Released early in the console’s life, the original Cat Quest captured the hearts of many RPG enthusiasts on the Nintendo Switch. With its charming spritework, cutesy aesthetic, and pun-filled dialogue, the game quickly became beloved by many, this reviewer included. It was with great excitement that the release of the long-awaited sequel, Cat Quest II, hit the eShop last month. The sequel promised to take the adventure beyond the cat-filled continent of Felingard and into the uncharted territory of dog-based puns in the Lupus Empire.
Beyond the simple opportunity for more animal adorableness, Cat Quest II also brings a new feature to the series – local multiplayer. Players can now team up as a cat and dog combo, fighting together to save both kingdoms from ruin. But how well executed are these new features, and does Cat Quest II live up the legacy of its predecessor? Let’s find out.
A Tail of Two Kings
At the heart of Cat Quest II are two amnesiac kings, a cat and a dog, who awaken on a deserted island and are greeted by a feline fairy named Kirry. Kirry informs the kings that their kingdoms have been usurped and brought to the brink of war against each other, the citizenry suffering and the kings’ legacies at stake. Together, the royal cat and dog must venture into the kingdoms of Felingard and the Lupus Empire, reclaim their thrones, and find a way to bring peace between feline and canine.
Like the original title, Cat Quest II does not tread any particularly innovative ground with its main story. The kings travel across the continents, controlled by one or two players, working to find a way to defeat the usurpers of their kingdoms. Along the way, they unlock forgotten abilities and meet new allies to help them on their quest. While there are some twists and turns throughout the journey, the plot remains fairly straightforward, focused mostly on a lengthy series of fetch quests to reforge a legendary weapon, said to hold the power of kings.
If anything, the player feels somewhat detached from the heroes, who remain silent throughout the adventure. Unlike the first game, which opens with the kidnapping of the protagonist’s sister, there is nothing about the kings’ quest to motivate the player. They are heroic and just kings, but nothing personal ever feels at stake, especially considering their memory loss.
Everything Old is Mew Again
If you played the original Cat Quest, you’ll find the core gameplay mechanics remarkably unchanged in the newest installment. Players navigate the pun-filled world of Cat Quest II, traveling both over the world map and in small, isolated dungeons with the same interface. Monsters, quest items, and NPCs appear the same in both, and combat can occur anywhere- save for a hub zone that allows fast travel through the overworld.
Scattered across both Felingard and the Lupus Empire are various cities, towns, camps, and other settlements, where players can save, heal, and pick up side quests. Each step of the way is filled with vibrant spritework and sometimes funny, sometimes cringeworthy cat- and dog-based puns, but the overall package feels just as charming as the original.
That being said, Cat Quest II does bring some noted improvements over the first game. Equipment upgrades, previously locked behind randomized chests that could be bought with in-game currency, are now obtained through a straight upgrade at the Blacksmith. This simple change keeps players from getting locked out of quality character builds by RNG, which is especially handy considering you have two heroes to manage this time around. Overall, these quality of life features make the character progression more flexible and intuitive. The aforementioned fast travel system is also a welcome addition, especially considering the the expanded world map. Finally, while the number of unique monsters found in the game remains relatively unchanged from the first title, a larger variety of dungeon puzzles, traps, and hazards have brought some welcome variety to dungeon diving.
Playing with a Pawtner
Of course, the biggest innovation The Gentlebros brought to Cat Quest II is the ability for two players to play together on the same console. I had the chance to try the multiplayer several times during my quest and found the experience very satisfying. The two kings share an experience pool, equipment, and spell list, giving players the chance to pick and choose their own builds and distribute key abilities between them. As far as RPGs go, Cat Quest II is very accessible, making it the perfect game to play with a non-gamer spouse, friend, or relative. Even if your teammate is woefully outclassed and dies often, bringing them back to life is relatively quick and painless and they’ll only be out of the action for a minute or two before continuing. Fighting together, you should be able to tear through monsters quickly, snag the loot you need, and keep marching through the story.
Of course, I often found myself playing alone as well. During solo play, players can switch back and forth between the feline and canine king with the touch of a button. During my playthrough, I found myself running a basic warrior/mage combo, giving me the tools needed to tackle any monster that came my way. Whatever character the player is not using is controlled by a simple AI, who unfortunately makes itself relatively useless throughout the adventure. They seem to be programmed to mostly hang back and only attack monsters when necessary. The game definitely seems balanced around the two-player setup, so the poor AI makes each monster a bit of an HP sponge – slowing the speed of an action RPG that prides itself on being fast-paced. Even so, the game is still very enjoyable alone, just maybe not quite as smooth as playing alone in the first title.
A Taste of the Furmiliar
Whether playing alone or with a partner, the basic gameplay loop of Cat Quest II remains the same. Like the first game, the player will be guided by Kirry through a series of main quest objectives and periodically encouraged to venture to nearby towns to acquire side quests, gain experience, and upgrade their equipment. The cadence to this game design works just as well as it did in the first installment, keeping a nice balance between story progression and exploration.
Like the first game, each side quest usually involves some subversion of what the player might expect when they first pick up the quest, taking each mini story in a different direction that shows the impact of the main plot on the citizenry. If anything bad can be said about the side quest design, it’s that after playing through both Cat Quest I and II in the last year or so, I came to expect these subversions, making the reveal a little less satisfying as time went on.
In terms of pure exploration, unfortunately, Cat Quest II falls slightly short of its predecessor. The world map design isn’t as intricately or intuitively designed, making finding and completing side quests a little more tedious than before. While the Felingard of Cat Quest was shaped like a giant wheel, with a dangerous central area surrounded by progressively harder monsters as you move north, Cat Quest II felt more like an inverted triangle.
Quests of the same experience level become more and more spread out across the X-axis as you go, making each new area a little more time consuming to navigate. At the same time, one of the keenest features of the dungeons from the first game – hidden paths that lead to secrets treasure chests – seems to have been removed almost entirely, or just drastically reduced in number. Overall, the world just doesn’t quite feel as sharply designed as before, despite the mechanical improvements.
All told, Cat Quest II is still a solid action-RPG experience and an excellent multiplayer game to play with both gamer and non-gamer friends and family. The game is just as cute and charming as the first, and the expanded puns and pop culture references available by adding an entire continent of canines are welcome additions. Fans of the first game will find a few happy changes as well as a few new gripes, but the addition of multiplayer certainly elevates the game’s potential to new, hair-raising heights.