'Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom' Combines Fantasy With Semi-Auto Pistols and Social Media Trolls

Like the first game, Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is set in a magical kingdom of talking animals, primary colors, sprite-like helpers and little boys overcoming tremendous challenges with the power of gumption and friendship. It's also got a gun. Looks like a maybe a Glock. Oh, and social media (complete with forum trolls, micro-celebrities and tedious comment pedants). Ni No Kuni 2 takes place in a weird world, populated by manticores, boys with cat ears and creatures made of slime. But its weirdest features might be the ones it borrowed from us.

A coup is underway at the beginning of Ni No Kuni 2. King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, ruler of Ding Dong Dell for just a few short weeks, a sheltered boy who has not yet completed the rituals to imbue him with the full powers of his office, doesn't stand a chance. He is certain to be killed by the mouse guards loyal to Lord Otto Mausinger, once a trusted adviser to Evan's father, now an usurper. And death would have been the young king's fate, if a visitor from another world, Roland, didn't show up, right in time, with a semi-automatic pistol.

Roland loves posing with his gun. Bandai Namco Entertainment / Level-5

It's not just the mouse guards, but also a terrifying warrior, the Black Knight (who looks suspiciously like Mickey Mouse crossed with Darth Vader), on their trail. But no amount of mousey armor or fell magic can quite overcome getting shot in the face. And so, in Ni No Kuni 2's first chapter, Roland helps break Evan free of the castle coup, mowing down any of the fantasy critters that get in their way.

It takes a little getting used to unloading clips on adorable enemies, like the mohawked, bone-club armed "whamster banger" hamsters or fairy folk built of fluttering leaves, who float about the battlefield downrange from you and your 9 mm. Pop pop pop. When playing as Roland, ending the fight with a hail of bullets, Ni No Kuni 2 can feel like singlehandedly conquering Redwall and Shannara at the point of a gun.

Roland bravely shooting a fallen Porc Chopper in the back. Bandai Namco Entertainment / Level-5

Leafbook, the in-game social network, however, feels completely natural. The green, networked tablet gifted to King Evan is something like a combination of Facebook and Instagram. The fantasy characters of Ni No Kuni promote their restaurants, snap photos of dangerous monsters, and share rumors and political spin on Mausinger's coup of Ding Dong Dell.

Everyone's a critic. Bandai Namco Entertainment / Level-5

"The Ultimate Fish Sandwich!" Kitty posts from the Hootique in Ding Dong Dell. "So, it's just some bread and fish, basically?" an anonymous commenter sneers. Sounds about right, doesn't it?

U mad bro. Bandai Namco Entertainment / Level-5

Sometimes you'll even get trolly DMs, like the warlord I defeated who posted a shot of his back muscles and an all-caps message: "BUT YA GOT LUCKY IS ALL, YA HOONS! JUST U WAIT, ERR… WOT WOZ YER NAME AGEN?"

As the game progresses, Roland's "sidearm" is quickly supplanted by more fantastical or old-fashioned variants, variations on magically-infused blunderbuss and flintlock pistols. The verisimilitude of your initial weapon fades away, paralleling Roland's own immersion in this new world and embrace of his new life as King Evan's advisor in his quest to start a new kingdom, free of war and suffering. What began as a geopolitical game-changer, A Full Metal Jacket in King Evan's Court, fades into the natural order as Evan and his party travel to stranger, occasionally more advanced, kingdoms and realms.

What was once jarring and strange begins to feel natural. And with everyone posting, the fantasy world takes on a lived-in feeling. The social media environment both reflects your adventures and suggests other characters—some your loyal followers, others complete strangers—are having adventures of their own. Just so long as Roland doesn't become a social media gun fetishist, correcting mice and cat people on what the "AR" stands for or posting pictures of his arsenal, the world of Ni No Kuni might just survive the arrival of semi-automatic stopping power.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom announces itself, with a bang, as a sequel with a substantially expanded conception of its fantasy world, something like the leap from The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings, except this time Aragorn is strapped and tweeting.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom comes to PS4 and PC March 23

'Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom' Combines Fantasy With Semi-Auto Pistols and Social Media Trolls | Gaming