Historically, Ni no Kuni has taken an almost Final Fantasy-style approach to sequels. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and its only-in-Japan counterparts, Dominion of the Dark Djinn for DS and Hotroit Stories for mobile devices, exist as one story. The console sequel, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, takes place many generations later, with any ties to the original basically functioning as fun Easter eggs. Characters and plot don’t move between games, but themes, the art style, and certain enemies and races do. The 2019 Ni no Kuni movie took a similar approach and did not feature direct overlap with the games.
After spending a few hours with the upcoming No no Kuni mobile MMO, Cross Worlds, it seems to be continuing the tradition and not relying on the story that came before it. But there are plenty of reasons to recognize Cross Worlds as a legitiamte Ni no Kuni game that understands its roots–and it might be more of proper sequel than assumed.
The original Ni no Kuni tells the story of a young boy who loses his mother at a young age and learns of a fantasy world in need of his help. He enters that world in order to save it and maybe learn a little bit about himself along the way.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom follows a similar plot. Unlike a young boy who loses his mother, however–and be wary of early spoilers here–the introductory character appears to be President of the contemporary United States. He’s riding in a limo when a nuclear bomb goes off in his destination city and the explosion thrusts him into the fantasy world. It’s a bizarre opening that continues a thematic thread established by the first game: Ni no Kuni is about people from the real world figuring out their place in a fantasy world.
Cross Worlds is slightly different in its approach, but has a similar idea. The contemporary world appears to be well in the future. Technology has advanced to a point where people can be placed inside of full body pods in order to participate in VR experiences. After creating your character, you see them being placed in a pod. It looks 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 A.I. character named Rania who welcomes you to the closed beta for Soul Divers. Some kind of glitch occurs and suddenly she is a real person who is aware of the simulation and promises they will find and help you. She also mentions a corporation called Mirae. There are no immediately tangible reasons to believe Mirae is an evil corporation, but it is a corporation in a video game, so it is bound to be evil at some point.
Another arguably annoying Ni no Kuni staple introduces itself at this point when a cute creature with an obnoxious voice and a short temper wakes you and makes it clear they will be with you for the duration of the game to likely over-explain everything and function as the voice of your silent protagonist.
It’s during this time that you hear about what may be the most direct line to Ni no Kuni II when the kingdom of Evermore is mentioned. Evermore was founded by Revenant Kingdom’s protagonist, King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum. Establishing Evermore is basically the main goal in Revenant Kingdom and it appears to be treated with reverence in Cross Worlds with someone saying, “[Evermore] united the entire world–our Nameless Kingdom excluded, of course.”
Ties to previous games are more subtle at this point. You meet Grimalkin characters, the cat-like people of Ni no Kuni, and track down Swift Solutions shops where you can take on side quests. I also saw Higgledies, the collectable Pikmin-like creatures. A large pair of dice can be found in the main town, which could be a callout to the city of Goldpaw from Ni no Kuni II where everything is decided by the roll of dice. Or they could just be there so you can kick them around the town because it’s fun.
More time with Cross Worlds will reveal the larger story, but some interesting fourth-wall breaking interactions (something new to the Ni no Kuni series) did happen during my time. A shopkeeper complained about someone calling them an NPC, and I ran into two Soul Divers “players” who were running around with little regard for the town or the characters within it. If I had to venture a guess, it seems the corporation Mirae is touting a VR experience to its users, but they are actually sending people to the fantasy world of Ni no Kuni, which might be a problem.
The reference to Evermore implies the game takes place after Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, but how long after is not yet clear. In any case, you will be able to find out yourself and explore Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds when it releases for mobile devices on May 25.
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