Knights in the Nightmare Review for Nintendo DS

Knights in the Nightmare Review for Nintendo DS

A Beautiful Nightmare

Any RPG fan worth their salt is probably familiar with the developer Sting – or, at the very least, familiar with their work. Games like Yggdra Union and Riviera: The Promised Land became instant classics among fans of the genre. Now Sting brings their characteristically deep RPG approach to the DS with Knights in the Nightmare.

Knights in the Nightmare screenshot

The result is absolutely wonderful. I’ll admit that I’m a total sucker for most of Sting’s work; it constantly brings new, interesting concepts to a well-trodden genre, and Knights in the Nightmare is certainly no exception. It has some core strategy RPG mechanics, but on top of all that, there are also some intriguing action and even top-down shooting components.

While Knights in the Nightmare is extremely impressive in terms of gameplay, it gets off to a bit of a rocky start in terms of plot. It’s extremely generic, at least at first, and takes quite a while to get interesting. The plot eventually does ramp up, but it takes quite a while to do so. If you’re a person who relies heavily on story elements to keep you engaged in a game, you may have trouble making it through the first few hours of Knights in the Nightmare.

You take control of the Wisp, which is capable of temporarily reviving dead warriors and, interestingly, is the only character in the game that can take damage. During the early stages of the game, you’ll only use soldiers for single battles; however, as you get a little deeper into the game, you’ll discover that you can use certain items to permanently revive soldiers and make them full members of your squad.

Like most RPGs, there are a lot of weapons, equipment, and items to be gathered by defeating enemies. However, the equipping system is unique. At the beginning of each skirmish, you can equip items on each of your characters, and items can be switched at will throughout the battle. Weapons also take a little time to recharge after use, so you’ll have to strategically use the weapons you have so as not to be left without a usable weapon.

Knights in the Nightmare screenshot

The weapon system is further convoluted by the Chaos/Order system. At anytime you want, you can change from Order to Chaos or vice versa. You’ll be able to use certain weapons or items depending on whether you’re currently in Order or Chaos mode. At the same time, switching might give the enemy a bonus in strength or defense, so you need to balance the risk and reward of switching modes. This is just another mechanic that adds another layer of strategy to the game.

Another really interesting implementation in Knights in the Nightmare is the fact that most of our characters are unable to move. You might think that this simplifies the game, because most SRPGs rely on both movement and action as major strategic mechanics. However, just because many of your characters cannot move does not mean that Knights in the Nightmare is less strategic; it’s just strategic, but in a different way.

Knights in the Nightmare screenshot

Each weapon has a certain attack radius; to attack, you’ll simply hold the stylus over the warrior you want to use, then drag to a square that’s in the weapon’s attack radius that you want to target. Because enemies are constantly moving across a predefined path, if you release the stylus right when an enemy is in the square you’re targeting, then you’ll attack the enemy and presumably do damage.

On the subject of damage, I mentioned already that the Wisp is the only ally character that can take damage; the soldiers themselves cannot. During battles, enemies will constantly be firing “bullets” at the Wisp, which you’ll have to dodge by sliding the stylus around the touch screen. This might seem a little bit out of place in an SRPG, but it really contributes to the frantic sense of the game and keeps things from becoming as slow-paced as many modern SRPGs.

Knights in the Nightmare screenshot

One final gameplay mechanic that’s worth discussing is the spawning system. After you defeat all the enemies on the map, the round will end. You then go to a slot machine where you play the slots to determine which enemies are going to spawn in which spaces. This is important, because maps are cleared by achieving rows or columns before your enemies – kind of like tic-tac-toe.

If you’re a bit confused about how, exactly, this game works, then you’re already getting a good impression of Knights in the Nightmare. It’s without a doubt the most confusing game I’ve ever played, and it takes a while to grasp even the most basic gameplay concepts. The learning curve is steep, but there is a plethora of in-game tutorials to help you figure everything out.

So, while Knights in the Nightmare may not be the ideal game for those people new to the SRPG genre, it’s going to be loved by anybody who’s a fan of past SPRG games. If you’ve enjoyed titles like Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, or Disgaea, then you’re probably going to feel right at home with Knights in the Nightmare. Of course, the gameplay mechanics are all significantly different, but the presence, complexity, and nuances in the game are the same.

Graphically, Knights in the Nightmare is a really beautiful game. There are lots of attractive hand-drawn characters and some of the huge attacks look really amazing on the DS. Knights in the Nightmare combines fantastic art direction with technical proficiency to create one of the most stunning games on the system. The music is also pretty solid, and if you really enjoy it, it’s worth noting that Knights in the Nightmare comes with a bundled soundtrack.

Knights in the Nightmare’s cost of entry is high, but if you commit yourself to sticking with this game, the result is certainly rewarding. There’s just so much content here and so much complexity that once you get a handle on how the game works, it’s going to be difficult to stop playing. If you’re a fan of SRPGs, you really have to check out Knights in the Nightmare.

Knights in the Nightmare is one of the DS’s most impressive-looking games, with beautiful hand-drawn characters and lots of impressive effects. 4.4 Control
The controls are unconventional – you control characters via the Wisp – but the touch screen controls are fairly intuitive and work well. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is good, but it’s probably the least impressive component of Knights in the Nightmare. The game’s soundtrack comes bundled, which is a nice touch. 4.7

Play Value
It takes a while to get a grasp on the complex game mechanics, but once you do, Knights in the Nightmare is an addictive experience with the potential for hundreds of hours of fun.

4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Incorporating strategy RPG, real-time strategy, and shooter elements, you’ve never experienced a game like this. Control a Wisp with your stylus and activate the souls of deceased knights to aid you in destroying foes on the map. Enemies fire bullets in multiple directions, making it vital for players to master the unique touch controls.
  • Find and recruit the ghosts of seven different classes of knights from your kingdom, and learn of their pasts, hopes, dreams, and untimely deaths. Sacrifice their souls to one another to balance their skills and create your ultimate party.
  • This twice-told legend entangles you in a dark and brooding tale that is simultaneously examined through events both past and present. Complete the adventure to unlock the ability to play through the game with a new narrative twist, placing the antagonist in the starring role.

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