N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights 2 Hands-On

We try out Konami's upcoming sequel to the Xbox 360 slashfest.

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N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights
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Konami had the upcoming sequel to 2006's dramatic Xbox 360 stabfest on display at its press event last night. N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights 2 is a "sequel" in the vein of the Final Fantasy games; it features a new cast but has a host of consistent elements. Therefore, N3 serves up another adventure that finds a disparate collection of fighters, including heroes, nobles, thieves, and some shady folks, fighting to save the land from the forces of darkness. We had the chance to try out two missions from the upcoming game that gave us an idea of what to expect from the ambitious sequel as well as the promised gameplay improvements and online modes.

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N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights 2 offers a new dose of action centered on the clash between the forces of light and darkness. As in the original game, you'll eventually be able to play as different heroes from different walks of fantasy life. This time out the game will feature five heroes. Galen is a human soldier, Sephia is a female noble, Maggni is a massive brute, Zazi is another soldier, and Levv is a goblin assassin. The game's story will weave around the paths of each character as they engage the forces of dark and light--it seems like they're not all paragons of virtue.

The demo on hand offered two missions to try: Orphea Castle Gates and The Behemoth. Orphea Castle Gates was a straightforward rush that doles out various objectives as you accomplish certain tasks. The level kicked off at a drawbridge in front of the castle, which was under siege. You're initially sent in to drive off the evildoers and reach a waypoint shown on the map displayed in the upper right corner of the screen.

Once you reach it, you're tasked with destroying three mystic enemy generators that are summoning droves of beasties. Your targets are conveniently highlighted on your map, so finding them won't be much work, but dealing with the mobs of enemies will offer some challenge. Besides the hordes of cannon fodder clogging your route to the generators, each also has a particularly tough guardian, so we got to try out N3II's refined combat system, which expands on the original game.

You'll still have different attack strengths, grabs, and a jump mapped to the Xbox 360 face buttons. As well as that system, the aura spark attack, which is a super attack that expends the energy you collect from taking out enemies, is back; one thing that appears to be out is managing non-player character guards. A new wrinkle to the combat system is the ability to trigger four skills by holding the left trigger and hitting the A, B, X, or Y buttons.

Galen was able to trigger an earthquake that caused damage in a decent radius around him, perform a powerful charge that damaged anything in his way, perform a powerful slash at anything in front of him, and temporarily boost his attacks. The skills are part of the game's new enhanced customization system that will let you spend the experience you earn at the end of every level to unlock new skills you can equip.

While we didn't see exactly how the unlocking system is going to work, Konami reps stated that the system will feature a broad array of skills that fall into different categories, such as defense and offense. Apparently the system will let you mix skills to create an insane number of different combinations. Our time in the demo ended when, after taking out the generators and triggering another set of enemies, a massive golem came out and stomped us into a smear.

The Behemoth level was a considerably shorter experience and offered a taste of how hard the game is going to get and the scale of the ambitious bosses. The level was very straightforward: we just had to wade through mobs of enemies while making our way to the enormous creature, who was naturally spewing fire bolts at us the whole time.

Upon reaching the monster, we took to slashing its massive hands while avoiding fire, enemies, spells from two shaman types hanging out next to him, and physical swipes at us. It did not go so well. After getting fried to a crisp a few times by the massive, screen-filing Middle-earth balrog thing, we had a chat with reps on hand who helped our egos by letting us know we were actually playing a portion of the last level of the game and facing off against the game's final boss.

N3's thirst for blood remains unslaked.
N3's thirst for blood remains unslaked.

While we didn't get a chance to try any of the game's online features, Konami reps outlined a solid assortment of cooperative and competitive online modes set to be included in the sequel. You'll be able to play cooperatively with friends in self-explanatory campaign, survival, and escort modes. In addition, race mode will offer a competitive challenge as you try to rack up more kills than your opponent on levels. The game will also feature online leaderboards that will let you see how you stack up against other players.

N3II's visuals are on par with the original game, although despite the demo's unfinished state, the game seems to run more smoothly. While this may not sound too dazzling initially, the sheer volume of stuff happening onscreen is pretty impressive. The various spells and attacks have flashy animations and special effects that are nicely done. From what we played, there didn't appear to be anything as insane as some of the screen-filling madness seen in the first game, but it still looked pretty sharp. We're hoping that we'll see some of this once we get our hands on a more complete version of the game that lets us try out all the characters.

So far, N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights 2 feels comfortably familiar in terms of gameplay. There don't seem to be any drastic tweaks to the core action controls from the original game. We're eager to see more of the customization elements and how they'll develop over the course of the game. More importantly, we're hungry to see how the game's online modes will handle--we're always up for some good online co-op experiences, and those in Ninety-Nine Nights 2 sound pretty appealing. N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights 2 is slated to ship this June exclusively for the Xbox 360.

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