The first Ni no Kuni game was really important to me. It got me to buy a PS3 well after the PS4 had been out. It hit all of the right Pokemon plus Studio Ghibli plus Final Fantasy vibes. And most importantly, it was a game I could play with Japanese audio at a time when everything was region locked.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was just released for PS4 and PC, and I was extremely excited to see they offered Japanese audio options for the English release once again! If you get the PC version on Steam, you can even change the interface to Japanese entirely.
While I wouldn't say you have to play the first installment to enjoy this game, it helps you understand the land you're in and adds a nostalgia factor.
When you play both games with just the Japanese audio, you get to experience a few things:
- Japanese audio for an English release of a game without having to have a Japanese version of the game and/or a Japanese PSN account (to get the region-matching version of the DLC, of which there will be five! FIVE!).
- A unique opportunity to listen to Japanese audio, then look at the subtitles for the English localization — not a direct translation of what you're hearing. This is especially interesting in Ni no Kuni because it's a game about uniting different groups of people, friendship, and emotions that don't always translate directly.
- The chance to listen carefully. Most of the scenes with voice audio are presented line-by-line, allowing you to wait before moving on to the next sentence. While cutscenes are automatic, there are many opportunities in the game to take it slow and listen.
If you choose to play the game entirely in Japanese, be warned that there are a lot of puns and terms you may not have learned in your studies (this is a JRPG, after all). Take it as a chance to learn and explore, but if you haven't been exposed to JRPG inventories/language before, it could make getting through the game difficult.