|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Q Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Patrick||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Patrick Evans
When you look at the list of Q Entertainments titles, Ninety-Nine Nights is about the last thing you would expect to see. Meteos on Nintendo DS was quite a quirky strategy title that impressed even the non-DS fan, but Lumines represented the only original property on the Sony PSP worth merit for a considerable amount of time. For me, it felt like the PSPs Tetris. When Q Entertainment and Phantagram announced their pairing for a new Xbox 360 title, the clamor around the industry was considerable. After all, Ninety-Nine Nights was going to be one of the big Japanese titles that would help them claim territory across the Pacific.
Well, Japanese 360 fans (the six or seven that there are) better have clamored endlessly for a Dynasty Warriors clone, because that is exactly what we have been given with Ninety-Nine Nights. In fact, if there werent the occasional dragon flying overhead to pummel the crowd with fire, I would swear we were looking at the newest Dynasty Warrior game. As much as it is a shame to say this, its obvious that the developers fell asleep at the wheel during this one. Ninety-Nine Nights is the first time I have ever looked at a kill count of 2,000 or more and felt completely bored while achieving it. N3 literally sucks all the fun out of killing huge mobs of enemies, which is almost a crime where I come from.
As players fire up N3 for the first time, they are greeted with a beautiful montage of superbly rendered characters either preparing for battle or wading through mobs of goblins with ease. The six characters featured in the opening movie are the selectable characters, each with their own story to tell during the war between the Light and the Dark. Inphyy, for instance, is the 17 year old leader of the Temple Knights, who leads a campaign against the goblins and orcs but is driven more by her deep seeded hatred for the beings who killed her parents. In contrast, Dwingvatt is a young Goblin warrior that witnesses his older brother fall in battle against Inphyy.
The storylines interweave fairly successfully, and seeing the war from multiple angles is interesting, but the plastic presentation kills the experience. Every cut scene feels empty and lifeless. Instead of witnessing a heated conversation between Inphyy and her brother on the battlefield, it feels as if the two have suddenly been thrown onto an isolated stage where they are alone, where in reality there is a lot more going on around them. Voice acting throughout the title ranges from iffy to worse, with some characters grinding the players patience as they over-act, under-act, or simply sound terrible. As a personal note to the developers of this or any other fantasy title, I must mention that naming your characters with repeating letters does not make it sound "fantasy." Inphyy, Aspharr, Myifee, Tyurru the list goes on, and the names are absolutely ridiculous.
But discussing my dislike for the names in this game goes beyond my scope as a reviewer. Bringing it back to gameplay, one finds that the game is as simple as a first-grade math class. As the hero on the battlefield, you wade through enemies as if they werent even there. Enemies drop little red orbs when they die, which fill your Orb Attack Gauge. When its filled, you can unleash a charged series of attacks more potent than your regular attacks. Enemies killed in this manner drop blue orbs, filling your Orb Spark Gauge which allows for an even more powerful attack. Enemies drop items that come in two types- consumables and equipables. As suggested, consumables are used up as they are acquired, while equipables last for as long as you wear them.
When you can describe the majority of a games mechanics in a single paragraph, things are not well. Instead of worrying about combining X and Y for impressive combinations that send your enemies flying in every which direction, players can just as easily hammer on either X or Y non-stop and achieve the same result. In fact, aside from the seldom-seen enemy hero that poses the only threat throughout the whole game, I found it possible to complete whole stages without using the X button, which is the quick attack button. Enemies run to attack you, and them simply stand and watch as you slaughter the rest of their squad before coming to them. There are certain stages that require you limit the amount you get completely surrounded, but these are few and are always at the end of a given characters campaign, where they have gained a number of levels and acquired new weapons and armor.
