Ninety-Nine Nights is a fantasy hack and slash video game developed exclusively for the Xbox 360 by an alliance between Q Entertainment and Phantagram. Phantagram is a South Korean based developer noted for creating the Kingdom Under Fire series.
It’s sometimes said that to fully appreciate the good you occasionally have to endure the bad. If this proverbial wisdom holds true, then I should enjoy the hell out of whatever game I play after Ninety-Nine Nights 2 (N3II). N3II is poorly made, hackneyed, and so utterly boring in its core gameplay that it’s hard to recommend to anyone — even if you hate them.
If you’re unfamiliar with the N3 games, allow me to break it down for you as quickly as I can. It’s a hack ‘n slash game a la the Dynasty Warriors franchise, wherein you take a number of fantasy characters (or, at least, the Korean interpretation of fantasy races) through a cliched story to stop an evil man and his army of darkness. Granted, plenty of movies and games have proven that timeless plot points like this can be told and retold and still be compelling, but it feels like the writers of N3II didn’t even try. The story is terrible and predictable, with some of the worst lip syncing and voice acting I’ve heard in a game in quite some time, and full of characters who aren’t even likable due to how silly and moronic they come across.
If you can get past (or just skip) the story parts of the game, you might have fun with the game’s combat for a short time. I used to really enjoy mindless hack and slash fighters like N3II, as it’s really easy to lose yourself to the repetitious pressing of the attack buttons, but, unlike the basic design of N3, I’ve matured. The core action revolves around a few special powers and, more often, just mashing a combination of the X and Y buttons to attack hordes of idiotic and repetitious enemies. The result is a tiring series of levels where I’d find myself hacking through thousands of enemies who often posed little threat to me, sometimes even looking away for prolonged periods of time. Kind of makes 3,000 hit combos and an absurdly high kill count meaningless when they’re so easy to achieve, you know?
Not that N3II is a quick and easy affair to complete, though, as I found myself having to try and try again to get through several portions of the campaign. Each level usually has some portion or boss fight that’s frustratingly difficult, and it wasn’t uncommon for enemies to suddenly kill me with little warning simply because they managed to space out their attacks in just a way that kept me paralyzed. At one point I got so upset with a particularly cheap boss that I decided to stop for the night and come back to the fight later. However, even though I had seen the word “Saving” appear on the screen, it put me at the start of the level instead of at the boss. Apparently the team behind N3II didn’t think it was important for people to be able to stop at any point during a level, so you’re either in it to win it or starting over from scratch. Combine this with the far too scarce checkpoints in the levels and what you have is a test of will that isn’t worth winning.
A host of lesser problems also plague N3II. Along with characters who largely play the same — each one has a special ability, but they aren’t used enough or in any truly meaningful way — the game has very few enemy types. When combat is the crux of the game, it’s a little ridiculous to have only a few, dim-witted enemies to battle. I also understand that to have hundreds of enemies on the screen at once they had to make certain visual considerations, but this game looks awful, with some of the most uninteresting visual design I’ve seen in a long time. Even the multiplayer is a mess, with no local cooperative option and no apparent way to play through the campaign with a friend (instead just tossing you in a series of stages that boil down to murdering enemies). The whole package simply feels slapped together and pushed out the door — and if they didn’t care about their product, it makes me wonder why anyone else should either.
N3II is like a friend who tells the same old stories over and over, only instead of finding this trait charming you can’t help but loathe his inability to move on from the past. With its myriad of problems and creatively bankrupt game design, this “new” game feels like a retread from the moment you boot it up to the moment you chuck it into the garbage can in disgust.