PopTards Games: N3 II

A couple of things I need to get through before I deconstruct N3II.  I had planned on doing a whole bit on weighing the good and the evil on Blizzard’s plan to force people to use their real names in the forums.  That topic it would seem is no longer relevant as it appears Blizzard either grew a brain or lost their balls.

I also want to share a fun little video I saw today.  I attempted to post this earlier, but failed like a fat guy on a treadmill. Dueling Analogs is one of my favorite online comics and I feel that Steve Napierski outdid himself today with the Super Mario Bros. Leftovers. It’s the unused B-squad for the totally awesome Super Mario Bros. Crossover.

Ok, with that out of the way, lets get down to business.  Ninety-Nine Nights 2 or the much easier to say N3II is the latest hacky-slashy game from Konami. The battle of good V evil continues this time revolving around our hero Galen.  A large grumpy man with the trademark scar over his eye, proving he’s a battle tested warrior, and gruff voice.  I believe his daughter died in the war that is spreading across the land.  I say believe because much like the first game the story is sometimes like dissecting frogs with a blindfold on, your hands tied behind your back and you have only one blunted toothpick to cut with. There’s a supporting cast of four other heroes as well that become available when you’ve beaten the game with Galen.

The game starts with some pretty decent visuals then drops you into battle.  I’m all for getting right into the action, but I like a little bit of an introduction to the mechanics of the game. It often feels like we’re trying to ride a bike, but the game keeps putting us on a crotch rocket and expecting everything to just work out on it’s own.  Once you’ve figured out how to attack it’s off to kill legions of the undead.  Pretty standard fare from the beginning, just hack and slash your way to the end of the level.  All the while you’re collecting orbs, a reward system which is becoming as original as the sun rising anymore. There are different accessories to collect from hidden boxes or special enemies as well as spells. The game is not very forthcoming with information and most things in the game you will stumble upon out of dumb luck.

There is a leveling system that can be used to upgrade your hero, weapon, spells and accessories.  Max level for heroes and weapons top out at 10 while the rest can only be leveled to 5.  Leveling is based on the score and grade you are awarded at the end of each level. How exactly those points are tabulated seems to be a bit of a mystery, as it doesn’t seem to be connected to either the orbs you collect or the score you receive. I’m sure there’s a seven page long formula for figuring out how the calculations are done, but I really didn’t care enough to try and find out.

Each character can use four spells and have four accessories equipped.  Each spell is mapped to a button used in conjunction with the right bumper. There is a period of time that must pass before a spell can be used again.  Some spells have a very short rebuild time while others seem to take forever to recharge.  The recharge time seems to be based on effectiveness and causable damage of the spell.  Leveling the spell seems to only affect the range and/or strength of the spell, not the recharge duration.

I apologize for the repeated use of saying “it seems” frequently in this post.  The fact of the matter is that the game is not very forth coming with information.  Either they felt that their audience was already adaptive enough with the gameplay mechanics or I simply failed to find a tutorial.

N3II features several long video interludes.  As is the norm with most games in this genre, the videos are often confusing, nonsensical, downright stupid or incredibly awkward. The video quality was average or slightly above for the most part.  The voice acting was down right atrocious.  The emotion often felt force or overdone and the sync was just terrible and very often looked like bad kung fu movie dub. Although compared to the script, the voice acting was like Citizen Kane.

As you play through with Galen, you’ll be introduced to the four other playable characters. First you meet Princess Sephia, the required elf royalty of the game who’s built like a 1950’s Barbie.  She sends you out on a mission where you’ll meet Maggni, who is the result of merging a Navi, William Wallace and a whiny Mack truck. Shortly after you’re teamed up with Zazi, who I believe is a dark elf and may possibly be suicidal.  She to has the figure of a 1950’s Barbie and one breast that has far too much jiggle force used on it, seriously, in some scenes is was absolutely nauseating. I keep fearing it was going to break lose and bust her nose.  Later in the game you stumble upon the final playable hero, the goblin assassin Levv.  I’m still not sure if Levv is a goblin and an assassin or an assassin that is an expert in goblin killing.

The main selling point of the game, besides the hacky-slashy gooey center, is the huge boss battles, which appear epic at first, but after getting into the fight there’s not much to them. Most can be resolved by running and hitting repeatedly, which I felt I got enough of in getting to the boss fight.  However, during the grand (not final) boss fight for Galen the use of QTEs finally comes into play.  Not to be outdone by just about every other game that came after GoW, the N3II QTEs have not one, but three buttons or joystick swishes that must be performed in quick succession in a very small window of time with absolutely zero warning.  The annoyance of the QTEs can only be matched by the games checkpoint system, which is pretty much non-existent.

N3 II also introduces an online component.  In the online gameplay you and another player work together for a common goal, such as navigating through a maze, where your success depends on the other players achieving their goals.  It is an interesting take on online play and probably one of the better parts of the game, but suffers from lack of information given up front and a pretty terrible mini-map system.  I hope I’m not alone in absolutely despising the fixed mini map.

The most impressive part of the game, and very surprising actually, was the lack of any kind of lag.  Granted the game locked up on me once, but that could be more the fault of my Xbox and the 100 degree weather we’ve been having.  During even the largest battles there was no struggle or slowdown to display all the enemies on the screen. This did not add to the enjoyment of the game, but went along way in not harming it, if that statement makes any sense.

Like many of the games I’ve been playing the last few weeks, N3 II is by no means great.  It’s a fairly enjoyable hack-n-slasher.  The graphics are average, the controls are slightly above par and the upgrade system is annoying at best.  If you enjoyed the first game, or are a Dynasty Warrior fan, you’ll no doubt enjoy the game.

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