequests, all of which need you to be better than you were to beat the game proper. Nothing new there, but the execution is really bad. For instance, there’s a whole new focus on the alchemy sidequest, where you turn items found and won from monsters into new and better weapons to defeat those bosses.
At least four of those items require rare drops/steals from rare monsters that only appear post game and involve literally hours of running around in places you have already thoroughly conquered. You need kaleidostones for like three ultimate weapons, and the only source is one dragon that spawns in easily the most annoying dungeon in the game. In the meantime, you spend a lot of your energy walloping things that you are so over-leveled above they run away if you don’t cast the Veil spell.
That’s not to say you don’t get some really great moments out of the post-game. Oliver gets a far deeper closure thanks to the additional material instead of what is essentially a “thanks for playing” and a Kiki’s Delivery Service joke, and the Horace sidequest in particular rounds out the tale of the White Witch. These are all worthy extras.
But the manner in which you accomplish them feels an awful lot like gameplay time-padding. I don’t mind a good, mindless grind. Level-grinding is basically meditation to me, but the original game is kind of terrible at spreading that grind out in a directed manner. What should feel like a deeper exploration of a wondrous animated world ended up being a tedious chore.
Hopefully, Revenant Kingdom has taken a deeper look at the pacing of the post-game world. A little bit more character in such a rich landscape is worth far more than waiting for Swaine to fail to steal the fifth Scroll of Truth from an enemy in a dungeon that you have long since put in the past. Ni no Kuni is a fairly easy title. I share it with my seven-year-old. In that vein, I expect the rare ingredient for an alchemy formula to pop up more often than I would expect in a more adult-oriented MMORPG. Keep things light and simple. That’s part of what made the game great.