Knights in the Nightmare is one of the latest offerings from Atlus and Sting. While many games stick to established formulas, KitN tries something new. It combines elements from strategy RPGs and Bullet Hell games, making for a truly unique (and somewhat confusing) battle system. So, what did I think? Did it succeed in being entertaining in its attempt at being different? The short answer is yes. For the long version, you’ll have to read my review.
The story puts you in the place of a wisp, with no memories of what it once was. All you have is your desire to go to Aventheim, a castle that has fallen to monsters and traitors. Along your way, you’ll meet up with the mysterious maiden that set you free. Much of the story is told through flashbacks, which detail the events that led up to Aventheim’s current state. Death is common place, and not even the innocent are spared this fate. Many of your enemies are not as they seem, with some you’ll end up sympathizing with, while you’ll despise the others. There are plenty of twist and surprises in the plot, and it never gets boring. The only problem is that it constantly shifts from the past to the present.
The gameplay is the major draw here. The battles are fast, and you end up feeling really involved in the fighting. The game itself isn’t turn based in the traditional sense. You are given 60 seconds each turn, and it is used up by ordering attacks and getting hit by enemy attacks. Before the battle, and after each turn, you are allowed to swap out units and items (up to 4). In battle, you control the wisp (which acts as a cursor), and must issue orders to your knights. This is done by hovering the wisp over the knight, and charging an attack. Enemies attack in the form of bullets that appear on screen, or will attack your units (though this happens less often). You must maneuver the wisps around these bullets, or else you will end up losing precious time. You must also worry about MP (as it is needed to preform skills). You get more by attacking enemies and collecting the little crystals that scatter as a result. The screen can get a little cluttered at times, and you can end up selecting units by accident. Thankfully, the developers foresaw this and added an “escape mode”. Basically, you press the L button to reduce the “damage” the wisp receives and makes it so you are not able to select units. also of note is the inclusion of a really helpful tutorial mode, which clears many things up.
The story unfolds in a slow, but thoughtful, pace.
Knights have a certain amount of vitality, which is used up when attacking and when they are attacked. If a knight runs out, they are gone forever. This can be replenished in a couple of ways. One is to level up knights using accrued experience points (knights do not gain experience points from killing enemies. Instead, it is all stored up and distributed by you). Another is to use the Transoul option (which kills one knight to boost the vitality and stats of another).
Another important aspect is the items and their units. Items can be found by breaking objects and by killing enemies. Most of the items you get will be weapons, which you give to a knight by dragging it to a knight (so long as it is the proper level and class). Weapons have only a certain number of turns to be used in battle before they disappear. Weapons are also important because they are the main way you will be dealing damage (as normal attacks are pitifully weak). There are also key items, which are used to recruit new knights.
It is important to keep the level layout in mind.
One thing you must always keep in consideration is the fact that not all knights can move. The only ones that can are duelists (only two directions), mounted knights (all directions), and the armored maiden (all directions). Also, most units can only face two directions. This aspect really makes you consider where you must place units in order to effectively complete each map.
Another factor to consider is the current phase the battlefield is in. There are two phases, Law and Chaos (which are changed by swiping the symbol on the right of the screen). Knights’ strength is determined by the phase they are in (some are strong in Law, others in Chaos). The phase also determines which weapons you can use (some can be used in any phase, though). Changing laws is also important in managing your MP.
Along with a great battle system, Knights in the Nightmare also looks great. Sprites are very well detailed (especially bosses). The animations and skill effects look great, and are very fluid. The game also sports great artwork, with each portrait looking distinct from the others. The environments also look great.
Weapons have two different skills, and are necessary for beating enemies.
Along with looking great, KitN also manages to have a great soundtrack. The songs rang from sad to frantic. There are a lot of battle themes, and each boss has a unique track to accompany it. The voice acting (which is English, but done by Japanese actors) is what you’d expect. It only plays during battles, and is relegated to single lines.
The game is about 20 hours in length, but has a fair bit of replayability. There are two routes (the second is unlocked after beating the game, and then selecting continue), and around 4 endings. There are also 4 difficulty modes to play through. You can also find yourself playing through the game multiple times to get all of the knights. Also, you can get a secret character by inserting Yggdra Union in the GBA slot of the DS.
In conclusion, Knights of the Nightmare is a refreshing and unique take on the SRPG genre. It manages to combine multiple genres together successfully to create a fast paced and involving game. It has a few problems here and there, but they are very minor when compared to its strong points. If you are are looking for something new and refreshing, or like the SRPG genre, then this is the game for you. It’s a fantastically fun, and refreshingly new experience that should not be missed.