Ninety-Nine Nights [Xbox 360]
I've got 99 problems "… Jay-Z
The incongruity of my quoting rap lyrics, saying them out loud, or even thinking them is something my wife and my friends discourage. I do not have the look or attitude for rap, even though I can't help but enjoy it on some level. In much the same way, shoving a brainless, Korean action game into my Xbox 360 is about as advisable as my quoting Jay-Z songs while walking past a dark alley in LA. Most reviews have already grabbed Ninety-Nine Nights, dragged it behind a dumpster and done unspeakable things to it. I might as well join in.
The problems with Ninety-Nine Nights begin during a cut-scene before your first mission. There she stands, Inphyy, your fearless avatar and leader of her all-male squads of grisly fighters. She raises her 40 pound sword with her 2 pound arms and shouts defiance at her enemies "… with the voice of a twelve year old girl. Would that any future daughters I may conceive be such brave leaders on the playground.
When the combat actually starts, the game feels pretty good. You cut through grand swaths of enemies, sending them up in the air like popcorn. You press the "X" button for a normal attack and the "Y" button for the slower, more powerful swings. The lack of complexity is actually helpful at first, allowing you to easily string together combo attacks and feel like the badass young girl you're supposed to be. Equally simple are the special moves you can do once you pull enough 'orbs' from your dead enemies. When your meter is full, you trigger a special attack that kills hundreds of enemies with some devastating strikes. Enemies killed in this mode generate different orbs, which fill up a separate, even more powerful meter that can wipe out entire armies once triggered.
Aside from Inphyy, there is a large cast of playable heroes in Ninety-Nine Nights. Nearly every archetype is represented, from the well-meaning Paladin to the charismatic wanderer. They all level up as you use them, gaining more health, power and combos. The problem is that all of the combos involve mashing "X" and "Y" in different orders, and there are only a few that are effective enough to be worth using. This leaves you with a repetitive combat experience against enemies that do nothing more interesting than mill around, waiting for their turn to die.
To make matters worse, the enemy bosses fail to show any interesting moves or behaviors. Most will die easily enough if you keep your distance, wait for them to swing at your troops and then move in for a few quick strikes. The whole game is like this; the player is not given the opportunity to do more than mash the buttons through mission after mission, some of which last up to an hour.
As far as graphics and sounds go, you could do worse for a 360 game. Ninety-Nine Nights is reminiscent of Kingdom Under Fire, which isn't surprising considering it's from the same company. The ground and surrounding areas are fairly flat and featureless, but the character models and enemies have enough flair to keep things respectable. The game also gets top marks for the orchestral soundtrack -- really fine quality stuff if you like an epic vibe while you battle your way through the hordes. The stupid, stupid hordes.
This brings us to the problem that acts like a bow around the wonderful gift of drudgery we have been given. If you die after 56 minutes of mind-numbing, thumb-destroying button mashing, you restart the mission. Do not pass go, do not keep any of your acquired skills or items. I thought we were supposed to be done with these lazy, frustrating attempts at inserting tension into a game that cannot offer any on its own merits. Someone needs to send Phantagram the memo.
With a proper in-mission checkpoint system, I could tell you to ignore the annoying parts and give the game a rent if you're into this style of play. Without it, it's hard not to feel like you're just a butcher, punching in for a 9 to 5 job rather than a warrior engaging in an epic battle.
Alright, I'm done. Into the dumpster you go.