Ni no Kuni 2 on Switch: Comfortable, fun, and surprisingly solid
I play a lot of Switch ports. I’m one of those “portable preferred” heathens, needing the ability to take my games anywhere with me… which usually just means my bed. When a big title launches on PC or consoles that catches my eye, I’ll typically wait to see if it’ll grace Nintendo’s popular flagship. Convenience is a big factor at play when it comes to my own personal immersion with engaging with RPGs, which makes the Switch my console of choice. Unfortunately, the wait often ends up being for nothing, as many conversions of more ambitious titles can often feel like unoptimized messes on the tiny portable.
There are exceptions, however. In the last two years, one porting company has become often synonymous with quality: Engine Software. Not every Switch port they’ve put out has been stellar, but those seem to be more related to hardware limitations over anything else. So I was quite pleased to see their logo show up when I booted up the Switch port of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom, something I had been waiting to play for a few years.
The original Ni no Kuni on Switch was about as good as you could expect. It ran well and looked good, no complaints. Ni No Kuni 2 was released an entire console generation after its predecessor, though, which had me wondering how they’d ever get it running nicely on a portable platform. Thankfully, they’ve done a solid job making it work, and it’s pretty impressive they got it running so well at all. There are some issues, but none that Switch fans aren’t always used to in typically far more extreme cases.
It’s worth mentioning that RPG Site alumnus Zack Reese reviewed the original release on launch. Check out that review for a more detailed look at the systems, as I will not be going into specific mechanics or the story, but rather glossing over Ni No Kuni 2 on a technical level. The Prince’s Edition for Nintendo Switch comes included with every piece of previously released DLC, but besides that great addition, this is the same divisive experience.
I think the most impressive aspect of the port is the balancing act of upholding both visuals and framerate. Usually, when it comes to Switch releases that aren’t from Nintendo themselves, developers have to prioritize one or the other. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just how things tend to be. Ni No Kuni 2 surprisingly manages to pull off both with little sacrifices. You of course won’t be getting a 1080p 60 FPS experience like you could on PS4, but the results still look good and play well.
I’m not sure what the exact resolution it achieved, but what is for certain is that the Ghibli-esqe aesthetic is conveyed perfectly. Shadow and model quality have taken a hit, with shadows looking exceptionally blocky, but the art style remains strong. I played this primarily on my Switch Lite, with a bit of testing on my normal Switch in docked mode, and was frankly stunned at how good it looked. My 'bar' tends to be low, but visually this port met my expectations and then some. I was even expecting the rather complicated in-engine cutscenes to have been reduced to pre-rendered videos, but they’re still intact and are seamlessly interwoven with gameplay.
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of what sells Ni No Kuni is the whimsical style, which Level-5 has become known for. If the visuals had been lacking in any way, this entire port would have had to been thrown in the trash. It sounds extreme, but if you’ve played these games, you know what I mean. That style resonates throughout the entire experience, and is one of the major reasons the series is so comfortable to play despite some major tonal curveballs that happen at irregular intervals. Thankfully Engine delivered, this looks great even on the tiny screen of the Lite. The models can be a tad blocky, but this wasn't a huge detrement to me personally.
Alternatively, my biggest fear upon starting this was how the framerate would hold up. I had my fingers crossed up to the first battle encounter, but I was pleased to see it targets what seems to be 30 FPS and mostly sticks with it. The game was running smooth while just roaming the gorgeous castle in the opening, but battles are typically where these ports are strained the most. The combat prides itself on being simple and fun, with a specific pace to it that could easily be ruined with frequent frame rate dips. I haven’t played this on any other platform, but it appears they kept the speed intact. What the battle mechanics lack in depth (from what I’ve played so far), it makes up in feel and pure enjoyment. It’s worth mentioning that docked play more consistently hits the target frame rate, but overall I never found it to drop to egregious numbers.
That is, unless you’re on the overworld. People who play mainly on Docked won’t have an issue, but Undocked/Lite players should expect a rough time traversing the field. Moving the camera is extremely choppy and at some points hurt my eyes, and the framerate is pretty inconsistent. At the lowest, it looked like it was hitting around 15, but I have no way to really check. I’ve certainly seen worse, and for such a huge map to explore it makes sense.
Ni No Kuni 2 on Switch, unfortunately, commits the cardinal sin of my personal annoyances. Many a Switch port does this, and it always bothers me. If you don’t want your playtime completely inaccurate, make sure to return to the home screen before putting the console in sleep mode. If you don’t then all of that time the console spends resting is added to your total play time. This is admittedly a minor issue, and certainly not one to skip out on playing this if the rest of my review sounded good to you, but you figure they’d figure this out by now. Maybe a patch will come, but the damage to my play time is irreparable.
If I were to offer any other nitpicks, I’d say that the text size was a bit too small for my tastes. Maybe I’ll be alone on this, but if text size the likes of Fire Emblem Three Houses bothered you then this might as well. But framerate issues aside, most of my problems really have just been nitpicks. There’s not much to say, because this port lives up to its promise of being Ni No Kuni 2 on Switch. It runs well, looks great, and those who have been waiting for years to give this a shot but didn’t want to get it on PS4 or PC should rest easy. This is a pretty good port, despite some small issues.
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is an enjoyable and earnest game, the likes you don’t see much of anymore. I’m not exactly as huge on it as Zack was in his review of the original release, but I can’t deny just how much fun I’ve been having. I imagine I’d be having much less fun if Engine Software hadn’t done such a good job on this conversion. There are obviously better ways to experience this adventure, but if you are like me and are willing to make slight sacrifices in the experience in order to comfortably play on a portable device then you’ll have no problems jumping right in. It has every feature, fun moment, and flaw that Ni No Kuni 2 had to offer. It won’t change your mind if you didn’t care for it, but this is a pretty easy recommendation for Switch fans looking for a rather fun comfort RPG.