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Review #283

Knights in the Nightmare
Developer: Sting
Publisher: Atlus USA
Genre: Turn Based Strategy/Puzzle
Release Date: 06/02/2009

Ah, Sting. We meet again. I’ve got an odd love-hate relationship with this developer as they constantly make games that sound interesting on paper but always fall short of being truly great, and sometimes even good.

I first encountered Sting on my Sega Saturn with Baroque. This was a nice little Mystery Dungeon-esque game with horrible visuals, but still managed to be entertaining in the same why I enjoy a good European existentialist novel. Next came their Evolution mystery dungeon games for the Sega Dreamcast which were decent for what they were, but ultimately forgettable and pretty bland. I really disliked their butchered remake of Wizardry and god knows I consider Riviera on either the Wonderswan or the GBA to be only slightly preferable to wrist cutting. I enjoyed Yggdra Nation and considered it their best game yet, only to have that surpassed by the Baroque remake for the Wii and Playstation 2. Hell, Mark and I pushed pretty hard for Baroque to get a nomination for the best audio category in 2008, an award it eventually won. Even then though, I couldn’t call any of the games must buys or even recommend them to the average gamer. They are all highly niche affairs with deep-seated flaws that almost make the bad in the games outweigh the good.

So here I am once again with a Sting game. Knights in the Nightmare has intrigued me for a while now and I’ve had my fingers crossed that it would finally get Sting over its label of “unfulfilled and squandered potential” to “GOTY candidate” for a system. Alas, it’s not meant to be as like other Sting developed games, there are some pretty big issues keeping this from being accessible to all but the most fanatical SRPG gamer, but I can’t deny Sting gets better with each passing release, and I had definitely had fun with this title. Let’s take a look at what they did right, and also what went wrong.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Knights in the Nightmare is told in true epic fashion. The story beginsin medias res, or in the middle of the actual tale being told. Each of the scenes then goes back and forth between the current time period some time ago. You can tell what time period you are in as the present is in full colour and the past is in yellows and browns. While this may be confusing at first for the first few scenes as you attempt to put the time line together, by around scene five, even someone who has never read an epic before will be able to follow both storylines, even if there may be room for debate in which order the past events occur.

The actual story of KitN rather reminds me of something we’d see from the Ogre Battle series. The plot revolves around the kingdom of Aventheim, its king and his son. Now the king and prince are on what can be called different sides of the political spectrum. Eventually the king is killed and the Prince, under the council of Cardinal Capehorn takes the throne. Or at least that was the plan before some betrayal from the Cardinal. How the king is killed and by who, as well as the fate of the prince unfolds throughout the game via both back story and allusions made in the present.

At the same time there is a mysterious armoured woman who you encounter. She appears to have freed something (or someone) and is also on the run for some reason. More mystery!

While these two plots are going on, there is the “main” plot, which actually has little to no story at all save for the protagonist encountering monsters and then battles happening, after with you get back story on your troops. This is the tale of the Wisp. A Wisp in classic mythology is a ghostly ball of light from folklore that leads innocent people to their doom. Here the Wisp appears to be a soul of a person given the ability to exist and move around without human form. Perhaps the Wisp is the stolen soul mentioned in the beginning of the game?

All three of these stories tie together and it’s done very well. Without spoiling anything the armoured woman is indeed the person who freed the Wisp, although why they are not travelling together is a bit lame. I’ll also admit I was really impressed with the twist as to who the Wisp actually is/was. I went through a good chunk of the early part of the game thinking that the Cardinal had killed the Prince and that it was he who was the Wisp given a chance to redeem himself for his sins and mistakes made whilst alive. While this would have been an awesome story, this is not actually what unfolds. I am happy to say that the eventual identity of the Wisp and the story’s actual progression is just as good and I found myself equally enjoying the true fate of the prince as well. I never saw either coming and I have to admit I was a bit surprised (and amused) by his killer as well. Awesome, awesome job here Quest. This is the best story you’ve ever penned for any of your games.

My only real complaint is that 85-90% of the characters you encounter in the game are two-dimensional cannon fodder. They get a little scene after recruitment, but really, it’s pretty shallow across the board . The other complaint is that most gamers will probably be bored by the complexities and sheer amount of political intrigue in this game, but fans of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dragon Force will probably adore this as much as I did.

