August 31, 2006

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Ninety-Nine Nights (360)
Phantagram, 2006

If slogging through wave after wave of enemy combatants by way of your martial prowess and general badassness is your bag, and you own an XBOX 360, then there is only one game for you — Dead Rising.

If you own it and your bloodthirst is not sufficiently slaked then you could do worse than Ninety-Nine Nights I suppose. “Following in the mold of-” or “inspired by-” the venerable PS2 institution Dynasty Warriors is a kind but understated way of saying that N3’s more European stylings seem like a clever legal ploy to avoid a copyright infringement suit rather than an earnest design choice.

As in Dynasty Warriors players command not only a supremely ass-kicking hero on the crowded battlefield but also a company of soldiers. Although your control over them is limited to “attack left” and “attack right,” they do serve strategic purposes, mainly in delaying the inevitable Boss or Sub Boss fight long enough for you to whittle down the villains’ health to a manageable level before engaging them on-on-one. Missions are repetitious, you hack away with various slashes, combos and super shiny screen-clearing Orb Spark attacks until you fight some Lieutenant or hold the bulwark from enemy assault or blah, blah. Along the way your character accrues the experience that all slain foes proffer up and gains access to newer, shiny-er more screen clearing-er attacks.

Initially you only have access to Inphyy, a brooding anti-hero, wait, I mean vaguely gothic themed female badass, who wades through onslaught after onslaught of fantasy monsters to avenge her father’s death. As you progress through the game’s “story” you unlock other playable characters such as [Character] who fights [his/her] way though hordes of monsters to [Motivation] and [Other Character] who must battle countless horrors in order to [Strikingly Similar Motivation].

While N3 looks stellar, the graphics are crisp, the screen is perpetually full of chaotic action and the shiny attacks are, sweet Bea Arthur’s corset, really really shiny, it has a number of critical failings. First, Dynasty Warriors gave you horses so as to move about the sprawling battlefield quicker. Not so much here. The voice acting is only marginally better than what might be found in a Uwe Boll film, which is to say, atrocious. Most unforgivable is the punishing save system that requires a full mission restart no matter where along the endeavor you fall. This can, especially later in the game where mission length gets stretched way out, be really off-putting and the lack of checkpoints seems like sloppy planning more than some kind of harsh difficulty factor. In all N3 is a pretty, albeit bland outing in the action genre that is, to quote renowned Video Game Journalist William Shakespeare, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.” By fury he meant shiny attacks. By sound he meant bad acting and by idiot he meant Microsoft. D

— Glenn Given