Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was one of my favorite games of 2013. It merged a beautifully rendered Studio Ghibli world with standard role-playing mechanics to create a huge story about childhood and loss.
At E3, publisher Bandai Namco is preparing a sequel for launch on Nov. 10. Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom’s protagonist is a young king named Evan ousted from his position by his subjects. He was perceived as “too nice” for the job. He joins a middle-aged leader from the real world (transported to the fantasy realm like the protagonist in the last game) on a quest to find himself and become more of a true leader.
I visited the Bandai Namco booth earlier today, and enjoyed a brief chat with series creator Akihiro Hino, who is also the co-founder of the game's developer Level-5. Here's a transcript of our conversation, which was conducted via a translator.
What's the biggest difference between this game, and the original?
Akihiro Hino: There's a lot of changes but I think the biggest one is a shift in perspective. In the first game a lot of the perspective was from the point of view of a child whereas now we are looking at it from a more adult perspective.
In the first game we witnessed the child leave his mother and grow. In the second there is a similar transition, a coming of age. Our protagonist starts as a young adult who has no leadership skills or experience in a position of a leader. He must learn. There are a lot of trials, questioning, prodding and poking at his qualities of leadership.
You've made some major changes to the combat in this game too.
The biggest change in the fighting system is the transition from inputting a command and watching it play out to a system in which all the commands are executed in real time.
This opens up possibilities. Supporting characters and spirits called Higgledies add strategic elements that play out in parallel. This is something much closer to real-time action.
What role do the character sidekicks play?
In the previous Ni No Kuni the supporting characters were two young kids and one adult but I wanted to balance that spectrum with more variety, different kinds of adults, men and women.
So there are a lot of relationships and points of emotional contact that people can relate to and feel injected into the story.
Humor was a big part of the original. How about this time? And how do you create humor for a diverse, international audience?
In the first game Drippy played a big role of being the comic relief, a sidekick who was always there to bounce jokes off. There are similar characters in Ni No Kuni 2. What really gives these characters the source of their humor is their strength as characters.
The more you can pack and condense into the uniqueness of these characters the more you have to work with, regardless of what culture it's being localized into. So there are lots of opportunities for jokes.
What is unique about this fantasy world?
Somewhere in the back of everyone's mind they can project a fantasy which they can compare and contrast to their own reality. People like to think about these worlds where there are a whole different set of rules.
But the fact that the world of Ni No Kuni is connected to a real world really differentiates it from a lot of other fantasy game, I feel.
How can you increase the popularity of these games, especially outside Japan?
We brought a lot of unique qualities to the original game, including Joe Hisaishi's musical scores. Also, the former Studio Ghibli staff that created a new and visually striking world. Its uniqueness leaves a very strong impression
Do you think your vision for this entire universe has changed since the first game came out, or has it remained the same?
I'd like to think there's no influence or effect over time but the act and process of developing something new is, by nature, about tapping into myself. I think I've definitely drawn from myself and my own experiences for Ni No Kuni 2.