N3: Ninety Nine Nights

Xbox 360

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 10

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8


Running onto a battlefield covered with more enemies than blades of grass, the player slashes through hundreds of enemies with an extra helping of flash as a combo meter struggles to keep up with the sudden surge of violence. Once cleared, the mission objective changes, sending the player to another section of a map, equally as packed with adversaries. This is the epic scale of Ninety Nine Nights, capturing the sheer size of a conflict better than any other title before it.

n31_360.jpg (161652 bytes)The story is the interesting aspect here, certainly unexpected given the heavily action oriented design. While at times disruptive to the flow of the gameplay, to fully appreciate the reason for the battles, the choreographed cinematics tell multiple sides to the fantasy conflict. Ogres, trolls, pwuks (annoying little frog-like creatures), and humans clash with their own purpose for sacrificing so many lives. As the story shifts to a different side, your previous actions take on an entirely new meaning.

Of course, in the midst of a fight featuring (literally) thousands of soldiers, one so massive you can have problems detecting your own fighter, the story can become transparent. This is a game running more on the pure adrenaline rush it provides than the Xbox 360's hardware. Wild combo strings bring beautifully rendered maneuvers so satisfying, it takes time for your mind to adjust to a slower pace when you're done playing.

The obvious issue with N3 is the same one that follows other games of its type. Repetition can kill the entire experience. Opportunities to lessen this problem go untouched. New weapons use the same animation and combos. Their actual effects are usually better viewed as a stats screen. The urge to increase the level of each character does prove to be a motivating factor, adding in an addictive hook. You'll go as long as you can tolerate pressing the X and Y buttons in various patterns.

With a near classic soundtrack composed by multiple artists providing a backdrop to the action, you'll have the opportunity to control a squad of additional troops. While they add to the chaos of the battlefields, their actual involvement hovers around zero. Like enemy AI characters, they stand around waiting to be hit, occasionally swinging a sword or firing an arrow. It's a compromise though, and the only logical way to ensure the player is dealing out enough heavy damage to receive the intended experience.

n32_360.jpg (175851 bytes)N3's glaring failing is its difficulty. The game itself is not unbeatable. The majority of the stages are cleared in a single play through. An automatically adjusting difficulty will activate if you perish multiple times too. It's the total lack of checkpoints anywhere in the levels, some of which can last well over an hour. To clear out 1500 enemies, only to be killed in a few hits from the final boss doesn't make replaying the full level (from scratch) seem like entertainment.

This is a critical design issue in a game based on repetition, and would have been fine in a title with slightly smaller design goals. However, everything in N3 is oversized to create its memorable skirmishes. All of N3's stunning technical prowess in the visuals are ignored when replaying the same struggle for the fifth time.

Still, N3 has that "something" that will force you to come back. It may not be immediate, but as soon at the thought of barreling through a mob of foes with ease enters your mind, this is the game to reach for. It makes the Xbox 360 translation of Dynasty Warriors Empires seem two generations behind. For its art design, extravagant style, and feeling of pure power in the hands of the player, the title is a resounding success.


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Last updated: Sunday, September 17, 2006 02:53 PM