One side note for Sting fans – there is continuity between this game, Riviera and Yggdra Nation. Story points and characters from the previous games will come back to haunt the cast of KitN. In fact, when you start up the game it does (albeit VERY briefly) mention that this is episode IV. Now I can’t think of what the missing game from this quartet would be. It’s not any of the games I mentioned in the preamble and the only other RPG I can think of that Sting has done is Treasure Hunter G. Maybe it’s still to come?

Story Rating: 8/10

2. Graphics

One of the things that annoyed me so much about Riviera is that the engine and English translation was as bad as the graphics (for the GBA) were amazing. While the graphics for KitN aren’t pushing the DS’s visuals like R:TPL did on Nintendo’s previous handheld, the graphics are still very well done and deserve to be applauded.

Although there isn’t a lot of variety in the opponents you will encounter, all of them are beautifully rendered. I was really impressed with the monsters, but especially the bosses. Wow. These were some of the best looking sprites I’ve seen in a DS SRPG. I remember for the first few battles I wasn’t impressed by the animation during battles and then I saw Jaimie the werewolf transform and that changed my mind. Granted, quality animation during battles is rare in this game, but when it happens, it’s quite a nice treat to behold.

Character portraits are pretty nice, as each character (and there are a lot of them) gets their own static image to represent them. However, in battles, characters of the same type look WAY too much alike, which makes them visually as shallow as they tend to be in the actual plot progression. Most SRPG’s tend to go out of their way to have some visual distinction between the rank and file, but that really doesn’t happen here.

With this in mind, I was blown away by some of the things done with the sprites in this game. For example, there is a moment when Capehorn’s granddaughter Piche is walking and her hair flows behind here. Man, when is the last time you saw long hair flowing with a sprite? Tres impressive. Hell, long hair is still hard for a lot of 3-D graphics to get right. Just look at Demon’s Souls or any professional wrestling game’s CAW to see that.

Backgrounds and level design are another sore spot with this game. It’s all very bland, often times repetitive and most of the time, quite dull. I suppose this is a good thing as you won’t ever really have a time to look at the backgrounds during battles. You’ll be too busy making the wisp fly around the screen and getting your characters to attack when needed.

For the most part, I’m quite pleased with the visuals of Knights in the Nightmare. Although I would have liked a little more diversity with character sprites and some better level graphics, This is certainly a game rife with eye candy.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

One of the two freebies that KitN came with for those of you that pre-ordered included a soundtrack with approximately two dozen tracks from the game. I have to tell you, this is a godsend as KitN has one of the best soundtracks I have heard all year. The music fits the epic storyline beautifully, with each track managing to be both regal and catchy at the same time. To be honest, for a turn based strategy game, this is probably the best overall soundtrack I have heard since Dark Wizard on the Sega CD. I will admit I like that game better in all respects than KitN, but that’s long out of print so let’s go with what we have here. Audiophiles who appreciate a good classical score will be drooling over this and the extra five bucks you pay for KitN over the usual MSRP for DS games is more than made up for by the bonus CD. Still, Atlus continues its horrible business model of charging more money than usual for niche games, limiting their audience even further. Good job there guys. I think we see why Konami pretty much owns you at this point thanks to intelligent business decisions like this.

Voice acting, while limited, is still well done. The only problem is that sometimes characters will overlap each other in battles making it impossible to make out what is being said. This is due to the nature of the gameplay than any true audio issue, but it’s still very annoying, especially when you have a lot of characters in play.

Sound effects are fine for what they are. There’s not a lot save for weapons crashing into monsters or items, and your opponents (save for bosses) are pretty quiet too. Sometimes the music drowns out these and the voice acting as well, which shows KitN could have spent a bit more time with quality control to balance out the sound aspects.

So we have a wonderful soundtrack, but the overall rating here is brought down a bit due to technical issues and a lack of any real depth aurally outside the score.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Here’s the thing. I enjoyed the engine and battles for Knights in the Nightmare but I have to say this: I will be in the VAST, VAST minority. Most gamers are going to be fed up with this thing by the first werewolf boss fight and swear off Sting (and possibly) Atlus games forever. I can’t deny that it is complicated, convoluted, and quite buggy at times. The thing is that this is a pretty original and innovative engine and so of course there will be issues that need to be cleared up. Still, most gamers will take one look at the game and simply say, “This sucks.” Now they won’t be saying it because the game is too hard. That’s generally what a pretty ignorant gamer uses as their reasoning when someone dislikes a game that they like. They’ll be saying this with merit as KitN is a deeply flawed game that if you can’t get the hang of RIGHT AWAY you’re pretty much screwed for the rest of the game. It is unforgiving, but not in a “This game is hard like an 8 or 16 bit game way. Rather it’s a combination of that and, “Holy hell, I can’t believed they left such an insane design flaw in.” As such If someone was to say to me, “KitN has a crappy engine and the game is boring/frustrating to play,” I would be hard pressed to deny that their point of view has merit. Indeed looking at the game through a critic’s lens rather than just playing the game for fun, there are some issues that will suck any and all enjoyment out of the game, perhaps forever. So if you found Cross Edge hard or complex, listen to me when I say RUN THE **** AWAY FROM KNIGHTS IN THE NIGHTMARE.

