Tonight we are looking into a relatively unknown title from Atlus entertainment and Sting, a duo known for odd and substantially fun games. First came from this pair Riviera the Promised Land, next  was Yggdra Union, both excellent titles released to little or no fanfare. Both however have garnered a immense cult following and made enough profits for the company to continue development of other games along with ports of these games to the PSP. Knights in the Nightmare is no different, an interesting title developed by Sting and published by Atlus who’s start was quiet but garnered enough success and critical acclaim to warrant it another release on the PSP. Get ready for a battle of nightmares and dreamscapes in what can only be described as a nightmarish bullet hell strategy RPG.

In short Knights in the Nightmare has all your normal trappings of a strategy RPG. you have differing class characters that specialize in a number of weapon types and attack patterns. You deploy units on a grid tile based map, and they can attack in a particular way and number of squares around them. The one big catch in this, is movement is null and void. Or rather, it is done by attacking with two class types to move around the field, which adds more strategy than one would think, since Duelists, one of the two classes that can “move" around the map in the game, are also the only ones that can traverse heights in a simple manner. This again makes for an interesting mechanic that seems to come standard with this game type.

To add an even bigger circumstance to the game, players are also not in direct control of their knights, rather they control an entity dubbed the wisp. An ethereal soul that commands the knights when and in what direction to attack. The wisp is also the only point of damage in the game for the player. Rather than a set bar of health, when ever an enemy attack “hits” the wisp, time is taken off your timer. This is where the bullet hell element comes into the game and why this game is ten kinds of crazy.

Gamers in their early to late twenties may come to remember shooter games, such as Gradius Ikruga, Star Soldier, Bangai-o etc. These are what most people dub “bullet hell” games. In essence no matter where on the screen you look, there are bullets covering most of it in some form or other forming death zones for the player, where if they even stray into that area for a second, usually means the loss of their ship. Knights takes this approach in dealing with damage, while your knights are unable to be damaged enemies and the wisp are, thus forcing players to have fast reflexes of a shooting game while also maintain the strategy mind set of a traditional Strategy RPG. Since attacks fall in patterns for both knights and enemies, and you the wisp and the enemy can move in and out of range of an attack, the screen is constantly filling with bullets of differing shapes and sizes from your knights and the wisps as well. Granted the game is more complex than that with recruitment requirements for all the knights to join your party after a battle, trans souling and strengthening items, hell even getting items is an under taking this is one game where the tutorial offered on the beginning screen is a must for anyone. Trust me your brain will hurt after just barely scratching the surface of this game, though it is in a good way.

Moving to aesthetics and story since this is only a short intro and analysis of the game rather than a full one for the entire game, and that my friends would take far more than one post. Artistically, the game is amazing. Animations are smooth and fluid, the art direction is top notch with sprites being big and gorgeous to watch. Cut scenes suffer from the traditional lack of emotion conveyed due to the use of sprites and no voice acting, but the characters bigger movements are expressed enough to show case their happiness or, more often than not, distaste for the current predicament. Story wise though the game falters some what. It falls into the normal trappings of a fantasy RPG where politics, back stabbing and deceit all play center stage and the main plot of the tale is revealed with minimum detective work on the player’s part after only a few scenes with your troops talking about the incident. The script while cliched is written very well and intriguing even if the subject itself is dried up and over played in this game setting.

All in all the game is played not for its mediocrity of a story, but rather the interesting combination of game mechanics, that while seemingly juxtapositions to one another, blend to form an odd harmony that leaves challenge both types of gamers in check. It’s an odd marriage but one should experience at least once, if not for the random hilarity to ensue when introduced to the game and wondering what one has gotten themselves into.

  1. huntercolt23 posted this