Knights in the Nightmare review (PSP)
After breathing life back into fallen heroes, using their fighting expertise against a horde of horrifying monsters, and ultimately cleansing the land a second time around, I can say that Knights in the Nightmare definitely has me hooked. The unique, self proclaimed “Bullet Hell” RPG was a unique experience that at its original release fit the DS stylus controls perfectly. Can the PSP's analog nub take over the stylus' perfect control scheme?
Knights in the Nightmare, for those who might have missed the initial release on the Nintendo DS, is a strategy RPG that contains elements of bullet hell mixed in for some truly unique gameplay. You play the role of a wisp that befriends souls of fallen heroes, reliving memories as you fight through battle after battle against some terrifying beasties.
Trying to explain the mechanics of the game is near impossible. The initial tutorial will take you somewhere between 30 – 45 minutes alone, and that is if you understand everything it's trying to teach you. I'll try to explain it the best I can: You are presented with a battlefield and a predetermined, silhouetted place for your heroes to spawn. Monsters roam around the map, while you drag and equip different weapons with varying skills to each hero's silhouette, where you must aim, hold and charge it to unleash devastating attacks, all the while dodging bullets (a la bullet hell), switching between blue and red phases to yield more magic points and clear the map of all monsters.
Couple that with having a limited amount of time, and turns, to clear the map and things started to get really intimidating. As if that wasn't enough, clearing a map doesn't result in a win, instead it takes you to a slot machine where you must match up kill marks either vertically or horizontally and then defeat monsters in order to earn those kill marks and ultimately clear the map.
If you're confused now, don't worry about it. The game must be played to be understood. It's the initial time with the game that will make or break a player. When I played the game on the DS, I initially wanted to throw the game out, and never look back. However once I finally figured out how the battle mechanics work, I couldn't put the game down.
Things were not so rosy with the PSP version however. The biggest boon was moving the wisp with the analog nub. Dodging bullets with the stylus felt intuitive. I could go as slow or as fast as I wanted at any given time. The nub however only has one speed. If you want to speed up or slow down, you have to press another button simultaneously. This alone makes a lot of the dodging while trying to attack too complicated.
New players will also have a hard time figuring out what items can be equipped to each hero silhouette. To find this out, you must go into the character menu, look at the associated icon that represents that weapon and only then figure out which weapons are compatible. Blanking out weapons that were unusable would have been a huge help, and save some people the initial frustration.
Throughout the wisp's travels, new units will pop up frequently on battlefields and can be recruited to use in future battles. This is done by presenting them with a certain key item that will spark their memories from their previous life. These items are luckily starred and also contain a explanation as to which character they belong to. This had me wishing that more of the game's items, such as the weapons, were better explained.
In between battling ghouls and ghosts, you will have the chance to strengthen your characters and items by distributing experience points accumulated during battles, merging weapons to create new ones, or boost up the effectiveness of existing weapons. This becomes necessary as battles get progressively challenging and will put your bullet dodging skills to the test.
The graphics have gotten a boost when making the jump from DS to the PSP. It's still hauntingly beautiful, opting for dark color palettes that evoke the feeling of afterlife and dread. Sounds during battle are voiced and can become annoying especially when characters repeat the same lines after using the same item. It's a shame however that the story cutscenes aren't voiced, and instead players are made to read pages upon pages of dialogue.
Knights in the Nightmare is truly a unique experience, blending two very opposing genres together. The insane learning curve will no doubt be off-putting, but players who stick it out will find an addictive battle system that will be hard to put down. Though it's great news that PSP owners will get to experience this one-of-a-kind game, the analog nub is not an effective replacement for the precise controls of the stylus.