In Ni no Kuni II there are well over 100 sidequests you can undertake. They’re mostly a collection of sugary mini-stories that helps bring you into its good-natured, colourful, storybook JRPG world. It took a special kind of bastard to undermine the game’s overwhelming positivity. I found him in Hydropolis.
Warning: Spoilers to follow
Ni no Kuni II begins with a betrayal, a tragedy, and a coup. Despite its grave setup, its young protagonist King Evan’s childlike innocence directs how its story is told. The game has a fairy-tale quality in which whimsically named items, such as coral hueblooms or bluesky buttontop mushrooms, add to its intriguing lore.
As with any good fairy-tale, there’s the right amount of danger in Ni no Kuni II. It’s present in its porcs, wild hounds, dragons, hostile fairy folk and other mythical enemies roaming the land. The towns are built around specific tragedies that you, as King Evan, and his trusted companions must solve to move forward in his plan to unify the kingdoms under a naive sense of “world peace”. Its denizens range from normal to odd, and are often a demanding bunch — sending you on fetch or fight quests to help them out or to recruit them to your new kingdom of Evermore.
What’s great about many of the quests is that characters’ stories unfold beyond simple chores. You get a real peek into their lives, which in turn helps to build Ni no Kuni II’s gorgeous fantasy-driven world.
While not every quest boils down to a sweet moment, they’re generally, undeniably feel-good. The game’s darker, thoughtful themes surprise when they pop-up as a result, even if they’re ultimately resolved with a hopeful slant. But Ni no Kuni II can also be playfully strange. It can also be downright savage, as with the story of Sibylla and Glaucus.
The story begins in the newly liberated Hydropolis — a beautiful sea kingdom which previously banned marriage and love — with a fetch quest called “The Way to a Man’s Heart...”.
With Hydropolis’ moving, mournful and wistful music that aptly captured feelings of love and longing, it was time for Evan and his gang to help its citizens manage their romantic dilemmas. Prior to Glaucus’ recruitment, a female admirer by the name of Sibylla enlisted my help to win Glaucus’ heart. Her love was unrequited as Glaucus saw her as a mere co-worker. After devising a plan to cook for him to get his attention, I set about collecting all the necessary ingredients to create a wonderful home-cooked meal. The plan went swimmingly and all seemed well. Love was on its way to blooming, and I left Hydropolis to pursue other people in order to lure them to Evermore.
Hours later, when I returned to Hydropolis looking for other quests, I discovered I could recruit Glaucus. What followed was an interaction that was stone cold:
Well, yeah...I do but...hold up. What happened to Sibylla?
Okay, phew. Here’s where you’re going to ask me to have her in my kingdom too. I’m cool with that.
...what the actual hell.
How darling of you. No, really. Exemplary specimen of a person you are. Honest.
Oh so now it’s MY fault?!
Or you know, how about you tell her your damned self. She’s only standing RIGHT THERE in the background.
The worst part of it? Evan said nothing. Evan witnessed a deep emotional cut while Sibylla still addressed their relationship as something tangible. There was no relationship to be had and as I played, I winced in horror at what unfolded. I left Hydropolis again, thinking about Sibylla the unwitting fool while I continued more of the game’s story.
This is what she says after you fulfil her initial quest, and it is repeated right after recruiting Glaucus. Girl, there’s something you should know...
More hours passed and Sibylla finally became available to recruit. Her reason for wanting to join Evermore? She wanted to repay me for helping her with the initial quest, and wanted to follow Glaucus to my kingdom, determined to win his heart.
It was pathetic.
Once they moved to Evermore, I separated them by having them work in different fish markets as far away from each other as possible. You can’t force interaction between characters in any significant way in Ni no Kuni II once citizens are recruited — it’s not like The Sims where you have a hand in manipulating your characters lives — but I had seen enough. It’s possible to talk to your citizens once they’re in Evermore, and sometimes they’ll give you another quest but even if this is true of Glaucus and Sibylla (and I don’t know because I haven’t completed every sidequest in the game), I no longer wanted to deal with their messy “love” story. I put a virtual band-aid on the situation because, as far as I was concerned, Sibylla deserved better.
For a game that’s mostly uplifting, Ni no Kuni II shocked me with Glaucus. Yes, it was quite funny how it happened, but in a messy way that caught me off guard. It was also cool that the game focused on this one interpersonal relationship in such detail, allowing it to unfold during the course of the story and connecting me to its characters in a meaningful way. I tend to enjoy these interactions in my games, even if I end up aiding some of the worst townsfolk that humanity can offer.
Glaucus’ quest inclusion and a few others help complicate and balance Ni no Kuni II’s world. The game does all of this while being wholly committed to using its people, locations, lore, and all its rich details to create one charming, engaging, and surprisingly grounded world waiting to be discovered.
Unfortunately as with any grounded world, there are perfectly horrible people, like Glaucus, waiting to meet you too.