Ninety-Nine Nights

I love Rez. Rez is ace. And, leveraging my O/C nature, I scoot about looking for other games that had been subjected to producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s touch. And so, when video became available for N3, I downloaded – and enthused. This looked like a bumper hack’n’slash-fest with squillions of characters onscreen – something that I find appealing. After all, the scene in Kameo where you wander into a valley of carnage is one of the few memorable moments of that game.

The six-out-of-ten review in Edge (which began with the line “Ninety-Nine Nights deserves a better score than the one at the bottom of this page”) only heightened my anticipation of this game. Edge roundly criticised N3‘s flaws, but their description of the underlying game mechanic had me salivating. A pre-cursory (after all, my mind was already made up) pootle through the demo available on XBLA made did little to discourage; thus, I pre-ordered, I picked up, and I played.

The initial intro movie is beautiful – certainly FMV, but still lovely. The titles looked a bit… clunky. Very clunky. Stuttery framerates, poor design. Really disappointing. The save system is cack-handed, giving the gamer every opportunity to unwittingly over-write their progress. There’s no checkpoints or opportunities to save within levels, which often means that the frustrated player can often lose half-an-hour of progress because of a poorly executed boss battle. The plot and character development is pretty much non-existent and, when it is there, is astonishingly lame.

And, worst of all, this game crashes. A lot.

A peek about the Xbox Forums indicated that I was not alone in this issue; often, the DVD drive in the ‘360 would slow to a stop, and the next time the game requires some data to be streamed in, it crashes, resulting in the fearful Blade-Of-Borkedness popping out from the right-hand side of the screen.

So the trick is to never let the drive spin down; I discovered that popping into the inventory screen every couple of minutes seemed to cause sufficient activity to prevent problems. It’s a bitch of a thing to remember when you’re in the middle of a 5,000+ hit combo, though, and tends to kill the mood.

But despite all these niggles, N3 is still a worthy diversion. Graphically, it’s a treat, with some decent character models appearing onscreen… and there’s a lot of them. At some points in the game, you can spy the plain scenery covered with two dozen of your own henchmen and literally – yes, literally – hundreds of bad guys in floods of hackable goodness. Sure, the baddies are relatively low-polygon in nature and blend into a blurry mush of things-to-kill, but that’s all that’s required of them… the important number in N3 isn’t the number of vertices per bad guy, it’s the number of bad guys on the screen.

In fact, the only graphical quibble lies in the design of some of the playable characters. And it may be a cheap shot (and, believe it or not, I don’t want to turn this blog into a repository of my fave pervy images), but I’d like to know how this is supposed to protect a knight in battle:

Inphyy and her WonderBra [2,575 KB]
Aim for the cleavage.

Gameplay is pretty simple – select a character (starting with principal protagonist step-siblings Inphyy and Aspharr, other characters are made available as the game progresses). Wade into battle. Mash X and Y in various rhythmic combos until all opposition has been vanquished. There’s a two-stage mega-weapon power-up, and it’s a joy seeing each character’s Blue Orb Spark for the first time. Vigk Vagk, in particular, has a visually spectacular attack; Tyurru, despite her nubile 12-year-old jailbait qualities, has an attack which slows the 360 to a crawl as it models a tidal wave flooding the surrounds causing maximum damage.

Levelling up characters can be a bit of a chore, but the extra combo variations make it worthwhile. Tyurru, in particular, morphs from a crapulent weakling into a veritable superweapon as she clambers through her ranks. And Inphyy’s Level 9 Seraph Butterfly combo (a joyfully simple A, A, Y) is a joy to behold.

Tyurru [34 KB]

So, in short – enjoyed the game, hated the crashes. The O/C in me is still playing it for the purposes of item collection, but – due to the random drops and lack of complete list – it’s difficult to determine when this task will be complete. Still, it’s not an onerous duty – in fact, as long as the crashes are avoided, it’s a secret pleasure.

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