Ninety-Nine Nights [Xbox 360]

I've got 99 problems "… Jay-Z

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ninety-Nine Nights
Time Played: 6 Hours
Official Site
August, 2006 (Xbox 360)
Microsoft

Comments

Despite the review, I am enjoying the game. I've clocked about 12 hours now and am almost finished with two characters. I find the simplicity to be rewarding in a simple way. This is not a deep game, but that's ok. I love hack'n'slash games for some good, mindless fun now and then.

The only reason I'm even mildly interested in the game is, in fact, it's simplicity. First, I am less than wildly proficient at learning control structures. Many, many blows to the head in my youth leave me unable to remember college, much less what buttons to mash. Second, I have a 15 month old, so the amount of time I can give a game is minimal. Plus, the time I do have with a game, I want to go as smoothly as possible.

Somedays I feel like I should open a sister site for GWJ, something along the lines of GRH... Gamers in Rest Homes. Of course, none of the potential members would be able to remember the URL...

Hmm I thought the name of your character was Assphyx. I guess they changed it because it was too, um, homoerotic?

Sephirotic wrote:

Despite the review, I am enjoying the game. I've clocked about 12 hours now and am almost finished with two characters. I find the simplicity to be rewarding in a simple way.

Same here... it's a mindless hack-n-slash and that is why I like it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so picking this up for $20 and not a penny more! Good review Certis, it's pretty bang on from what I saw in the demo.

It's amazing how much better any game appear at the 20.00 price point.

I could see it being worth $20 bucks to the right kind of gamer.

Certis wrote:

Alright, I'm done. Into the dumpster you go.

I love it. Love it love it love it.

The demo left me cold. I thought I would dig it, generaly enjoying carnage... but the play just wasn't intresting and having to repeat the play over and over... :p.

What I really like about N3 is that it finally has made a Dynasty Warriors game accessible to me. I've always been intrigued by the various Dynasty Warrios games and even the Dynasty Tactics series to a lesser extent, but the historical character names was always a hurdle. I'd be 2 minutes into a battle and be thinkg, "Wait, which guys are my allies? Who am I supposed to attack? Who am I, again?" So when I played N3 and saw that it was a lot shinier than DW5 and had character names that I could follow (and pretty good character design) I was excited. I haven't bought the game yet because of the price tag, but I will when I see it down to $40 or less.

This'll definitely be a $20 buy for me. I always need to own one mindless fun "think nothing" game, and this'll be it for me since I didn't want to shell down the money for the Dynasty Warriors version for the 360.

I played through 2 characters (Myifee and Inphyy) but I hit the wall with the final fight with Aspharr (sp?). I totally agree with both sides of the assessment in that it's an excellent relatively mindless button masher; however, it's severely crippled by the horrible save system and crazy-stupid boss battles where they kill you in 1-2 shots with the only option being starting the map again from the beginning.

I played through Aspharr's final mission, dying at the last boss 5 times before I decided that I had less frustrating things to do with my time such as sorting my recycling into glass and plastic. Fun game, good for a rental, possibly worthy at $20, but be wary, it's designed to emulate male pattern baldness in it's owners (due to excessive hair pulling..)

Don't even get me (&@@(&$ started about Inphyy and her oh-please-shoot-me-here armor and completely lack of suitability for anything beyond being an hatstand. We have been referring to Aspharr as "Asshat" at my house.

The goblin dude (whose name I cannot spell off the top of my head) rocks pretty hard, though. And we just unlocked Fronan the Disarranger (that's what we call the guy with no shirt and the two-headed-cowskull-thingy weapon).

When I play a game like N3, I feel a great cultural gulf, in which I stand on one side with my american sensibilities and somewhere on the other side of this huge black hole is fun and appreciation. At least I can understand why the japanese don't "get" first person shooters.

momgamer wrote:

Don't even get me (&@@(&$ started about Inphyy and her oh-please-shoot-me-here armor and completely lack of suitability for anything beyond being an hatstand. We have been referring to Aspharr as "Asshat" at my house.

The goblin dude (whose name I cannot spell off the top of my head) rocks pretty hard, though. And we just unlocked Fronan the Disarranger (that's what we call the guy with no shirt and the two-headed-cowskull-thingy weapon).

Oh, momgamer, I'm a big fan of your writing. I'm stunned you would expose children to this game though

Goblin dude is a bright spot, that's for sure.

Don't worry, my review doesn't include the word "asshat". The goblin dude is "Dwingvatt", which is the start of a whole 'nother article I'm thinking.

I'm flattered, Certis. I really am. I would definately like to return the compliment to several of the gang here.

I appreciate the point about the houseapes, but it might help you to know that my kids are 18,17, and twin 15 year olds. Plenty able to handle it. Though the girls dropped this game like 3rd hour French in favor of Dirge of Cerebrus and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja once I got my PS2 back from loaning it to PAX.

I was thinking less about suitability for "kids" and more about suitability for gamers

This game is extraordinarily annoying when it comes to saving progress. After spending a ton of time in the forest, after boss battle one, they throw you into a battle with "army of the night", which either you ace or it kicks your ass. Then there's another boss battle! Get to the end boss, die, and start the whole level over again. Goodbye, 35 minutes!

The gameplay is pretty good and but yeah, the bosses really fail to show intelligence and a lot of different moves. I like the game but it could have been better with what they have, a lot better!