It would take me about six pages alone just to explain the engine properly . I strongly advise you to go through every tutorial lesson in the game because if you don’t, you are screwed. Even if you do, it will probably take quite a few battles to understand or get the hang of battles. It doesn’t help that the guide Atlus wrote reads like stereo instructions and does a terrible job of explaining the game. Seriously, don’t even crack the thing open. It’s that crap. Just do the tutorials once or twice and go with that.

Each battle can last from a few seconds to half an hour, depending on the size, the amount of monsters, and what troops you are using. As such the game can range from about ten to thirty hours, depending on how well you are doing and if you are using the “leveling” option. In most battles, especially at the beginning, your troops are assigned and they can’t budge from that spot save for Duelists and Lance Knights. Even then, you really can’t fully control how or where they move. Sometimes their movement will basically put them out of play for the rest of the game, making them useless. Aiming these sedentary troops can also be a massive problem as I lost track of how many times I couldn’t actually aim my character no matter how much I did what the game’s tutorials and manual told me to. This would me, for example, I would have a character facing off the map so that it could do nothing and hit nothing, rendering it once again, utterly useless. This is frustrating beyond belief and I tried KitN in two different DS’ to see if it was this particular handheld. It wasn’t. The game just has pretty severe issues with aiming and considering every time you activate a character, it brings them closer to death, this is a bug that has no excuse existing in the game and Sting really should a better aiming system than, “Highlight a character with the Wisp and hope to god the character actually turns the direction you are telling it to.” With the clock constantly ticking down and aiming a game-breaking problem, MOST gamers will throw KitN in the trash without a second look.

There. Now that I have the one of the two massive red flags of doom out of the way, I can talk about the other one. Atlus’ overzealous PR team says the following about KItN: Incorporating strategy RPG, real-time strategy, and shooter elements, you’ve never experienced a game like this. Okay, it really doesn’t do any of this. If you want an RPG/shooter mix, go get Sigma Star Saga. Dodging enemy attacks doth not a shooter make. Especially when only a fraction of the attacks by your opponents are bullets. With the ability to shift between Law and Chaos fields and the occasional but far too simplified aspects of bullet hell, the two closest shooters KitN comes to emulating are Ikaruga and Chaos Field. If I did that, I’d be insulting those two particular games pretty severely and would get a ton of hate mail from Shoot ‘Em Up veterans.

This game really doesn’t incorporate any RTS aspects either. Enemies just run around on a predetermined track and you have to time your hits accordingly while the timer runs out. Calling this part RTS is again, a bit of an insult to games like Valkyria Chronicles or Demigod. This is a turn based strategy where your opponent just randomly attacks and moves like it is on a conveyer belt. The only true strategy, as your characters don’t really move, is where to place them (when you are allowed to) and when to hit. As such, if this is a hybrid of any genre, it’s a Turn Based Strategy mixed with puzzle elements. Crown of Glory meets Peggle if you will. So please go into this game knowing what you are getting. If you’re expecting Warcraft meets Shining Force you will be sorely disappointed. The only thing RPG in this is that your characters gain levels. That’s is it. This is a puzzle strategy game with highly complicated rules. Again, if this even remotely puts you off, stop reading and make a note never to get this game. For those of you actually intrigued, I’ve finished with the big and much needed bashing of the bad aspects of this game, and now it’s time to talk about what is awesome.

Okay, each battlefield is quite small compared to what you’re used to. It is a grid based map, at least in appearance. Again, you don’t move, so the grid is only there for attacks. How do you attack when you don’t move? Well every attack goes through multiple squares, even melee weapons like axes and swords. WHAT squares they hit depends on if you are in the law or chaos field. Attacks have different patterns depending on the field. The field also affects weapons in the game and whether you can unleash their skill attack or not.

