When Q Entertainment’s Ninety Nine Nights debuted in 2006, it was met with a decidedly lukewarm reception. A frenetic hack-and-slash that borrowed perhaps a little too liberally from mainstays in the genre like Kingdom Under Fire and Dynasty Warriors, the game suffered from maladies as varied as camera issues, collision detection quirks, and utterly unforgiving gaps between checkpoints.
With Ninety Nine Nights II playable on the E3’10 show floor, it’s understandable that the developers would want to put an enthusiastic and optimistic face on the latest iteration in their franchise. With boasts of deep strategic depth and an increased number of enemies to combat on screen ringing in my ears, I nervously picked up the controller for some play time with the game, wondering if I had what it took to defeat one million troops. Wow.
My play time with NNN2 had me jump right into the action, attempting to fight large groups of enemies and advance towards objectives on the mini-map. I was eager to experience the combat, as fighting through conference crowds all day makes one yearn for a virtual opportunity to clear a bloody swath through a huge group. Unfortunately, I was denied my sweet release.
To call the combat simplistic would be a gross understatement. A light attack button and heavy attack button, along with a special attack stationed on the bumper that must be charged before use comprise the vast majority of the gameplay. This led me to believe that the title was mainly designed as a button-masher, which is all well and good. There’s nothing wrong with a mindless melee romp from time to time.
I quickly discovered that enemies aren’t mowed down so easily in this game by spamming attacks, which would seem to support the developer’s claim in their conference that the enemies require a strategic use of different attacks to be successful. The problem with this is that there is nothing in the game design or visual presentation to indicate to the player what type of attacks should be utilized on different enemy types. In the name of due diligence, I struggled through a period of trial and error to no avail; I was forced to go Thumper on the X button until baddies dropped after a ridiculous number of strikes.
The game includes a dodge roll function, but when you’re surrounded by multiple enemies it’s impossible to tell when you need to use it. The frustration of getting knocked down was the the only truly extreme thing about this hack and slash; once you’re down, the punishment begins and doesn’t let up.
Regardless of where I oriented the camera, it was an exercise in futility trying to get away. Most of the time another enemy would hit me before the game would let me stand, and the times that it did, I couldn’t see to choose a proper escape route for the situation. The only strategy available to me was just to repeatedly hit the dive roll and pray.
Most times they just wail on you until you die, which is then followed by an aggravating waiting period before respawning. At least Too Human gives you a Valkyrie to watch while you’re forced out of gameplay unreasonably.
If this all sounds a bit harsh, please keep in mind that the game is releasing later this month. There’s no time to tweak the unintuitive and unforgiving combat or the graphics that look like they could use more than a few coats of polish. Multiple times during the demo, the dev advised me to simply abandon combat altogether and move on to the next objective by avoiding enemies. I suppose that is a bit extreme.