When it comes to modern RPGs, few are as imaginative and enjoyable as the Ni no Kuni games so let's find out which one is superior.
Spoiler warning: please skip the entire Story section to avoid spoiling both of these games' plots if you haven't finished them yet.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has you play as the young lad Oliver who travels with his trusty sidekick, Drippy, on an adventure to save his mum. At the beginning, he's goofing around with his friend Phil while testing out a new racing car that Phil just created when suddenly, a wheel breaks off, sending Oliver directly into a nearby river. As soon as his worried mum finds him, she sprints into action to save his life and pull him from the water. Right after rescuing him, she suffers a heart attack and Oliver is left alone at home with his homemade toy Drippy to keep him company who suddenly comes to life. Drippy doesn't let him ignore the world for long as he introduces him to the Wizard's Companion, a book that allows Oliver to cast spells including one that whisks him away to another world.
In this world, he makes many familiar friends on his quest to find the great sage Alicia who is believed to be the other world version of his mother. Throughout the story, Oliver casts the Gateway spell in order to find out information about his world's and the other world's versions of characters that he meets. The plot focuses on Oliver's grieving after the loss of his mother and it keeps you wondering what's real and what's fabricated by Oliver's imagination. It's endearing and often makes you feel for the young boy who seems very alone in his struggles. Also, the fact that he spends so much of his time helping people who have broken hearts is simply adorable.
The world of Ni no Kuni II is more loosely tied to the real world although it also has you wonder what's actually real and not imaginary. You start by playing as the president of some nation on Earth, Roland, only to witness a missile exploding over a populated city. Suddenly, you're transported to the other world where you meet Evan, the prince of Ding Dong Dell. His kingdom is under siege by Mausinger, the advisor to his late father who poisoned him in order to stage a coup and take over the kingdom. Evan, the young prince, vows to start his own kingdom that would be open to all and where everyone can live happily ever after. So, he travels the world while getting leaders of different kingdoms to sign a pledge of peace in order to prevent war from breaking out after Mausinger's takeover.
In the end, Ni no Kuni II's story manages to pull my heartstrings on some occasions but it's definitely less personal than the first one. Therefore, I can easily say that Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the clear winner of this category.
Ni no Kuni's battle system revolves around commanding recruited familiars. You control up to 3 characters who each have up to 3 familiars at their disposal and switching between any of the possible 9 familiars and 3 party members throughout each battle allows for a broad spectrum of possible actions if you set your familiars up right. Actions take the form of a simple attack, a stronger attack, spells, status ailments, buffs, and defense. Occasionally, enemies drop golden glims that allow characters to perform special moves. You can also make use of the All Out Attack and All Out Defense modes in order to control the other party members who move on their own accord whenever you're not controlling them. Most battles are engaging and require you to dodge and exploit enemy weaknesses.
Unfortunately, Ni no Kuni II does not contain familiar recruiting which is its biggest drawback. The battlefield remains free-roaming and you control one character at a time while the others fight on. However, you only get to command 3 characters as there are no familiars and your actions mostly consist of attacking or using abilities that the characters have learned. Ni no Kuni II's twist is that it allows you to find and use Higgledies. These are little creatures that can be told to perform special actions at certain points in battle such as healing or shooting an enemy with a cannon. They're mostly useful in boss battles or longer fights yet they don't offer the same personality that the familiars in Ni no Kuni did. Therefore, Ni no Kuni wins this category due to its more dynamic battles that rely on training and using your familiars strategically as that ultimately makes the combat much more layered, personal, and rewarding.
Familiars vs. Town-building
As I just mentioned, the main gameplay element that Ni no Kuni II lacks is monster recruiting. In Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, every time you defeat an enemy, you get a small chance at seeing a pink heart show above their head. If you can catch it in time, you can ask Esther to serenade it and recruit it into your party. Monsters can be equipped with 3 pieces of gear, fed their favourite sweet treats to improve their stats, and levelled up to 4 possible forms. Each monster is so unique and fun to watch both on the battlefield and whenever you manage to feed them their favourite food which results in an adorable animation. There are tons to pick from with some being rare yet very powerful when recruited and levelled up. You can also train your familiars in the Solosseum and win prizes.
Even though Ni no Kuni II doesn't contain monster recruiting, it offers something unique in its town-building. As soon as Evan finds a plot of land where he wants to build his kingdom, you gain the ability to control the expansion of the town through a building sim mechanic. You also recruit people to move to your town who then go foraging or farming or work at shops which unlocks more items. As your town earns money, you use it to unlock more buildings and level up the ones that you already have or complete new research to unlock more items. This system may be a fun distraction from the main story but the fact that it's separated from the campaign makes it feel out of place. With monster recruiting in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, you collect familiars that you find on your travels and use them throughout the story but in Ni no Kuni II, you basically visit your town whenever you want a short break so it feels disconnected.
After all that, I don't think it will be a big surprise as to which game I'll choose so let's award a winner...
Winner Ni no Kuni
Although Ni no Kuni II offers new town-building gameplay and revolves around a young lad with a heart of gold who just wants everyone to get along, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch remains a better JRPG overall as it features an extremely fun monster recruiting system that plays a major role in the story and gameplay. It also tells a much more personal and heartbreaking tale of a boy dealing with the loss of his mother. In the end, it's one of my favourite JRPGs ever and I'm sure you'll love it, too.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!