So you've found yourself a way to fly, eh? Once you acquire Tengri you have access to just about every part of the world and can start putting together your dream team. You should now have access to most familiars, so it's time to start deciding who you want to take along with you and what roles they will fill in your party.
At this point in the game defense starts to come to the fore as the best offense with powerful bosses flinging very potent spells and abilities at you left and right. The first step in building a party capable of withstanding some of the mid- to late-game bosses and enemies is to make sure that every character in your party has a familiar with the Defend command. This is essential for both surviving the powerful attacks that will be thrown your way and is one of the most effective ways to generate gold glims. As you are no doubt aware by this point in the game, gold glims are the game changer in long fights by not only healing the character that grabs them but also allowing you to unleash an attack that deals massive amounts of damage.
"Why Defend?" you might be asking, "Why not Evade since it negates all damage instead of just reducing it?" Evasion is certainly a more effective option than defense but it is limited by a very short duration. When using the Evade command the familiar will remain in that state for only about half the time it would be defending. This gives you a much smaller window to give the command while a boss is preparing an attack and you risk taking the full brunt of the ability if you are too slow. If you feel confident in your ability to time your commands, by all means swap out for some evasive familiars and have it a go, there is no definitive right or wrong way to build a party after all!
As with early parties, it is essential to have a strong physical attacker available to each party member. This is important for two reasons. The first is to conserve your party's MP in random battles with normal enemies on the world map and in dungeons between waystones and boss fights. The second reason for having these physical familiars is as a failsafe in case you run out of MP during a long boss fight. Nothing is worse than burning through all your resources during a difficult boss battle and getting it down to 10% of its health left only to fail because you had to rely on Sleepeafowl's weak physical attack. Most familiars built for melee attacking also possess strong movement speeds, allowing them to cover a large area of the battlefield quickly to gather glims or position themselves near a boss' weak point.
The final slot for each party member is the most flexible. It is important that at least one or two party members have access to familiars with elemental attack tricks and healing tricks. Oliver, Esther and Marcassin all have the ability to heal the party. Both Oliver and Marcassin have offensive spells. However, none of your party members comes close to the amount of healing or damage a strong familiar can do. Swaine on the other hand has rather limited access to healing abilities, as do most of the familiars he has affinity with. While you are free to place a familiar without affinity for Swaine in his party to give him access to healing tricks, his MP is much better spent on elemental tricks and abilities like Yoo-Hoo to keep enemies focused on the brick-like defensive abilities of his familiars.
So which familiars are the best? Unfortunately there is no right or wrong answer to this question, but the good news is that having Tengri means having virtually any familiar you want! Because of that, we've taken the opportunity to break down each of the four roles: Tank, fighter, caster and healer (more about these roles in our party building basics article here) and highlight some familiars that really shine in those roles.
As stated above, this is one of if not THE most important role in the later stages of the game. Ideally, each party member should have a familiar for this role by late in the game. The nice thing about Ni no Kuni is that very few familiars have a singular purpose and most tank familiars can be used for more than just getting knocked around!
Oliver: Whippersnapper - One of Oliver's best tanking options, Whippersnapper does its job with aplomb. Possessing one of the highest physical defenses in the game, he has a great magic attack score to boot. Whippersnapper can be found very early in the game and has a fairly high recruit chance so most players should have one floating around in their familiar retreat by mid-game. For its final form we recommend Claptrap as it takes it's job very seriously, learning some very potent healing tricks in addition to a slightly higher magic attack.
Esther: Lumberwood - This familiar can be obtained in two ways: They can be found in the wild on No Longer Mine Island or obtained via a familiar ticket received upon completion of task 75. Lumberwood holds the title for the highest natural physical defense of any familiar in the world of Ni no Kuni. For the final metamorphosis, Umberwood learns some good healing and support tricks, while Wildwood learns Yoo-Hoo and other supporting tricks.
Swaine: Monolith - As with the early game, Monolith continues to be strong all the way into late and end-game. It has high defense and magic attack scores and the final form you choose gives it either powerful elemental tricks or strong support abilities including Upsy-Daisy!
Marcassin: Potty - Unfortunately, Marcassin has very few strong defensive familiars within the families he has affinity for. Of those familiars, Potty is the strongest option. Fortunately, it also has an outstanding magic attack stat which lets it toss around elemental tricks in between defending against enemy attacks. Of the final forms available, Hotpot is a nice choice due to a higher magic defense and the ability to learn both fire and water elemental tricks.
