|Ninety-Nine Nights (2006)
Available for: Xbox 360
I’ve never been a big fan of the strategic hack-and-slash. In fact, spending only one hour with “Ninety-Nine Nights” was more than enough time to jolt my memory, but that doesn’t make the fantasy brawler a completely hopeless endeavor. While pushing the same two buttons over and over again should never be considered a good time, “N3” proves a mildly entertaining experience thanks to a beautiful array of visuals. The South Korean dream team over at Q Entertainment (led by producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and director Sang Youn Lee) has really taken advantage of the power inside the 360, and while the sight of thousands of enemies on one screen at once is an amazing achievement worthy of the next-gen brand, its the game’s eye-popping graphics (no doubt dipped in several coats of digital sugar) that ultimately take home top honors.
The story isn’t quite as sweet, however, and is actually reflective of the usual mythical storyline – some kind of magical artifact is destroyed, leading to a war between the forces of good (The Temple Knights) and evil (led by the Goblin King) – but it serves its purpose well. You’ll start the game out as Inphyy, a 17-year-old female knight seeking revenge for the death of her father, and along with her massively oversized sword, she also boasts a pair of useless (but attractive) wings on the back of her armor, as well as the mandatory killer cleavage. As you progress through the story, you’ll also unlock six other playable characters (each with their own story) including Inphyy’s older brother, a burly mercenary, a pint-sized magician, and even a vengeful goblin. There’s really no incentive to play through each one, though, since the experience remains the same.
The gameplay is ridiculously monotonous, and while there is some fun to be had as you button-mash your way through hordes of enemies – including swatting down entire rows of baddies like Sauron from the opening battle of “The Fellowship of the Ring” – the fun only lasts for so long. Not even the most patient person in the world could walk away from this game not feeling like they might suffer from a minor case of ADD, and while “N3” attempts to liven things up by rewarding you with new weapons and combos, they’re really just variations of what you’ve been using for the past few hours. And if the complete lack of depth in the game’s fighting system doesn’t get you down, then the absence of checkpoints will. This certainly doesn’t help to keep the game feeling any less repetitive, either. There’s nothing worse than getting through 99% of a level, only to die at the hands of some silly enemy and be forced to restart the entire level over again.
Despite the many criticisms, “Ninety-Nine Nights” will still attract a handful of gamers who appreciate a well-made hack-and-slash brawler, and for the time being, this is the best you’re going to find on any console. It’s just too bad that the Asian duo’s latest project doesn’t live to all of the early buzz, because I desperately wanted to immerse myself in the beautiful world that they’ve created. Unfortunately, the colorful fantasy world proves more boring than real life – except maybe for the sexy ladies in armor.