See, normal attacks don’t really do damage. Maybe a point or two and that’s it. Considering your enemies are constantly regenerating, this doesn’t really help you. That’s where skill attacks come in. Most weapons are law or chaos aligned and when on the appropriate field, they unleash an attack that often one hit KO’s your opponent – as long as you can reach them. However the trick is that you can only unleash a skill attack when your MP gauge is full and you fill that by collecting crystals that come from your enemies when you hit them. So you do have to use regular attacks and they do have a point, if if they seem useless when you first start playing the game.

Now just killing your enemies won’t win you a battle. See, even if you kill all the enemies in a turn, more will keep appearing until you fill a row in the “Enemy Matrix.” This is usually a four by four grid and the goal is to Tic-Tac-Toe the board with a full row going horizontally, diagonally, or vertically. Although the first turn is usually laid out for you (Except for going back to previous battles in the “Leveling” option), you can stop a slot machine for each enemy entering the battle on the next turn , hoping to line up a row to get the battle over with. Note that each enemy you kill carries over from one turn to the next, so the longer you go, the more likely you are to fill the row. This carries on until you win or you’ve run out of turns.

In addition to worrying about character type, placement, enemy movements and the enemy matrix, you have to watch your character’s Vitality score. Each normal attack takes a tenth of a vitality point away and each skill attack takes half a point. You can only regain Vitality when you level up a character, and even then it’s not very much. Once vitality hits zero, that character is dead forever. Good bye, so long. Every time you highlight the character you activate them, so you can see where the horrible aiming issues can come back to haunt you. Trust me when I say a tenth of a point adds up quickly.

There are also objects to break in battle, which can give you new weapons or key items. Key items can only be obtained by breaking the correct object and this is the only way to add new troops. Warriors are the only character that can really do damage to objects, but they can also break them. If you break an object, the item inside is lost forever. Ouch. This makes the player have to balance between collecting objects for new troops or getting a battle down quickly so as to save vitality. The choice is yours.

After you win a battle you get a score and XP which you can then distribute to your troops. Even if a character wasn’t in battle, you can level them up and even if a character was in battle, you can deny them XP.

Then you have the Wisp, which is your little pixel on the screen. You have to move the wisp constantly. Use it to give characters items, to activate them, to aim them and most importantly, to dodge enemy fire. When enemies attack, only the Wisp can be hurt. Even then when the Wisp is hit, all that happens is that time is taken on the clock for this turn. In the early turns, this isn’t too bad, but in shorter stages with less turns, this can be a killer. It’s a good thing that the game is never hard to dodge firepower at all. It’s almost laughably easy if you’ve spent time with games like Gradius or R-Type. Still this, is where Atlus gets the “Shooter-esque aspects” claim, and even thought it’s akin to saying SSI’s Eye of the Beholder is a first person shooter because you have an halfling in your party with a sling, I suppose if you’ve never played a vertical shooter, this might give you pause, especially people who picked this up thinking it was even remotely an RPG. The Wisp can also block certain enemy attacks, change the elemental status of opponents and even earn extra experience points by dodging enemy attacks.

I’m three pages into the gameplay and I’ve still only covered a fraction of what there is to do and the nuances you have to keep track up in order to be even halfway decent at this game. You can expel units for items, sacrifice units to make other units more powerful, combine items, break down items into their component elements and even fuse weapons together to make a super weapon. There is also a hell of a lot more to cover regarding how to actually play the game. This has just been the absolute bare basics. If this intimidates you in any way or you find yourself saying, “This is way too much to handle for a freaking game,” then again, turn back now. This is not for you and there is nothing wrong with that. I’d rather have you say, “This game isn’t for me/sounds like crap” than have you spend $35 on it. If this sounds at all fun to you, then by all means grab KitN. Just realize it is actually somewhat convoluted, at times buggy and there is the occasional bit of lag and stylus detection issues that will plague a battle or two. The combination of way too many little things to manage couples with some gameplay issues means 90% of you reading this will not find this game to your liking. Hell, you might even hate it. For that other ten percent, this will probably make your year so much you’ll turn a blind eye to the flaws and never look back.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 5/10

5. Replayability

There are several reasons to replay Knights in the Nightmare after you beat it, but they’re pretty generic ones. You can replay to see stages you might have missed or gain knights you missed the first time around. There’s also a new character you can have on your team instead of Maria. It doesn’t change things that much, but at least it’s something.

Also, if you are one of the rare few with a Yggdra Nation GBA cart, you can put that in your DS’ GBA slot and get a nifty little bonus throughout your game and in your tutorials.

For most people that enjoy the game enough to beat it, once playthrough will probably be enough as the story’s best parts are only at their emotional best the first time you discover them. Still, Quest has given you a few things to make the game worth the trouble to play through again, even if it’s to clean up your previous sloppiness from not really what you were doing in the early stages of the game.

