The Japanese crowd combat genre – a hack and slash spin-off that is epitomised by the likes of Tecmo Koei’s ever-popular Dynasty Warriors series and the first Ninety-Nine Nights title from 2006 – is one that delights in placing its players at a massive advantage. The combat primarily involves the dispatch of literally hundreds of enemies at a time, and some of the more recent genre outings have seen current console technology pushed to its absolute limit.
Ninety-Nine Nights 2 is no exception, and the appeal of battering hundreds of enemies at the same time has lost none of its lustre. It’s ridiculously enjoyable to rack up absurdly high combo scores, and one of the most frustrating aspects of this kind of game – the fact that you usually lose your combo as soon as you take a hit – doesn’t occur here. You’ll probably nail a 300-hit combo before the introductory tier is up, but things don’t remain that simple for very long.
Because the learning curve is excellent. What begins as a fairly mindless (though genial) button-basher turns quite swiftly into a game that demands a very hefty amount of strategy and tact. As the second level begins, health and magic power ups appear less and less frequently, and your assailants will need to be dodged almost as often as attacked. As new enemies are introduced (many of whom have to be dispatched in different ways) you’ll have to mix up your play style every few seconds or you’ll be briskly turned into a mound of bloody mincemeat.
The cutscenes are refreshingly concise. The story is fluffy and borderline nonsensical, but it’s genuinely difficult to be too bothered, simply because of how punchy its narrative is. The game’s opening cinematic features your first playable character Galen, surrounded by flames and holding the corpse of a bloodied young woman. He screams into the sky, and a minute or so of acrobatic bloodletting immediately follows. The plot isn’t all that simple, but it’s refreshing to be completely spared of context when all you want to do is engage in some hack and slash.
In addition, the overall look of the game is rather distinctive; a hybrid of Steampunk and a quaint, medieval LOTR-inspired eccentricity. As you progress you unlock a selection of different playable characters, and their stories all slot very neatly together. Like the first game, Ninety-Nine Nights 2 keeps its RPG elements on the light side, so that players can focus entirely on the combat. There is an entirely separate co-operative online multiplayer course too, which is a straightforward challenge mode that doesn’t link in with the single-player story, but fans will inevitably lap it up anyway.
There are a couple of very minor annoyances – you’ll come across the odd knee-high invisible wall, and some tutorials appear after you’ve had no choice but to learn the ropes for yourself – but they don’t detract from what is a solidly and consistently enjoyable folly. It’s big, dumb and brassy, and perhaps not for everyone, but stands as a dependably well-oiled piece of entertainment for fans and genre newcomers alike.
Watch the Ninety-Nine Nights 2 trailer here…