N3II: Ninety Nine Nights II Review
Developer: Q Entertainment / Publisher: Konami / ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $39.99
Don’t let us high-falutin’ game reviewers fool you – it’s perfectly acceptable to play a game that’s not particularly innovative or novel. It’s okay to have stupid fun. With its technically impressive visuals the raw fun of killing a shit-ton of dudes in N3II: Ninety Nine Nights II is like some dates you may have had; she’s rather dim but loads of fun.
N3II involves running around and killing a whole, whole lot of dudes in a third-person hack ‘n’ slash manner similar to the Dynasty Warriors series. The game’s sense of scale is its biggest selling point; you’ll constantly swat down groups of soldiers numbering into the hundreds, and kill counts and combos in the multi-thousands are normal for most stages. Each of the game’s five campaigns follows a different character with disparate move sets and attributes. The levels are large, easily taking thirty minutes to clear the primary objectives and double that if you want to explore around for bonus missions and items. Any items, skills, or weapons discovered in a level can be equipped to enable new attack skills and secondary attributes. Even better, every character, weapon, skill, and item can be leveled-up individually, giving those that get a chemical high from seeing numbers increase enough to freebase on.
So far the game sounds like a ‘roided out Dynasty Warriors, but offers a more subtle and clever challenge. While few single enemies will ever threaten you, the raw length of the levels turns them into protracted wars of attrition where your skill is the deciding factor. A little poke or stray arrow doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it will add up quickly unless you’re skilled enough to spot the incoming attacks and dodge them.
Prioritizing targets on the battlefield is another big part of play. When first entering a field full of enemies, it’s tempting to dive right in, but the smart tactic involves circling the perimeter first, taking out all the pesky archers that can pop you out of a combo. Each enemy attacks differently, necessitating different positioning and tactics depending on the environment and other enemies present. Getting poked to death is frustrating to start, but learning the techniques to successfully clear out area after area while sustaining no damage is very rewarding.
Other features round out N3II as a satisfying package. Most noticeably, levels have checkpoints, so anyone that suffered dying at the end of an hour-long level in Ninety Nine Nights can play without that fear. N3II also offers an online co-operative mode, offering altered maps from the single-player campaign along with unique levels. The online offering isn’t terribly profound, but it’s functional and adequately extends the game value.
N3II is visually split from its predecessor. This sequel is more technically sound than the first game, which suffered from catastrophic frame rate issues. Frame rates stay mostly constant in N3II,and though they dip slightly when activating your ridiculous destroy-everyone super move, watching swarms of enemies bounce around in various levels of dismemberment shortly thereafter is extremely cool.
However, N3II isn’t as artistically satisfying as the first game. Colorful and vibrant characters and environments made the first Ninety Nine Nights visually impressive and unique. N3II, on the other hand, is washed-out, grey, and colorless. Granted, this has functional implications, as it’d be difficult to differentiate your character from a sea of eye-poppingly colorful enemies, but the marked lack of color makes the second game less visually memorable than the first.
While N3II doesn’t add new or novel controls to the hack ‘n slash template, it executes the standard well. You have the expected weak attack and strong attack that can be combined for a minimal (but workable) number of combos. Block and dodge will help you avoid damage, though the former is only useful for recentering the camera. Dodging thankfully interrupts any attack animation and provides a small window of invincibility, so you’ll never get locked into an agonizingly long attack animation only to be summarily destroyed. The greatest control annoyance is that you can’t adjust camera rotation speed, and the default speed is annoyingly low. What’s worse, enemies can attack you from off screen. This forces you to be aware of where off-screen enemies are positioned, a task that would be much easier if the camera would swing around more quickly.
The original Ninety Nine Nights soundtrack was one of the best lesser-known works on the 360. The sequel impressively lives up to expectation, though ever-so-slightly less awesome. The score is fully orchestrated, composed of dramatic horns and thrumming war drums. It’s driving and inspiring, though disappointingly lacking a sweet orchestration of Vivaldi’s Four Season’s (one of the best tracks from the first game). Sound effects are solid, and surprisingly never get annoying despite constantly hearing clangs, grunts, and death throes for upwards of thirty minutes at a go. Voice acting during the cutscenes is decent, striking that perfect level of seriousness that keeps the delivery from being too cheesy or too overwrought.
N3II: Ninety Nine Nights 2 isn’t particularly intelligent, novel, or profound, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s dumb fun, and is functionally sound enough to allow you to enjoy the dumb fun without annoyance. N3II is the dumb girl that’s a blast to be around and doesn’t talk too much, just don’t let Batman: Arkham Asylum check your sexy text messages to it when you settle down for the night.