Replayability Rating: 5/10

6. Balance

Here’s the thing. You will either find this game amazingly easy or incredibly hard. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s just a matter of whether you’re a left brained or a right brained thinker. This is definitely a game for the analytical mind rather than the creative one. There is so much to micromanage in this game that most gamers will be annoyed by it. I have to admit that even thought I had fun with the game, I found the battle system to be more of a chore than fun. Had it not been for the intricate storyline, I too probably would have put this down before I beat it. Of course my issues with the battle system were more with the bugs (and after reviewing nearly 300 games, I have little to no tolerance for some of the things that snuck their way into KitN…) than any difficulty. I mean, I never lost a knight due to vitality hitting 0 and the only time I found the game “challenging” is when there would be lag between my touch the slot machine and the actual acknowledgement in the enemy matrix meaning it wouldn’t line up as I had placed them. Grrr.

If someone said that KitN had the steepest learning curve they had ever encountered in a video game, I’d have to say that opinion does have merit. I’ve definitely played harder games, but it is quite hard to keep your eyes on both screens especially when you have three people attacking at once and you’re trying to dodge firepower while choosing between jamming one opponent’s attack or clicking for a “Punish” attack against someone else. At times there is simply too much to do for the average gamer and even a vet of shooters, RTS or turn based strategy games may find themselves overwhelmed for a couple seconds.

There are two difficulty levels: Normal and Easy. I found easy to be amazingly so and as such, it is probably the best way to start off playing KitN, especially if you’re having trouble following all the tiny little rules and aspects of the system. The only real difference I’ve found is that enemies attack a little more often on Normal and you appear to get more items. That’s it.

The game swings from so easy it’s boring to “Oh crap, the weapon menu is a horrible lengthy mess that is annoying to scroll through” and so I can feel the frustration I’ve heard from a lot of gamers on what a mess the battle system is. At the same time the game is easy enough to get past with more cheese than a fireball spamming Sagat in Street Fighter II. If you’re really having trouble, just kill an enemy or two, pause the game, choose “Exchange time for XP” and then start the next round. Repeat for two or three turns and you’ll have your line filled up and you can move on. This takes only minutes and it IS very cheap, but it’s also a way to make everything but boss fights easier for the struggling gamer. The fact it nets you some extra (and probably much needed) XP as well should be a welcome bonus as well. There. You’re welcome. Just remember you won’t get new troops or items just doing this.

Yes the game can be wildly unbalanced and the game will either be really hard to micromanage or you’ll find it far too easy depending on your style of learning/thinking, but I have to admit, that’s part of its charm. I have to give KitN a thumbs in the middle for this category only because it does have its issues and an engine only a select few could tolerate, much less love.

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality

Truthfully I can’t really think of too many puzzle-strategy hybrid games aside from things like The Adventures of Lolo, and there you’re just playing a single character that can move around. I suppose there is also the PSX version of Magic: The Gathering or a few tower defense games and Knights in the Nightmare certainly has similarities with that genre, but really, KitN is a class unto itself. It can be easily categorized, contrary to Atlus’ commentary but it’s still one of more unique engine’s out there.

The story is quite interesting and was one of the few times I didn’t find a high fantasy game transparent or telegraphing the plot far in advance due to bad storytelling. Although I found the engine to have several very noticeable and deep flaws (much like every game Sting puts out), this was the best show of creativity and effort I’ve seem then put out yet and I’d love to see a sequel using a fine-tuned engine that doesn’t have the occasional lag, slowdown or stylus detection issues that pop up. There really isn’t another game like Knights in the Nightmare, which is both good and bad. If you’re truly looking for something that will stick out on your DS in terms of memorable experiences (again, for both good or bad), you’ll be hard pressed to find something more outside the box than this.

Originality Rating: 10/10

8. Addictiveness

There are a few problems with KitN that kep me from wanting to play the game for long periods of time. The first is that battles can go for half an hour (or more) sometimes, depending on the stage and difficulty setting. Without a quicksave option this means KitN isn’t a game you can really take on trips, which defeats the whole point of it being on a PORTABLE SYSTEM. Even worse in order to pause you have to constantly hold down the D-pad. If you let up, the battle starts back up, meaning you can’t even pause the game properly if say, the bus reaches your stop or mom and dad reach their destination and now it’s time to pretend to care about the relatives.

