Ninety-Nine Nights II

In 2006, Konami gave us Ninety-Nine Nights (N3). Based on the Dynasty Warriors format, it was a moderately successful hack & slash game filled with pretty characters and boasting the largest amount of characters on screen at that point in video game history. Ninety-Nine Nights II stays true to the hack & slash genre, whilst adding in elements of platforming and Role-Playing Games. With the sequel, Konami promises to take everything to the next level, and in some areas have succeeded. Certainly, the opening full motion video is captivating, and the game itself is graphically more polished. The overly pretty colourings of the original are now gone, leaving it easier to immerse yourself in a world in which you could believe there is trouble afoot. This new grittier look, for both the characters and the environment, can make the screen look a little uninteresting at times (particularly in the castle with enough slate grey that you’d think they’d run out of ink), but it does make the world more believable and occasionally provides some stunning backgrounds.

Ninety-Nine Nights II is all about the battle between light and dark. With the newly risen Lord of the Night terrorising the land, it is up to your five characters (unlocked as the story progresses, but played singularly) to band together and save the day. Following N3‘s example, you get a separate storyline for each character, with the amount of levels varying to fit the circumstances. As each story progresses you will notice how intricately the stories intertwine, with some obvious and some more subtle clues about how one story fits with the others. Your team is made up of an eclectic bunch; a bereaved hero fighting to forget his lost loved ones, a princess who holds a secret power, an inappropriately dressed woman whose clothes would never survive the battle, a goblin that may or may not be evil, and a reformed criminal the size of a house with the speed of a sloth. Although none of these are surprisingly innovative characters, they can all be played with ease whilst still keeping them distinctly different on the battlefield.

In battle you can expect to find yourself chronically outnumbered. Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of variety in the actions of the enemies. This is less obvious than in the original but the AI seems to be set to one action for each enemy-type. And that’s not the only flaw the game holds. With no tutorial available, you’ll find yourself thrown straight in at the deep end. As ‘hack & slash’ is in decline, this (and harsh spikes in difficulty) may put off a lot of gamers new to the genre. Although the occasional instruction pops up on screen as you play, you’ll generally find the speed of the message unreadable as the enemies do not cease attacking for you to read!  Add in the screen tearing (found on a regular basis), and this game suddenly lacks the polish we’re used to.

All this pales in comparison to the game’s one major flaw – the save points. Checkpoints scattered through the levels allow you to respawn when you die. This should be a good thing. It’s not. Bad placing means you can often find yourself running through levels as quick as possible, in order to trigger the next save. With long sections of the game without one, this can become very irritating, very fast. If for any reason you are hopelessly stuck and have to turn the game off, then you can expect it to have saved nothing and you’ll need to replay the whole level! This can be excruciating when they decide to tag on a nasty boss at the end. It very much harks back to the JRPGs of yesteryear, in which long sections were put in to up the difficulty, not improve the gameplay. It wasn’t popular then, and I can’t see that changing now. I have not been this stressed out by a game since…

Well, I couldn’t finish that sentence. That’s how stressful it was.

Typical of the genre, you can go back and replay the levels should you find yourself struggling, but the need to do this may put gamers off. I like a challenge in a game, but without redo-ing a couple of levels, I found this N3-II plain frustrating! A ray of light comes in the form of the online co-op, which provides new challenges to level up your character. Split-screen play frankly just wouldn’t work, and therefore, there is no local co-op. However, the online co-op does provide many options for you to explore. There’s a straight survival mode, a maze in which you take separate paths and open doors for each other, a race to kill a set number of enemies before your opponent, and a couple of challenge modes that involve you working together as a team, to accomplish missions just like single player. These are all enjoyable extras and should break up the grinding that is so synonymous to this genre.

With several new additions to the fighting system, N3 veterans should not expect to have much of an edge over beginners. There are plenty of new things to provide a learning experience for all players. A more complex levelling up system, for example, gives the player control over every skill they pick up, along with weapons and the characters themselves. With hidden sidequests on every level and new platforming elements this is a much more in depth game than its predecessor. Easy to pick up, and with some easy achievements to entice you, you can be sucked into this game very quickly, and after starting off as an average game, N3-II ends on a very high note. Later bosses are separate levels and more innovative than anything I’ve seen in a long time. The story progresses nicely, and the gameplay, whilst tricky, is able to be completed the first time round. If the whole game had been made to this degree of quality then we would be looking at a top title. Sadly, it wasn’t. Let down by it’s inconsistencies, N3-II won’t be for everyone.







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