While Japanese releases for the Xbox 360 have been slim so far, this month seems to be bringing a veritable torrent of them. At the front of the pack is N3: Ninety-Nine Nights, the latest from Tetsuya Mizuguchis Q Entertainment, as a new take on the popular epic hack-and-slash battle genre with a high fantasy twist. The game features seven playable heroes, each with his own campaign, presenting his own perspective on the same main storyline. Their paths cross occasionally and encountering one of these hero characters will unlock them to play for yourself, and thats the only time that the story is of great importance because it does little more than bookend each campaign and attempt to give some context to the carnage.
The story, however, is mainly an excuse to partake in colossal battles that borrow heavily from both the Dynasty Warriors series and developer Phantagrams own Kingdom Under Fire games. The extra horsepower of the Xbox 360 is put to work by allowing a purported 5,000 enemies on-screen for you to mercilessly cut down, giving the skirmishes an unprecedented sense of scale.
The first thing to note is that your average enemy orc is going to be no match for you, equipped as you are with weapons and combos capable of taking out whole battalions. Its in sheer weight of opposition numbers that the game will try to overwhelm players, but as you can also command your own, admittedly fairly useless, troops to give your hero some backup, laying waste to the enemy hordes becomes simple but gratifying fun.
Command over your troops is a much smaller element than in Kingdom Under Fire and thanks to some poor AI risks becoming more of an annoyance. The interface is thankfully fairly transparent but still comes off as unnecessary, as allies will sometimes be so inept as to be unable to kill a single enemy in the middle of their ranks or hit an enemy from a distance that its often easier to do it yourself - especially when youre overpowered to such an extent.
Mashing of the attack buttons is often enough as to launch your character into some fairly spectacular combos, complete with lightning trails, aerial attacks, and energy balls fired into crowds of opponents. The characters level up as you fight with them, which increases their strength and adds new attacks to the repertoire, and also red orbs from the bodies of fallen enemies can be harvested and used to unleash super attacks. During this time it becomes even easier to decimate the enemy forces as you cut huge swathes through their ranks, especially as enemies killed by these orb attacks will in turn drop blue orbs to power up ultimate attacks that should certainly mop up anyone who survived the initial blitz.
In the early stages enemy groups are limited to around fifty troops, which dont take long to balloon to over hundreds of enemies, and the engine handles it gracefully with a decent frame rate. Although most enemies look alike, character models are reasonably detailed and seeing hundreds of them come over the brow of a hill towards you really looks impressive, not to mention imposing.The scale is what really qualifies Ninety-Nine Nights as a next-generation game, although individual character models dont look like a huge leap beyond the best-looking Xbox titles.
That extra processing power is used to deliver things on a much greater magnitude and all in high definition. Hundreds of enemies storm across the battlefield towards you; archers fill the air with arrows to an extent that we havent seen since Braveheart; and your attacks send them flying as if they were nothing. Fans of the genre who were disappointed with the quick and dirty port that Dynasty Warriors 5 recently received may find that this is more of the spectacle they expe Nights is a fun game, for sure, but its not without problems. The levels can be fairly long with no ability to save halfway through, meaning that death near the end of a stage can lead to playing the last half-hour all over again. Its a silly thing to overlook but when it happens to you it can be immensely annoying.
Suggestions: Ninety-Nine Nights is a break from the usual Q Entertainment oeuvre and looks like some good mindless fun. The main problem is the mindless part; like so many of these games theres not a lot to it beyond slashing through crowds of anonymous enemies while getting incrementally more powerful the more you do it.