Friday, September 29, 2006

VG REVIEW: Ninety-Nine Nights


What kind of game is "Ninety-Nine Nights" anyway? It's not quite an action game, not quite a strategy or a role-playing game.

"Nights," like the "Dynasty Warrior," the franchise it so clearly apes, involves battling a massive army, taking down scores of opponents one soldier at a time. I like to call them lawn mower games, since all you basically do is mow down the enemies in front of you.

"Nights" attempts to up the ante a bit by allowing you to cut the grass more efficiently, so to speak. Now, one swipe of your blade can level not just one or two, but scores of enemies, which now swarm the TV screen thanks to the power of the Xbox 360.

Your combo level can reach into the hundreds and your "kill rate" can go into the thousands. Certain special moves (obtained by collecting "orbs") will even let you decimate an entire army with just the press of a button.

For those who love the idea of swashbuckling through a horde of evildoers, "Nights" sounds promising. And initially, it holds true to its ideas and even includes some weighty questions on revenge, genocide and justice.

Unfortunately, the game soon becomes repetitive and what at first seemed fresh quickly becomes redundant.

"Nights" takes place in a fantasy universe that owes more than a little bit to J.R.R. Tolkein, as you will frequently find yourself up against an array of nasty goblins and trolls.

When the game begins, you play as Inphyy, a young general who seems more concerned with showing off as much of her bosom as possible rather than leading troops.

Most of the game is spent moving her across the battlefield. You can give orders to your troops in a limited fashion (attack or defend), but it hardly matters since they're rather ineffectual.

Once Inphyy's story is over, other characters are unlocked, each with special weapons and combo moves. You can also unleash devastating moves by collecting the red "orbs" that issue forth from each defeated enemy.

It can be fun to try different moves and attacks while surrounded by goblins, but the fact remains that you can just as easily defeat them by mashing one button repeatedly.

Equally troublesome is the save feature or lack thereof. You can only save your game in between missions, some of which can last nearly 45 minutes. What's more, you may find yourself having to repeat an earlier mission in order to level up your character before taking on the final battle, which can prove to be tiresome.

"Nights" isn't a bad game; even at its most basic, there's a certain thrill in overcoming huge odds while performing gravity-defying tricks.

But the game needs an extra level of strategy or challenge to make it rise above the mediocre and take it to the next generation. "Nights" looks pretty, but when it comes down to it, you're still just cutting the grass.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006

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