As the gameplay is easy enough, it still would have been nice enough to see checkpoints implemented throughout each mission. I praised Dead Rising for its save structure last week as it makes encounters feel more exciting, but the same cannot be said of N3. Missions can last 30 minutes or more, and while dying wont be a problem for most, those who do have a hard time will find themselves dying late and restarting from the beginning. The last thing that I would want to do if I had died at the last part of a mission is wade through another 3,000 goblins with my mind shut off and my Y button worn out. When you add the fact that a number of missions for each character coincides with a previous campaign its easy to see why I nearly fell asleep a number of times while playing. Red Bull and Mountain Dew could do nothing to stem this boredom, and thats saying something.
Much was made out of the fact that there are hundreds of enemies on-screen at any one time. In fact, that was probably the best selling point to players that played the demo on Xbox Live this summer. When you realize that every enemy looks the same as the last mission, or that the environments are barren and devoid of any interaction whatsoever, the number of enemies on-screen fails to impress. Effects and lighting during the combos are pretty sweet looking, unless the occasional slowdown rears its ugly head. About the only impressive aspect of the entire title comes from the music and sound effects. The entire soundtrack is orchestrated and paints and often paints an epic backdrop to a game that is anything but.
If I had to describe Ninety-Nine Nights in a single word, I would call it disappointing. Everything about this title feels like it needs more work, from the cut-scenes to the broken A.I. of your allies. The plot itself practices a seldom-used technique in storytelling, but the actual content of said plot is thin and irrelevant. After getting a taste of real next-gen titles such as Dead Rising and Prey this summer, N3 looks like a chump.
Each playable character will feature their own strengths and weaknesses, as players must choose the right combination of magic and might to overcome their adversaries.
With hundreds of combatants on screen at once, players wield their armies with precision and skill in massive scale battles against ever evolving virtual opponents.
In the epic and emotional campaign, gamers play through the heart of a fabulous fantasy realm with unparalleled depth. Each character has his or her own dedicated plotline that ultimately intertwines with that of a larger story.
CCC Staff Writer
Ninety-Nine Nights Preview
Tetsuya Mizuguchi & developer Phantagram try hard to perfect the hack and slash genre with their impressive Ninety-Nine Nights. by Vaughn Smith
Once you see Ninety-Nine Nights (N3) in action it's impossible not to think "Dynasty Warriors with more guys on screen". Hey, Koei's Dynasty Warriors series has been around a long time and deserves recognition. Ninety-Nine Nights is looking to grab a piece of the feudal Japan hack and slash scene, which is as underpopulated a genre as you can get.
Players will have their choice of 6 warriors at the outset (perhaps more), one of which is a busty female (Inphyy) who'd rather show off her ample cleavage in the heat of battle instead of covering up her heart with say, um, some armor or perhaps chainmail. Makes sense to me. The other players include a long haired brute named Myifee and then there's pretty boy Aspharr. Another female named Tyurru seems to be weilding a Keyblade, you know...from Kingdom Hearts II. Seriously. I know it isn't but what would the copyright infringement office say?
Once the action starts players may be overwhelmed with the sheer number of enemies on screen at once (rumored to be something like 5000 - but I can't get confirmation on that) but the controls will be intuitive and pick up and play. Armed with only one attack button, jump, block and dodge, players certainly won't be overwhelmed in the control department. But if that seems a little skimpy, players can upgrade their characters via experience earned on the field and you'll also be given the ability to command your troops to attack or if things go poorly, retreat and hide under coats until the pressure's off, ala Homer Simpson. Players will also be able to collect red orbs to fill up Special meters. One special allows you to slow down time which will allow you to slice and dice in slow mo while the other allows you to unleash an extremely powerful attack which will decimate everyone in your path.
The game is running in high def (duh) and looks impressive - moreso due to the sheer number of characters on screen rather than backgrounds (which look a little sparse). N3 was supposed to have been released in Japan this past week, but that release might have slipped. A demo of the game was released in Japan on the Japanese version of XBL, but sadly that's the only place you can download it currently.
Whether N3 makes it these shores or not may be revealed at next month's E3.