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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Microsoft Games Studio

 

Developer

Phantagram / Q?

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

August 2006

 

 

- Rich environments and character design

- Basic premise: destroy any opposition

- Slight RPG elements are a help in tough missions

- Great looking action

 

 

- Saving between hour-long missions should raise your blood pressure and anger

- Uneven collision detection with the boss characters

- Atrocious voice-acting

 

 

Review: Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders (XB)

Review: Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes (XB)

Review: Gun (360)

 

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Ninety-Nine Nights

Score: 5.5 / 10

 

I enjoyed Phantagram’s efforts on the Xbox – Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders and Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes – so I was actually looking forward to Ninety-Nine Nights (a.k.a. N3), even if it didn’t appear to feature any apparent tactical elements, which was such a strong feature of previous games – you had to carefully manage groups of troops while directly controlling your character on the battlefield.  N3 concentrates purely on action and while it can be enjoyable it sure does beat the player over the head with a sack full of frustration.

 

nintey-nine nights          nintey-nine nights

 

The biggest burr of frustration is the save system.  Recently I complained about the save methodology of Dead Rising, but it has nothing on N3.  N3 features some extremely long scenarios with only the ability to save between missions – no checkpoints, no nothing.  This means you can struggle through an hour-long scenario only to get to the boss and have your ass handed to you in a couple of hits then have to start all over again.  Leveling up and equipping the small number of available items, like better weapons, can help you survive but no other game on the 360 has brought such raw anger to the surface so quickly. (Though the Kingdom Under Fire games were arguably more difficult, I don’t remember them being quite as frustrating as N3 even though saves could only be done between missions.)

 

That said, it can also be fun.  N3 throws hundreds of characters onscreen, friend and foe slaughtering the other; the effect is quite impressive even if it does make your character difficult to see at times.  The six playable characters (and a 

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seventh secret character) wade into the fray swinging, usually to the accompaniment of a light show and many, many enemy bodies flying into the air.  Each character feels powerful even with “unpowered” attacks – each one has a couple of different orb meters which can be filled up then unleashed for massive damage which can level hundreds of enemies in

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one shot. (Don’t worry about your troops; they’re immune to your wild swinging.)  Initially only two characters are available; the others are unlocked by progressing through the other campaigns.

 

Though button-mashing succeeds just as much as consciously executing combos, you’re thumbs are likely to cramp-up on the more packed levels.  It can become repetitive during long sittings.  At least all you have to worry about it keeping yourself alive.  The small cadre of non-descript support troops can only be given very basic commands and most of the time I hardly remembered they were following me around.

 

nintey-nine nights          nintey-nine nights

 

Telling a story is not N3’s strong suit – reading the manual fills in the gaping holes of the story told in-game from the different character's points of view.  An Orb has been broken in two, Orcs and allies battle the humans.  That’s about as deep as it gets.  It’s not high in entertainment value and the voice acting is horrendous.  When a game is brought from overseas, the original dialogue should be left alone – subtitle the damn thing!

 

It’s amusing to note that Wart, of Super Mario Bros. 2 fame, makes a dramatic return in N3 (whether it was intentional or not).  If you missed Super Mario Bros. 2, Wart is the ultimate villain who is defeated by tossing vegetables into his mouth, so when “Ppakk the Third” shows up with a rabble of toadies I actually spent some time running around looking for a big radish.

 

Nostalgic cameos and sweet pyrotechnics  aside, Ninety-Nine Nights is ultimately a frustrating experience.  A better save system would have upped the score by as much as two points, because while it’s fun in controlled bursts, the novelty of the extreme on-screen (and strangely, bloodless, with occasional slow-down) carnage grows almost tiresome when extremely long levels have to be repeated from square one.

 

- Omni

(August 23, 2006)

 

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