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N3: Ninety-Nine Nights Review

Developer: Phantagram Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: August 15, 2006 Also On: None

Hacking and slashing, along with a bit of strategy, was the name of the game in Phantagram’s last projects, the somewhat popular Xbox games Kingdom Under Fire and Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes. The team’s latest game, N3: Ninety-Nine Nights, follows a similar structure and familiar gameplay, but it lacks the heart and soul, and anything outstanding, that would put it above other similar games.

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N3 tells the tales of several different characters, none of whom have a very interesting or captivating story. From the blessed, powerful Imperial Knights Inphyy and Aspharr to the brutal mercenary Myifee, you’ll encounter characters that sadly have stereotypical roles, appearances, attitudes and styles. I personally couldn’t ever take the game’s story seriously simply because of the character names. I already mentioned Aspharr, but you’ll also meet Dwikfarrio and Dwingvatt, as well as a giant frog king named Phakk the Third. What were they thinking?

For days I tried to give Ninety-Nine Nights a lot of credit for its gameplay, but there isn’t a lot that you wouldn’t expect from other Dynasty Warriors-esque titles. You’ll run straight into hordes of enemies that range in the dozens to the hundreds, and for a while, you’ll feel a big rush. But once you start attacking, Ninety-Nine Nights loses its charm. The combo attacks for each character are disgustingly simple to pull off and require very little skill in terms of timing, making combos almost pointless.

Where Devil May Cry 3 brutally punished you for button mashing, Ninety-Nine Nights lets it slip by unnoticed. A player could quite easily mash the basic attack button and finish the game in a few hours. The only challenges I ever encountered were the boss characters, who seemed overpowered and often untouchable. The strategy required to attack these bosses was the same as any other enemy, but the player is forced to attempt to avoid some really cheap hits and unblockable attacks.

Once you kill enough of the horde, you’ll accumulate orbs that power up a special attack meter. Each character has two levels of special attacks. The first attack, which is activated after a red orb meter fills up, is interactive: you’ll mash buttons and generally watch things die. This series of attacks is simply a beefy combo that you’d normally pull off. The second attack is charged up while killing things in the “red attack.” You’ll earn blue orbs that charge up for a mega attack that kills just about every non-boss character on-screen. Some of these attacks look cool (especially Dwikfarrio’s storm of doom), but once you’ve killed ten thousand orcs, you’ve killed them all.

Ninety-Nine Nights lacks checkpoints or in-game saves, making each and every mission quite punishing. Should you parish 20 minutes into a long mission, you’re forced to do it all over again. That’s right, you’ll kill the same crowd of orcs, destroy the same catapults that are firing at the castle walls, and fend off the same cheap boss character. The missions aren’t exactly exciting anyway. The in-game map tells you when and where to go for the next pack of enemies. There don’t seem to be any rewards for putting yourself through the pain of playing through this game other than unlocking more characters. You’ll even revisit the same levels multiple times with different characters.

At least Ninety-Nine Nights looks alright. The staggering amount of enemies on the screen is impressive to say the least, and the minimal slowdown is pretty nice as well. It’s too bad the character models get so repetitious, because the heroes that you’ll use look amazing. Inphyy, the cover girl, is my personal favorite character, with her glittering golden wings and blood-red and shiny silver armor.

It’s also too bad that everything in this game sounds awful. The voice acting is some of the worst I’ve ever heard, and the lip sync is so ridiculously off that I began to believe Phantagram didn’t even make an attempt at realistic syncing. The sound effects get old within seconds of starting the game up and the soundtrack didn’t seem to kick in enough when it should have.

N3: Ninety-Nine Nights may very well be the biggest disappointment that the Xbox 360 has had to date. What should have been a gripping, intense action game is nothing more than a grossly average game that could have been. Move along, play Dead Rising and enjoy your summer until the holiday releases start coming out next month.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5
Written by Cliff Review Guide