Ninety-Nine Nights review
Hey, don't mislead me, game title!
You like Dynasty Warriors 2-6? Do you? Huh? Well, if you don't, then get out of here, because Ninety Nine Nights is, through and through, a Dynasty Warriors clone... well, it employs the elements that Dynasty Warriors made popular. You got fights against mobs of enemies, and special attacks that make crowd control a lot easier for yourself. The game adds a leveling up system, but that's not really enough to seperate it from the Dynasty Warriors series.
The story suffers from "who gives a shit" syndrome. Basically, a war between humans and monsters (ranging from orcs to goblins to druids) is waged, and it's over two orbs - light and dark. One side must protect their orb and acquire the other orb. Then, when they combine the two orbs together, the power will either bring calamity to the world, or enslave humanity, depending on who merges the orbs. Think capture the flag, but with orbs, and with much more at stake than being egged by the winning team. Oh well. Beats waging war over land, oil and religion - the latter two, not being of any concern to these armies.
Each of the seven characters you control have their reasons for fighting, and are all developed finely. Whether it's for revenge or for justice, each of the characters have their reasons, and throughout the course of the game, you'll grow to like them. Amongst that, depending on who you play as, they'll change the storyline drastically. In order to experience the different storylines, you have to unlock the characters by going through as the characters you already have, starting with the female lead and cover girl (no sexual term intended), Inphyy. Playing as different characters net you different story events, so even though the stories themselves are nothing special, you'll at least experience seven different storylines. None of the storylines are gripping tales or anything - just excuses to kill entire armies. I never once cared for the storylines, though the characters kept me interested because of their intentions and development.
If you're playing a hack and slash like this for storyline, you're just kidding yourself. It's all about the gameplay, baby! As far as the eye can see, the gameplay is fine. You get out a weapon, and slice and dice your way through the world's weakest yet biggest load of cannon fodder. You can perform ground combos, launch attacks, and aerial combos to destroy an army who can't even perform more than one hit at a time. It's like taking candy from a baby, which is why the game likes to throw some curveballs at you by giving you some high level units to fight off. Mages and captains will certainly give you a lot of grief, especially when you end up surrounded by grunts and you're too distracted to focus on said mages and captains. If that's not enough, bosses are often on the field with multiple grunts to distract you too. The worst part in all of this - if you die, you have to start the level all over again! That's not to say that it's an impossible game; just that it's tricky if you don't grind enough in the earlier levels.
Yes, there are some RPG elements in the form of leveling up by killing a lot of enemies to net some points, and you have stats to determine how powerful and durable you are. Typically, you can level up once or twice a mission, though as you ascend through the levels, you'll need to kill more and more armies to earn the right to level up, all the way to the ninth level. As you level up, you gain access to stronger equipment, and stronger combos, and believe me when I say that the stronger combos are beneficial in killing off the stronger forces and bosses later on in the game, so... I don't know, be prepared to memorize some button combinations or something?
Despite what it may sound like in the above paragraphs, three of the seven characters aren't in this alone. You can also have some guards assist you. Just hit one of the bumpers, and you'll have an army of your own to back you up, slicing through the weak enemies. With use of the d-pad, you can have them either charging in for an assault, or have them defend you. You'll also have some grunts, but you can also have archers and pikemen helping you as well for long ranged or powerful attacks, and they end up becoming a big help in some missions where you're just getting dominated by them pesky bosses. If you're controlling one of the four who can't call out for an army, well, yeah, you're on your own, bud.
For the four loners, there is hope - the Orb Attack. Think of the Musou attacks, but very powerful. If you don't know what I'm on about, think of a fast, powerful and flashy combo, and you're invulnerable while performing this. It's not something to use in small groups - actually, it's something to use against large groups. First, you must kill off a bunch of enemies to charge the meter, then once it's charged, unleash the attack! As you kill a bunch of enemies, you'll gain some blue orbs, which charge another meter, and once that one is charged and you're surrounded by lots of enemies, you can unleash the Orb Spark, which is basically your kill-all move, or at least, kill all who come in contact. Each character's Orb Spark is different; one attacks within a radius, while the other smashes the frontline infantry and rips them a new one. Unfortunately, neither of these attacks affect bosses, which is a shame - you're so used to killing entire armies, yet when you really need to in a pinch, it does nothing to the boss. That sucks.
There's an equipment system in place where you can pick up and instantly equip weapons and items on the fly. Weapons and items are either dropped by enemies, or found by destroying very obvious floating and rotating chests. Weapons have a level as well, and require you to be on the same level as them to use them, unless you have an item that allows you to use weapons a level higher. Items vary in bonuses, from basic health and damage boosts, to less simple combinations and rules.
Ninety Nine Nights won't last you 99 nights. Not by a longshot, I'm afraid, but not much replay value is to be had, except beating the game as the other characters and getting the highest ranks on missions based on time spent, kills, Orb Spark kills, and guards survival rate to earn an achievement, and there's another achievement for getting every character up to level 9. Basically, if you have a few of weeks to kill, you should have the 1000 gamerscore from this game without too many troubles.
You expect me to take down an entire army ON MY OWN!? Where's the nuke when you need it!?
The game is loaded with beautifully rendered troops, backgrounds and scenes, on top of colorful and over the top combat action. The enemies and allies scale well, and even at a distance, the player can see formations of troops moving toward battle. Quite the draw distance. Once up close and personal, the battle becomes chaotic and full of detail. The cutscenes are also very impressive looking, managing a little more detail than the ingame graphics. For an Xbox 360 launch title, this is quite an impressive looking game. Of course, nowadays, we have games like Crysis, Just Cause 2 and Killzone 2, and they manage framerate better than this game does - during the fancier attacks, frames skip about and/or slow down, though not for too long thankfully - but they came out later, so they don't count.
The operatic music goes very well with me. Not a second I have felt irritated or disliked the music. It manages to create an epic feeling, like you're really marching into a medieval battle of epic proportions, kind of like in the Lord Of The Rings movies. In fact, I remember when I first played this game, I rushed over to my computer and downloaded the soundtrack. It's that good, guys. The sound effects sound just like you'd expect them to. Swords clanging, armor crushing, whooshing of special moves, etc. Some of them however, do sound weak. You'd expect a more wow-ing BANG or slash when you do something spectacular. The bad thing here is that oftentimes, the sound effects drown out the music, but you could always adjust the volume in the options menu, so no dramas there. The voice acting is mediocre. Nothing amazing, and some of it can be annoying after a while.
Ninety Nine Nights gets a 6.5/10. It offers some fun and challenging hack and slash gameplay amongst some gorgeous graphics and quite a soundtrack. Unfortunately, length and replay value are a bit on the low side, plus the voice acting can get annoying after a while. It's a case of "enjoy it while it lasts".
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