The other issue is that with battles that long it’s going to be hard for the average gamer to want to do more than one or two a day due to length, repetitiveness and lack of any reaction action occurring on the screen. With the epic style plot, the constant flashbacks will probably also annoy the common US gamer who wants their hand held through the entire story aspect of a game. These two things are going to add up to keep playtime both infrequent and only for short periods of time unless you are one of the rare few this game truly connects with, and then you’ll spend about a week playing this in your off hours until its beaten. If you like puzzles, brain teasers and games like Mousetrap where the exact placement and timing of pieces gives you a reaction, then you’ll have a hard time pulling yourself away from this game.

Addictiveness: 5/10

9. Appeal Factor

Without exaggeration 90-95% of gamers will find this game hard, confusing, complicated, convoluted, or just plain lame. They have a right to that opinion, especially as they will be in the majority. I respectfully disagree as I liked the combination of puzzle gaming and dodging. It felt like a Puzzle Quest for people who wanted something with more rules than a FASA tabletop RPG. No people who like rulesmastery or managing things like Theme Park or Sim City will probably enjoy this game for the constant micromanagement. People who buy Atlus games simply because they are published by Atlus will probably like this game. RTS fans will probably find this a cute diversion. Shooter fans will probably be exceptionally annoyed by the lack of follow-through on Atlus’ promise.

To say this is a niche game is actually a bit of a ninsult to niche games as the audience for something like a Clock Tower or Fading Shadows is going to be HUGE by comparison. That’s not to say that these games are BETTER (Okay, Clock Tower: The First Fear and Clock Tower are, but still…) KitN kind of kills its potential audience by being VERY tied into the continuity of previous Sting games and it’s complex battle system. Seriously, half of the huge reveals only matter if you have played Riviera and Yggdra Nation, and as very few gamers have played either, much less both, this kills the huge plot points.

In short, you pretty much have to be an avid puzzle or strategy gamer to enjoy this and you also have to be pretty familiar with Sting as a developer to get the maximum benefit of the story. You can still enjoy the game if you don’t possess either of these characteristics, but the potential for truly “getting” Knights in the Nightmare is certainly limited otherwise.

Appeal Factor Rating: 2/10

10. Miscellaneous

This is our general section where we throw in odds and ends like extras, swag, and anything else we feel should be covered here. I again want to chastise Atlus for bad marketing and what comes off as arrogant elitism by charging a very small customer base above and beyond the MSRP for DS games. I can understand this for games that are very large or push the envelope of the system, but for a game like KitN which may sell 50,000 copies IF IT IS LUCKY, that’s a bit of a middle finger to your loyal customer base.

At the same time Atlus tries to justify this cost by including a CD soundtrack. Luckily the soundtrack is amazing, but it’s also what? A dime to make a cd? So to Atlus’ credit, they include another freebie and it’s an amazing one. You get a art book jam packed with sketches and biographies of characters. Sure it is chock full of plot spoilers but really is anyone going to character that Boss X in this game is actually Boss Y from another Sting game? Well, besides those of us who have played all these games…

Still, the art book is amazing and even though KitN is only a one-time playthrough more me rather than a keeper, the art book is certainly something that will stay on my shelf for quite some time. I really liked that even the most shallow character got a paragraph of background in this thing. It helps to flesh these guys out and I’m sure some creepy people will use this book to further their slash fanfic weirdness.

Overall I’ll be nice here and admit I’m happy to see Atlus balancing out their price raise with some truly quality extras. We’re not up to the old Working Designs level of “Holy crap, that’s some nice extras,” but we’re getting there.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

The Scores
Story/Modes: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Control and Gameplay: 5/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 10/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10
Total Score: 61
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Knights in the Nightmare is a game that most gamers will have a hard time loving. It’s complex, convoluted, and has a very steep learning curve. The vast majority of gamers are going to hate the battle system for all its little nuances and idiosyncrasies which require constant monitoring to truly become even halfway decent at the game. HOWEVER, for the dedicated or the highly analytical gamer, Knights in the Nightmare offers a excellent story, some of the best sprites I’ve seen on the DS so far and a killer soundtrack. The engine and its hybrid of puzzle and turn based strategy gaming is both innovative and really forces a gamer to think on their feet with moves that are carefully timed and planned out even before the battle begins. This is definitely a game of chess, so if you’re not willing (or able) to think several moves ahead, you should pass on this game so as to save yourself a good deal of frustration. For the few gamers still interested, this is an experience well worth trying as KitN may be buggy at times, but it’s also quite rewarding what you master the battle system.

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