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There was a time, about 10 years ago, when Dynasty Warriors was new and exciting. Fast-forward to the present, however, and the game has changed so little over its dozens of iterations that the very sight of it – or even any game that looks like it – is enough to send cynical gamers’ eyes rolling back in their sockets. That, along with knowledge of its underwhelming 2006 predecessor, is why we were tempted to ignore the shit out of Ninety-Nine Nights II (aka N3II) when publisher Konami rolled it out during last night’s press event.
If we had, though, we would have missed out on something cool. Yes, Ninety-Nine Nights II is a Dynasty Warriors-style, slash ‘em-up brawler, wherein your one-man army takes on dozens of generic-looking enemies at once and sends battered corpses flying with every sword stroke. Yes, it’s the follow-up to a game that thudded into the Xbox 360’s post-launch library, didn’t leave much of an impression and was quickly forgotten. But it’s a game without Dynasty Warriors’ characteristic blandness, and what we played was both surprisingly fun and balls-hard.
Granted, we didn’t play too much. The demo version we tackled had only two missions available, one of which was a straightforward run through a battlefield teeming with mostly identical troops. The goal was simple: defend the friendly troops, none of whom lasted too long (not that it really mattered), and slaughter the armies of the Lord of Night. The legions of generic baddies were pretty helpful in that respect, swarming around us and giving us a dense wall of meat to hack through with the two enormous swords of the hero, Galen. The action was button-mashy but not too repetitive, as Galen was able to bust out combos using three different attack buttons (one of which would frequently leave a dead enemy skewered on his sword, which we could then use to simultaneously beat and slash other enemies).
That wouldn’t have been fun for long, though, if it weren’t for Galen’s super attacks. By holding down the Left Bumper and mashing on attack buttons, we were able to turn Galen into a streaking blue fireball, hurl handfuls of ball lightning into the crowd or just send a massive shockwave through it. All of these were insanely gratifying, as they sent everyone in the vicinity flying, often in separate, bloody halves.
Even more fun was Galen’s Orb Attack, which could be activated once we’d beaten up enough enemies, and which turned Galen’s swords into immensely destructive pillars of flame. After a few attacks, he slammed the ground for another massive, fiery shockwave, which instantly cleared the vicinity of all but the most powerful creatures.
The rest of the mission was pretty uncomplicated; aside from hacking apart crowds of baddies, all we really had to do was bring down a few magical pillars that were guarded by slightly tougher soldiers and were probably doing something or other. Once those were down, a big purple monster with absolutely no finesse stomped out and kicked our asses with repeated, clumsy punches that nevertheless sent us flying.
Above: Adding insult to injury, it looked like this
Meanwhile, the other mission available to us – simply titled “Behemoth” – put us at the read of a line of friendly troops that was toe-to-toe with a line of enemies, the latter of which were all bigger, meaner and tougher than what we’d fought previously. But they were insignificant compared to the Behemoth itself, a massive dragon with magma for skin that dominated the skyline. The only way we found to interact with it was by striding up to one of its massive feet and whaling away, which forced it to lift its toes slightly before melting us with a few blasts of fiery breath. There was probably a trick to defeating it, but we’ll be damned if we could figure out what it was.
Above: We don't have an image of it yet, but here's another super attack in action
While the demo was fun (and surprisingly pretty), it didn’t reveal any of the new stuff Konami showed off during the event. Unlike the previous game, N3II will have a more adventure-y bent, with platforming action and the kind of simple puzzle-solving (read: pushing crates) that’s been a staple of action games for years. It’ll also feature several more playable characters – including a hulking bandit, a goblin assassin and a couple of obligatory elves – that Galen will recruit in the course of the story mode. However, given how close we are to the game’s release – as of this writing, it’s due out in late June – we’re sure to see more soon.
Apr 9, 2010