Historically, Ni no Kuni has taken an almost Final Fantasy-style approach to sequels. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and its Japanese-only counterparts, Dominion of the Dark Djinn for DS and Hotroit Stories for mobile, exist as a single story. The console sequel, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, takes place many generations later, and any tie-ins to the original basically function as fun Easter eggs. Characters and plot don’t move between games, but themes, art style, and certain enemies and races do. The 2019 Ni no Kuni movie took a similar approach and featured no direct overlap with the games.
After spending a few hours with No no Kuni’s upcoming mobile MMO, Cross Worlds seems to continue the tradition and not rely on the previous story. But there are plenty of reasons to credit Cross Worlds as a legitimate Ni no Kuni game that understands its roots, and it might be more of a proper sequel than it’s supposed to be.
The original Ni no Kuni tells the story of a boy who loses his mother at a young age and learns of a fantasy world that needs his help. He enters that world to save it and maybe learn a bit about himself along the way.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom follows a similar plot. However, unlike a child who loses his mother, and beware of early spoilers here,the introductory character appears to be the president of the contemporary United States. He is traveling in a limousine when a nuclear bomb goes off in his destination city and the explosion pushes him into the fantasy world.. It’s a strange opening that continues a thematic thread established by the first game: Ni no Kuni is about real-world people discovering their place in a fantasy world.
Cross Worlds is slightly different in its approach, but has a similar idea. The contemporary world seems to be well into the future. Technology has advanced to a point where people can be placed inside full-body capsules to participate in virtual reality experiences. After creating your character, you see it placed in a capsule. It feels less like a video game experience and more like an experiment that would make Abstergo from the Assassin’s Creed universe raise an eyebrow.
From there you are greeted by what appears to be an AI character named Rania welcoming you to the Soul Divers closed beta. Some kind of glitch happens and suddenly she is a real person who is aware of the simulation and promises that she will find him and help him. She also mentions a corporation called Mirae. There are no immediate tangible reasons to believe that Mirae is an evil corporation, but it is a corporation in a video game, so it will surely be evil at some point.
Another possibly annoying Ni no Kuni staple comes at this point when a cute creature with a nasty voice and short temper wakes you up and makes it clear that he’ll be with you for the duration of the game to likely over-explain everything and function as the voice of your silent protagonist.
It is during this time that you hear about what may be the most direct line to Ni no Kuni II when the realm of Evermore is mentioned. Evermore was founded by the protagonist of Revenant Kingdom, King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum. Setting Evermore is basically the main objective in Revenant Kingdom and seems to be treated with reverence in Cross Worlds with someone saying, “[Evermore] united the entire world–our Nameless Kingdom excluded, of course.”
The ties to previous games are more subtle at this point. You meet the Grimalkin characters, the cat-like people from Ni no Kuni, and track down Swift Solutions shops where you can do side quests. I also saw Higgledies, the collectible Pikmin-like creatures. A large pair of dice can be found in the main town, which could be a call to Goldpaw’s town from Ni no Kuni II, where everything is decided by the roll of the dice. Or they could just be there so you can kick them around town because it’s fun.
More time with Cross Worlds will reveal the bigger story, but during my time some interesting fourth-wall-breaking interactions occurred (something new to the Ni no Kuni series). A shopkeeper complained about someone calling him an NPC, and I ran into two Soul Divers “players” running around without caring about the town or the characters that inhabited it. If I had to venture a guess, it looks like the Mirae corporation is promoting a VR experience for their users, but they’re actually sending people into the fantasy world of Ni no Kuni, which could be a problem.
The reference to Evermore implies that the game takes place after Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, but how much later is still unclear. In any case, you can find out for yourself and explore Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds when it launches for mobile devices on May 25.
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