|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Q Entertainment, Feelplus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 29, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
I hadnt planned on playing N3II before I went to E3. Sitting in the audience at the Konami press conference, however, I saw the producer of the game, Tak Fujii, speak about it with a kind of enthusiasm that made me want to try it out (if you havent checked out the press highlights on Youtube, you shouldfor a fairly run-of-the-mill press event, there were some pretty ridiculous goings-on). In any case, I decided that N3II might actually be worth checking out, if only because Fujii himself had so much character.
I wish I could say the same thing about his game.
Maybe the bar of expectations needs to be set just a little lower with a genre as simple (and lets face itderivative) as hack-and-slash, which N3II undoubtedly is (quite clearly, and never in deviation from). But even within the fairly stringent design tenet of slashing the living hell out of anything that moves until everything on screen is dead, there should be variety. N3II has your standard two-attack (light and strong) weapon hit combo system, and there are additional moves, weapons, and abilities to unlock and level up. But sadly, its also one of those games that basically gives you a feel for the entire experience in about ten minutes of gameplay. The first ten minutes.
In the games defense, within the very limited design confines of a hack-and-slash title, N3II isnt that bad, in theory. There are five different characters to choose from, all of whom interact around the same storyline, filling in their respective parts. The framerate is consistent, you can run pretty fast (handy for the games fairly large maps), and the enemies arent too cheap (most of the time). The graphics and effects are pretty, if a little understated, and the number of enemies on screen is impressive. So, what happened? Simple: no gameplay variety. In the first mission of the game, the evil Lord of the Night (apparently they were all out of original evil names) has captured a substantial piece of N3IIs archetypal fantasy real estate. Your job is to clear the grounds surrounding Elfin castle so you can enter and to meet with those inside. Clearing the grounds requiresyou guessed ithacking and slashing the hell out of everything in sight until youve hewn your last foe in two.
In the main protagonists second mission, you must recapture a keep thats been overrun by the Lord of the Nights minions. This requires getting through the keep and taking back some enemy monoliths that are giving your foes strength. Navigating the keep means killing everything in your way. Draining the enemys source of strength requires hitting markers until they turn blue. There isnt really a single thing to do in this game that doesnt either directly or indirectly involve using your weapon. In fact, and it pains me to type this, N3II might just be the most repetitive hack-and-slasher Ive played in over a decade, since I slogged my way through Sword of the Beserk: Guts Rage for the Dreamcast. At least your weapons dont get stuck on walls and edges in N3II.
Still, thats hardly a glowing recommendation. Dont get me wrong, Im not saying the N3II is a terrible game, or that you wont have any fun with it, particularly if youre a fan of hack-and-slash titles. The design is serviceable (especially for the genre), its just that the differencesthe things that lend the game variety and make it more interestingare either buried deep in its design, only unlockable after hours and hours of performing the same handful of combo attacks and special moves, or theyre just few and far between. I understand the desire to distance oneself from a more technical hack-and-slasher that has a deep system of moves and combos to pull off through various button combinations. That type of design within the genre is few and far between, and makes it much harder to give a hack-and-slasher any pick-up-and-play (most notably in later stages when assumed mastery of the games combo system is vital for survival). But if youre going to go with a simple control scheme, incentive is something thats key. As it stands, you have to shed a reservoir of blood just to level up a weapon or a couple of abilities (all of which, of course, require exponential point values to continually level). Coupled with levels that routinely take 45 minutes to an hour to beat (yes, there really are that many enemies) and youve got a pretty tedious affair. N3II isnt really trying to cater to anyone outside of fans of the hack-and-slash genre, so perhaps that would explain some its design shortcomings.