Review: N3II – Ninety Nine Nights 2

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N3II will beat you senseless with its frustrating annoyances and incredibly stale gameplay.

Compared to Dynasty Warriors’ endless hordes, Koei had at least dressed their games up with multiple mission objectives in the form of enemy leaders and optional goals, a sandbox approach to certain areas, and even RPG items such as statistical improvements along with an incredible legion of characters to pick from and unlockables to discover. N3II has none of that other than the sheer numbers of enemies to kill with repetitive frequency.

The predictable fantasy that passes as an actual story goes something like this: the Lord of Darkness has returned and one last kingdom stands in his army’s way of total domination. It’s up to a group of heroes to stop him. Have you heard that one before? N3II and its thin excuse for a manual are willing to bet that you haven’t.

You can play through the stories of five different characters starting off with dual-wielding, swordswinging Galen, whose abilities warm you up to the basic controls that each character shares. Everything is literally at your fingertips making it easy for players to jump between different characters without having to worry too much about the actual controls, focusing only on the actual specifics key to each fighter.

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Souls are earned from every monster killed and are used to infuse weapons, skills, and a character’s hit points with new levels that really don’t seem to do a whole lot. Outside of that, the different missions that characters undertake usually involve their headlong rush down linear paths towards a final goal, usually activating altars along the way or smashing through walls, to get where they need to go. You can revisit previously cleared missions in case there is anything that might have been missed, such as ability-granting accessories, weapons, or…color changes to your costume.

And it does little to even pretend that it isn’t a grind-a-thon of the highest order. Most enemies drop little outside of glowing orbs that are absorbed for use later, though there are certain ones that can drop special accessories that can be equipped as additional skills and passive abilities. Ears will appreciate that the voice acting stands well enough on its own and that the music is far more epic than the gameplay. The character models are particularly detailed, though some of their animations seem a little awkward such as Maggni’s running giving him the appearance of a block on two legs tottering to the next objective. But after grinding through so many missions, eyes will start to glaze over at seeing more of the same whirling through marginally different legions of cloned foes ad nauseum.

But the game also throws a few wrenches into the works, not so much to create a degree of difficulty but more to frustrate the player into thinking that these shortcomings are intended to fill in as an actual challenge. Cheap shots from multiple enemies, for example, can juggle players to death in certain instances. Special abilities meant to alleviate the exaggerated knockback effects from specific attacks have to be discovered along with most everything else as opposed to spending souls to learn new tricks. Raising the levels on a character’s hit points, abilities, and weapons seems to do little other than lend the player the sense that it actually matters more than it does.

Using special abilities isn’t always a guaranteed success as enemy attacks can interrupt you, spoiling the attack and forcing you to wait until it recharges again if you absolutely have to use it. Certain mobs that are more like bags of hit points, such as giants, have to be worn down or stand as deadly sign posts reminding players to go back and train up their characters by droning back through previously unlocked missions.

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Although some might point out that this is somewhat fair and adds to the actual challenge in a realistic sense, I could say the same thing about having a root canal. It’s painful and it has to be done, but it’s not fun. The tired exercise that each mission comes off as makes going back through any of these just as exciting. By comparison, Demon’s Souls can be brutally unforgiving, but it doesn’t resort to cheap tricks in order to maintain its own special challenge. Its individual worlds are also unique enough to remain interesting despite repeat visits.

Multiplayer allows players to team up with others in set dungeons for glory, though there was no one out there when I tried to find a session to experiment with. None of my friends have this game, perhaps wisely, so let that speak for itself. If you’re hoping for co-op help through the title’s missions, you’re also out of luck. People have been online with it, though, as there is a leaderboard with listed scores. I can only guess that they had moved on to something else.

Only absolute die-hard fans of the first game will probably find anything to like here. Even players hoping for a title to fill in for next Dynasty Warriors will find N3II a pale imitation, and that’s saying something. With barely anyone out there for multiplayer within a few weeks after its release, the transparent grind-a-thon of its combat, lifeless story, and numbing gameplay, this is one fantasy adventure firmly set within the Land of Bland Monotony with Prince Tedium cast as the invincible villain.

N3II
Konami / Feelplus, Q Entertainment
Xbox 360
Rated M for Mature