The game has been out for a while, and everyone knows the general consensus was that Ninety-Nine Nights (N3) was not a great game to play. Having heard all the negativity about the gameplay, I tried to approach this with an open mind and a different perspective. As a result, there were a few nuggets that caught my eye (and ears), but many of my expectations were unfortunately met. I will spare you the in-depth background and details, and stick with the basics.
Two of the biggest surprises were the stunning graphics of the videos/cut scenes and how impressive the audio soundtrack was. Having played many Xbox 360 titles since launch, Ninety-Nine Nights may have the single best opening Video/Audio combo I have seen to date. The visuals were magnificent in HD and the audio pushed my surround to the very edge. The quality of the audio and video continued through the game (but not during actual gameplay) for the cut scenes.
Gameplay and the overall game focus was as expected. Using the various characters, you are expected to work your way through wave after wave of trolls and monsters using obscene combos, picking up various items and boosters along the way. All the while trying to complete each character's sequence of events with the best rating possible. Unfortunately, many times your gameplay is interrupted by the horribly timed cut scenes that seem to come out of nowhere. Each time they appear, your character basically has to start from scratch at the point the scene broke in. If you were in the middle of a massive combo or in the process of working over a boss, back to square one. This also impacts your rating, as many times your character cant meet his/her goals because they get stopped by the cut scene. The combos are beautiful to watch, but the reality is the basic attacks do more damage and are entirely more effective. While the six main characters all have a different perspectives (and goals) in the game, the action is the same and you ultimately play the same game every time.
I touched on the audio and visuals earlier and thought they were excellent for the opener and videos. However, while the visuals for the cut scenes look great, most have a simply dreadful Americanized voice-over that makes you cringe whenever they start commentary. During gameplay, the environments looks great, but because you experience so many characters on-screen at any given time, the visuals almost become lost behind the hordes.
The Achievements and unlockables are pretty straight forward. Most are accomplished simply by playing the game from start to finish. With the achievements, the only real tough one seems to be accomplishing an 'A' rating or better on all stages. The reason this is a struggle (although not impossible) is due to the cut-scenes essentially stopping gameplay in its tracks before you can grab the last few items after a victory or while you are in the midst of a huge combo to wipe out enemies. The rest are just clearing stages and raising characters to their maximum level. The unlockables basically provide you with your next characters as you clear stages while meeting certain criteria. You will also be able to view all the characters profiles once you clear every stage.
The bottom line with Ninety-Nine Nights is that the game lacks a true identity. The developers tried to combine elements of a FPS, RPG, Strategy and good old fashioned hack and slash genre into N3 and it simply doesn't work. The storylines are neither compelling or creative, and the gameplay gets repetitive awfully quick. Although you can get several hours of mindless fun working your way through the various character's stages, the real benefit may be to those only interested in whoring the achievement points.
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