These days the words %26lsquo;hack and slash%26rsquo; conjure up images of the beautiful gore of God of War or the fluidly addictive gameplay of Bayonetta. Ninety Nine Nights II reminds us of what it used to mean. With no developed combo system and only two methods of striking (quick and strong), you%26rsquo;ll be mashing X and Y until you%26rsquo;ve either fallen asleep from boredom or smashed the controller out of frustration.
Above: Standing still, it took nine minutes for these 50 French fry wielding invalids to kill us
The difficulty of N3II goes through seemingly random peaks and valleys. One moment you%26rsquo;re effortlessly slaughtering hundreds of pathetic pawns and the next you%26rsquo;ll be up against a boss or group that seems impossible to defeat. For example, the second level features hundreds of timid soldiers, yet the boss is excruciatingly difficult, seeing as you have little experience and few extra skills when you face him. It doesn%26rsquo;t help that health vials and checkpoints are few and far between. It also doesn%26rsquo;t help that the instruction manual is a meager three pages.
Even without help, you%26rsquo;ll learn that your character can equip four active skills and four passive skills that are all absolutely crucial to defeating the more difficult foes. These skills are found in the field, and like your character%26rsquo;s weapons and hit points, can be leveled up using the red orbs that all enemies drop. Spend your orbs wisely, or it may be necessary to replay older levels in order to become strong enough for the later stages.
Above: Fighting this big boy was the highlight of the game, and it wasn%26rsquo;t even the final boss
If you do slog through the initial nine hour campaign, the game%26rsquo;s depth starts to show. You can go back through the remaining four characters%26rsquo; campaigns while keeping all the skills you%26rsquo;ve earned so far. Each of the five characters has different stats, swing weapons differently, unleash different orb attacks, and have one unique skill. While the stories may not be super compelling, it is interesting to see how these characters%26rsquo; timelines progress parallel to each other. And having a high level character with multiple useful skills makes playing through the missions much more enjoyable.
While you can%26rsquo;t play through the campaign with a friend, N3II offers other multiplayer modes called survival, race, hell first, and escort. Split screen isn't offered so system link and Xbox Live are your only options. You can%26rsquo;t fight each other, but playing with or competing against a friend in these modes can be quite fun and offers hours of additional gameplay.
Above: As evidenced by this line of dialogue, wearing robes and holding a staff does not make you wise
Three or four years ago, this game would have been brilliant. Unfortunately the unexciting combat, ho-hum level design, and unimpressive graphics make it a poor alternative to the more recent champions of the hack and slash genre. If you%26rsquo;re a big Dynasty Warriors fan and/or enjoyed the first Ninety Nine Nights, then give N3II a try, but be aware that it%26rsquo;s got nothing new to offer.
Jul 6, 2010