Phantagram and Q Entertainment
Microsoft
Action
1
08.15.06

Ninety-Nine Nights (Xbox 360)


Gamers love fighting hordes of enemies. Especially if they are hopelessly outnumbered, armed only with an ancient weapon, a special meter, and a caffeinated beverage. The Dynasty Warriors franchise all but dominated the “real-time war combat” genre in the days when PS2 was king and the PSP was the talk of the video game community.

Today the Xbox 360 has Ninety-Nine Nights, an action game in vein of Dynasty Warriors that promises to bring the “battlefield action game” to the next-generation level. On the surface it offers flashy graphics, a new story, and lots and lots of fighting. But does it pack a punch?

Gameplay

Ninety-Nine Nights tells the tale of a war between humans and non-humans (these creatures range from goblins to frog people). Instead of one long, one-sided drawn-out storyline (like in an RPG), Ninety Nine Nights offers players the chance to fight the battle from many different perspectives from both sides (a lot like Dynasty Warriors). While at first this seems titillating, you will find that all the playable characters offer the same repetitive two-button gameplay. The campaign modes, although numerous, go through the same bland environments, and rarely go beyond six missions worth of brain-numbing, button-mashing combat. No character has a more compelling story than the next, and what little story there is shrouded behind the vague and ultimately lame voice acting (also a lot like Dynasty Warriors).

The game makes use of the Xbox 360 controller like a color-blind person makes use of a Lite-Brite. The game has two attack buttons, which produce a variety of combos which all do the same thing. There is a dash button, a block button and a jump button, although anyone whose played Dynasty Warriors know that the jump button is just a fancier way of blocking enemy attacks. Killing enough enemies brings your character up a level, which allows for bigger, flashier combos, not that you’ll have any time to enjoy these combos; once you go longer than four button presses the enemy will usually attack you from behind. Screen-cleaning combos are impressive, but are only necessary as a way to speed things along.

Like other “battlefield combat” games, Ninety-Nine Nights offers gamers a chance for some strategy; before each battle you’re allowed to take two groups of soldiers (labeled after the weapons they carry) into battle with you. But these battalions are about as effective in combat as the Color Guard from your high school assembly. They are more than content to stand back and watch you do all the fighting. Occasionally, they will engage the enemy, allowing you to attack from behind. Other than that, they serve their purpose; giving you the illusion that you’re in battle. (Here’s a hint: if you want at least some cover fire, get the archers. They are most likely to actually try some offense).

When you aren’t hacking and slashing your way through a stale and unimpressive environment, you will be tempted to pick up the various items that are scattered around the field. What will deceptively look like a new weapon will actually just be a bigger, less imaginative version of the weapon you have now (a lot like Dynasty Warriors), and although it might look different in your character’s hands, you won’t be fooled. There’s an abundance of health, attack range, and defense pickups that are to be had, but as with most games of the genre, the enemies rarely pose enough of a threat to warrant such pickups.

The graphics, like every other element of the game, caters to the “many enemies at one time” feature. The game doesn’t flinch when sending scores and scores of goblins at you at once, although there is a bit of a lag when there’s too many on the screen. This problem is solve by being a more efficient killer of goblins. Enemies that are off in the distance turn into “double vision” blurs, and the enemies you can see look painfully alike. There’s a real lack of variety in the enemies you will find, and with the exception of the occasional “boss character”, are uninspired and bland-looking. The combo attacks are flashy and shiny, but as the basic attacks do more damage than the “wham bam thank you ma’am” combos, you’ll eventually spare yourself the waiting and plow through the clones with the two-button attacks to save you time.

Ninety-Nine Nights plays more like an old arcade game; seemingly infinite levels of “kill all the bad guys” using the same button-mashing combos, playing as the same generic characters, and going through all the game’s objectives to find that the game’s story made less sense then it did in the beginning. Instead of putting in your quarter and getting it over with, you pay the Xbox 360 price to play the same game you’ve played on the PS2, sans the historical “Ancient China” undertones.

Graphics

Decent character models pummeling a plethora of dime-a-dozen villains. An engine that although built to sustain many enemies on one screen, still bogs down when it goes to it. Combos whose flashy presentation actually hinders you more than it helps, and enemies who either disappear or become transparent when too far away. At times pleasant and colorful, the graphics are a step in the right direction for developers to make the “real-time battle” genre match up to Next-Gen standards.

Sound

In Ninety-Nine Nights’ defense, I challenge anyone to name a Japanese video game that had decent voice acting when it was converted to English-speaking audiences. While many will find this annoying, the fact is it comes with the territory, and nagaphiles might find it amusing. The only complaint that can be registered with the voice acting is that it little, if anything, to convey the story. The sounds of battle are generic enough to satisfy the game’s needs, but won’t leave as much an impression on you as the monotonous gameplay and your cowardly allies.

Replay Value

As with all games of the genre, it can become addicting. No thinking, no worries, just endless hacking and killing. For those who don’t find that sort of mindless gaming very satisfying, there is a bit of hope in redoing your levels for the sake of improving on old scores, but most will play this game once and try to find a way to get back all those hours of their life back.

Bottom Line:

Q Entertainment tried to pull a fast one, but gamers will recognize a Dynasty Warriors game when they see it. The monotony of the gameplay, the cookie cutter graphics and downright lousy attempt to distinguish it from other games of the genre make it a dead giveaway. It says “Ninety-Nine Nights” on the package, but don’t be fooled. It’s the same game on a different system. Have they no shame?

Related Links:

Official Website for Ninety-Nine Nights

-Jimi Robertson




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