The tank is the other necessary role for a party reaching the end of the game. The role of physical attacker is vitally important for many reasons. Alongside the reasons stated above, fighters can also get up close and counter an enemy's attack or interrupt a trick, knocking loose a variety of glims. Keep in mind that a fighter's attack speed is just as important as its physical attack stat, if not more so.
Oliver: Sillymander - There are almost too many fighters available for Oliver to pick just one, but Sillymander stands out for many reasons. All of Sillymander's stats are great and it has no particular weakness. It has incredibly high magic defense and the Defend command. It also has a quick movement and attack speed, which lets it keep up with fast foes and deal very consistent damage. If used as a fighter, metamorphosing Sillymander into a Pyromander gives it strong elemental tricks and a higher physical attack stat.
Esther: Hooray - Esther is a bit limited in her choices for a physical attacking familiar. While sailing the seas you will come across these manta ray-like familiars and they are one of the more well-rounded fighters for Esther to choose. While not as physically powerful as some of the other familiars in the game, Hooray has a high physical and magical attack score as well as the Defend command, which is always handy in a pinch.
Swaine: Bonehead - As shown in our familiar spotlight (which you can find here), Bonehead has great long-term potential. If metamorphosed into a Bone Baron it learns powerful physical attack tricks, decent defense, a 40% physical damage reduction and the Psych Up! and Go Wild! commands (which allows it to wade into most battles like a buzz saw on legs!).
Marcassin: Lightshade - Like Esther, Marcassin has a small selection of familiars to choose a fighter from. Lightshade is a fine choice because of solid stats all around. In addition it has the ability to Psych Up! and Go Wild!, increasing its attack speed and making up for a lower attack stat than other familiars.
Oliver: Oroboros - As featured in the spotlight (here), Oroboros serves well into the later stretches of the game for Oliver. Since Oliver learns plenty of elemental spells, Oroboros makes a great powerhouse when you need a little extra kick (and has great mobility to boot!). If you choose to metamorphose it into Obscuroboros it learns powerful dark elemental tricks as well.
Esther: Sleepeafowl - Another spotlighted familiar (found here), Sleepeafowl is an awesome and flexible caster for Esther's team. A powerful miracle move, well-rounded stats and the Defend command top it off as a surprisingly sturdy caster as well.
Swaine: Wisp - If you decide to give Swaine a familiar for performing elemental tricks, Wisp makes a fine choice. They learn a handful of fire tricks and, as they metamorphose, they learn some powerful dark elemental tricks as well.
Marcassin: Turbandit - Like Oliver with physical familiars, Marcassin has a plethora of familiars to choose from for the caster role. Turbandit does a great job, standing out from this crowd as both a powerful and flexible caster. They have one of the higher magic attack stats amongst the other familiars and learn elemental tricks from almost every element as they level. Rounding things out are a decent attack stat and the Defend command, making them durable little fellows as well.
Oliver: Oroboros - That's right, twice on the list! Oliver's familiar choices lean much more toward offensive abilities overall and he learns several healing spells throughout the game, so it is actually recommended you lean away from giving him a familiar to heal. If you find yourself needing more healing power though, an Oroboros metamorphosed into Flouroboros is the way to go. It learns a whole bag of healing tricks as it levels including one capable of reviving your party if they fall in battle
Esther: Napcap - As featured here, Napcap's first metamorphosis into Duncecap gives it a great selection of healing abilities. Reaching the final stage of metamorphosis caps this off by giving it some powerful elemental attacks to compliment its healing abilities.
Swaine: Kipper - Believe it or not, Swaine has few if any choices for healing familiars in the families he has affinity for! Kipper is a good all-around choice if you decide you want Swaine to be able to heal because of the variety of healing tricks it learns. Just beware as every one of Kipper's forms other than Siestar Fish actually takes 50% more damage from physical attacks!
Marcassin: Relixx - Almost the complete opposite of Swaine, Marcassin has plenty of familiars available to him for healing purposes but joins your party with one of the best in tow! Relixx learns a large number of healing and support tricks as it grows and has solid all-around stat growth. As if that wasn't enough, it's final forms have a high movement and attack speed with the Angelixx also gaining resistance against light elemental attacks!
More important than anything else when preparing a party to tackle the final set of challenges is that you are able to use your party properly. It doesn't help much if you don't get some practice and (no pun intended) familiarity with how your party performs in battle. Try out as many familiars as you want and make sure to check out our familiar spotlights for some of our own favorites! If you have a favorite familiar combination of your own for taking on the later parts of the game, feel free to use the comments section below to share! As always, you have the final say which familiars accompany you into battle against the Dark Djinn and further challenges!
Want more strategy? Pick up the Ni no Kuni Prima Official Game Guide on Amazon!