Ninety-Nine Nights Xbox 360 Review
Back at the start of May 2005, you may remember a shoddy MTV show that was supposedly all about Microsoft’s new next generation console, the Xbox 360. The show seemed to be more focus on celebrities rather than supplying the watcher with information about the 360. There was however a short video of some of the 360’s new games. One of the games shown was a title by the name of Ninety-Nine Nights. Like a lot of the other 360 games shown at the time, the game seemed to be all about pushing the boundaries of how many characters could be presented on screen at any one time. So after more than a year of its unveiling has Ninety-Nine Nights brought anything to call “next-generation” in gaming to the hack and slash genre? The answer is plain and simple, it hasn’t much.
Ninety-Nine Nights is a hack and slash action game. It’s actually brought to you by Phantagram, the development studio who worked on the Kingdom Under fire series for the Xbox, which is also another hack and slash game, although it contained a little more strategic involvement from the player. Phantagram wasn’t alone while working on their first 360 instalment. Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Who is best known for his work on Rez, Lumines and Meteos), is also one of the producers on Ninety-Nine Nights. Mizuguchi and his team at Q Entertainment collaborated throughout the development of the game.
For the past few years the hack-and-slash-hundreds-of-enemies-to-your-heart’s-content genre has been brought to players through games like Dynasty Warriors and Kingdom Under fire. N3 (As Ninety-Nine Nights will be called from now on) borrows heavily from these two games. Already having that genre under their belt, you would have thought the people at Phantagram would have made N3 play a little like their past hack and slash game, but the truth is it feels more inspired by Dynasty Warriors. To stop itself from being a total imitation, the game is set in a fantasy environment where magic exists and creatures such as Ogres, Orcs and Goblins live.
The story in N3 is an epic clash between the armies of Light and Dark. What it really means is that it’s essentially a war between humans and creatures. They used to live happily with each other, co-existing in peace, but something catastrophic happened and the world was driven into chaos between races. N3 allows you to control and view the perspective of the war with seven different characters. It’s not like Dynasty Warriors however, which contains a huge cast of characters and some of them play reasonably alike. In N3 they all feel different and play uniquely. At the start of the game you can only choose the angel in crimson armour Inphyy, a 17 year-old female warrior of the Temple Knights. After finishing the story of Inphyy, you will unlock two more characters. Progressing through like this will eventually unlock all seven characters that are in the game, so you’ll be getting to play as a mage, priest and even a goblin. It seems that the actual main focus of the story is on Inphyy and her brother Aspharr since the other characters have fewer missions.
As you would expect from a game of this type, there’s a lot of button pressing to cut down the hordes of enemies. The two main attack buttons are the X and Y buttons. X supplies a normal attack while the Y is the power attack. If you execute two or more attacks with the right timing, you will be able to perform combos. You can mix both the X and Y attacks to perform them. The A button allows you to jump; while R trigger makes you dash at speed and L trigger allows you to block attacks from opposition.
When you first start with a fresh character, you will have a minimal amount of combos to perform. Each time you level up your character learns some new combo strings, each time getting flashier and more diverse. Most of the combos are useful but as you get near the higher level ones they seem to be a bit worthless to use. They would be better for attacking one large enemy rather than a mass group of murderess little Orcs. And since you rarely versus an opponent one-one-one (unless of course you’ve slain every last beast on the battlefield), you won’t be using those higher level combos.
Now slaying hundreds of evildoers doesn’t come without its reward. Killing enemies will grant you red orbs that spawn out of their corpse. They fly into your body and such collecting enough of these will fill up your orb attack bar. Once full of orbs you can release a devastating orb attack by hitting the B button. Orb attacks are powerful attacks that are executed by the normal attack buttons. Slaying enemies in this mode will grant you blue orbs; which in turn fill up your Orb Spark metre (Yes this game has an unhealthy obsession with orbs). The Orb Spark is an extremely powerful move that inflicts massive damage on anyone who stands in your way. They also look fantastic. They vary from having souls sucked out to raining meteors on the battlefield. They can really help you clear out the screen.
The game’s missions are pretty simple. At the start of a mission you get to choose two squads of troops to join you in battle. These are your typical things like archers and swordsmen. Once in battle you can command them to attack or defend or you can be a selfish killer and leave them behind to do nothing but weep as they miss out on the action. It’s not like they actually do all that much anyway. It seems that they were added just to give that effect of a big battle taking place. Missions usually consist of travelling from point A to point B or destroying a certain object. N3 allows you to also equip weapons and items you find throughout the stages. There’s a fair few items to collect for each character, you can’t however share items between them. The end of the level usually consists of a boss that is noticeably tougher than the minions he commands. Don’t be surprised when you first meet one after the first stage and he lays the smack down on you. The game relies heavily on replaying past missions to power up your character. This means you can go back once levelled up and then pummel the boss that once thought it was fun to batter you in a few hits. Achievement points are also built around replaying the game. You get points for beating the game with each character, levelling them to level 9 and beating every stage with at least an A rank. If you are a gamerscore whore you will be able to easily acquire the 1000 points available to you if you put in the time.
Having hundreds of enemies on screen is what N3 does best. The graphics are nice to look at, especially the character models, but the backgrounds could have looked better. They seem to be a bit flat and plain most of the time. You’ll be impressed with the amount of characters they are managing to push onscreen, especially when you see them attack from every angle and you are stuck in the middle surrounded by what seems like a green wave of goblins. Occasionally the game does suffer from slowdown. This happens most of the time when the screen is full of action, it doesn’t seem to like all these models on the screen mixed with the showy graphical effects of the combos. Most of the time you experience the slowdown it won’t be affecting the gameplay all that much, so it isn’t too much of a worry.
One thing that N3 does significantly well is the orchestral soundtrack. The music sounds beautiful and never seems to get repetitive while playing. Everything from the soothing title screen tune to the battle cry of high tension music, it just all fits nicely. It’s certainly at the top of the spectrum when you look at it, although if you put it that way then right down at the bottom would be the voice acting. It’s very generic and easily forgettable and with some characters it can make your ears bleed like hell. It also seems that they didn’t voice over everything as sometimes characters are moving their mouth but no text or subs appear on the screen. It’s either that or they suffer from the syndrome known as “moving your mouth like you are a cow eating grass”.
N3 is really a simple case of the player liking or disliking the hack and slash genre. If you like it and played the other games in the selection available to you then there’s no doubt you’ve already formed your idea of N3 and will play it regardless of its faults. If you don’t then N3 isn’t going to do anything to change your view on that. It’s the same style of game that Koei has been churning out over the PlayStation 2’s lifespan aided with the power of the 360. It’s also very disappointing that the game doesn’t come with multiplayer. A game of this type should always have some sort of multiplayer aspect to it; it’s so built for that. If you can get past its problems, you do find deep inside all that death is a game that is fun and you find it slowly grows on you while also providing some simplistic entertainment, problem is you just might need some painkillers for your fingers after all that pumping of buttons.
Ninety-Nine Nights isn’t the classic Xbox 360 game that it could have been. However after you get past the first impressions, you’ll have a game that is fun in a weird sort of way.
7.1 out of 10