Can We Talk About Ni No Kuni 2's Insane Opening?

Can We Talk About Ni No Kuni 2's Insane Opening?

Ni No Kuni 2's storybook adventure begins on a dark note.

Ni No Kuni 2 might have one of the most unexpected openings I've ever experienced. It came out of left field, completely upending my expectations of a sweet, light fairy tale. Even now I'm thinking to myself, "Wait a minute, did that really happen?" If you haven't already started Ni No Kuni 2, you might want to wait to preserve the surprise (maybe bookmark this piece for future reference). Otherwise, read on.

Still with us? Okay, this is how the initial cutscene goes. It's actually pretty dark for a storybook adventure with cartoon animals.

Anyway, the initial cutscene opens with a presidential motorcade. Inside we see a much older Roland, who appears to be the President of the United States (though his country is identified as the off-brand "Union"). We've known for some time now that Roland is the "president of a country in Ichi No Kuni." But this is the first time that he's been presented as, basically, the leader of the free world.

Ni Kuni 2 opens with an older Roland as the President of the United States.

Suddenly, a nuclear missile roars overhead toward a skyline that's evocative of New York. It's clearly meant to be a mash-up of different cities, including San Francisco, but my mind went to New York because of the Brooklyn Bridge-like structure leading into the city center, which looks like Manhatten. And then... mushroom clouds.

Here's your happily ever after.

I mean... what? Does Ni No Kuni 2 really open with nuclear holocaust? I was so taken aback by the opening moments that I had to watch them multiple times. At one point I commented in USG's Slack channel, "Holy crap, Ni No Kuni 2 totally opens with the nuclear destruction of New York City." I couldn't believe it.

The scene concludes with Roland lying in the flaming wreckage of his limo, alive but clearly injured as he beams out of the fire. Then a much younger Roland, still clad in a suit and toting a handgun, materializes in Ding Dong Dell. By the standards of the typical nuclear holocaust film, I'll grant that it's ultimately pretty tame. Sure, we see buildings shattered and cars flying around, but it's nowhere near the horror of, say, Judgement Day.

And yet, the specter of nuclear war still lingers at the edge of our collective consciousness. Nuclear attacks have been at the center of some of the most intense movies ever made: Terminator 2, The Day After, and Threads, to name just a few. It's meant to be the ultimate horror: the real-life apocalypse that could end civilization before we know it. With the exception of Call of Duty, few games have ever been willing to go there. To see it is in Ni No Kuni 2 is surprising to say the least. It's also a great hook.

And yet Ni No Kuni 2 almost immediately forgets that moment of horror. It quickly takes on a much more storybook vibe, which stands in stark contrast to alternate America's fiery destruction. Roland, for his part, seems to forget that he just witnessed the beginning of World War III. Is he aware that all of his friends and loved ones probably just perished in a nuclear holocaust? Is he aware that the country he was leading is, ya know, gone? Those were the questions that kept me pushing through Ni No Kuni 2's 35 hour story.

This is what follows an apparent nuclear holocaust.

I know how it all ends now, but I still find myself lingering on the image of a not-quite-New York getting blasted into smithereens. Perhaps it's because one of my recurring nightmares involves being trapped in a nuclear holocaust myself. Or maybe it's because President Trump's saber-rattling with North Korea has reawakened fears of nuclear conflict in some quarters, however far-fetched they may be. It's a fear that has reappeared in the zeitgeist after being buried in the wake of the Cold War.

This isn't the first time Ni No Kuni has opened on a dark note. The original Ni No Kuni begins with Oliver's mother dying of heart problems after she saves him from drowning. Tragedy appears to be the catalyst for traveling between worlds, though there's no Drippy this time around to lead the way. Ni No Kuni 2 just turns it up to eleven.

Sadly, I don't have the cutscene on hand, so images will have to do. But I think they do more than enough to shock and surprise of what might be Ni No Kuni 2's most unexpected moment, don't you?

In any case, I'm curious for your thoughts. You can read my review of Ni No Kuni 2 here. You can also find guides that will help you get started in Ni No Kuni 2. It's out on PS4 and PC today.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

Read this next

Street Fighter 2's Creator on Why Blocking Was Once a Controversial Issue

A creator and a pro sit down to talk blocking in fighting games.

Sonic the Hedgehog Monopoly Livens Up a Boring Game With High-Stakes Boss Fights

Just behave yourself, because this brave new society won't hesitate to jail a hedgehog.

Sony Teases More The Last Of Us Part 2 for Next Week's State of Play

Naughty Dog wants us all to tune in next week.

Untitled Goose Game Review

What if Agent 47 was a rude goose who was down to clown?

The Coolest, Most Badass Guns of Borderlands 3

Crack open those chests and see some of the fantastic weapons in Gearbox' latest.

More Analyses

A Fresh Look at New Super Mario Bros. U on Switch: Does it Measure Up to the Classics?

Where does New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe rank alongside Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World?

The State of Destiny 2 After Forsaken: A Game That Can't Shake Its Troubles

Forsaken was a solid start, but it wasn't enough to pull everyone back.

Sorry Pokemon Fans, Your Gold-Plated Cards from Burger King Aren't Worth Squat

Burger King's Pokemon cards from 1999 look kind of nice and they're fun to remember, but they're barely worth the cost of a milkshake.

More on PC

Untitled Goose Game Review

What if Agent 47 was a rude goose who was down to clown?

The Coolest, Most Badass Guns of Borderlands 3

Crack open those chests and see some of the fantastic weapons in Gearbox' latest.

Fortnite Is Unveiling a Batman-Themed Event Tomorrow

Alfred, I need more Slurp Juice!

SNK Reveals the 20 Games on Its Neo Geo Arcade Stick Pro

It's a lot of fighting games, as you would imagine.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Beta Start Times - Dates, Platforms, How to Access the Beta

Here's our guide covering the Call of Duty Modern Warfare beta dates, as well as all global start times, platforms, and how to access the beta.

More Role Playing Games Games

Apple Arcade is Way Cooler Than You Think. Here are 10 Games to Check Out

Apple Arcade has dozens of neat games, so we highlighted 10 from its launch lineup that are a bit under the radar.

We Dare You to Eat This Pile of Ancient Pokemon Food

Expiration dates are just suggestions.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Review

Come sail away with Link. Again.