It has been months since I picked up my PSP. Don’t get me wrong, I love the little guy, but I have been too busy to bother with yet another device. The last few days my youngest (4yrs) has been out of school with a bug, so my TV has been a portal to Sesame Street, and not Pandora. With a kindly offered code from Lindsey, I decided to charge up my PSP and give Knights in the Nightmare a go!
Before I started playing, I thought I would read up on the game a little. To be honest, I was a bit concerned that the title was first released over a year ago for the Nintendo DS, especially when I went to the game’s homepage and almost all of their footage showcased the NDS version. The reason this bothered me, is the gameplay seems to be built around the NDS touch screen. Everything else about the game looks great, so I am hoping that the 17 months between the two releases was spent making a control style unique to the PSP joystick.
With that concern out of the way, and my orange LED finally turned off, I think my little buddy and I are about to get reacquainted.
Going all the way back to Bonk’s Adventure, Atlus has been known for offering unique titles. Knights in the Nightmare is no exception. The gameplay is interesting. A sort of Tactical RPG/Action Shooter combination. You control the Wisp (the soul of the king.), flying around avoiding enemy projectiles, collecting items and Mana tokens, while giving your orders and delivering weapons for massive attacks. You choose your weapons and fighters before each battle, making selections based on enemy types and the environment.
The battlefield is divided into two modes: Law and Chaos. Between the two lies a fog, and as you attack the fog will fade from the mode you are in, and get dense in the opposite. Managing the fog is vital to keeping up your MP, the denser the fog, the more you get when you attack. Switching back and forth helps keep MP up, but each mode has its own effect on your attack, so you have to plan accordingly.
As you meet new characters you have a chance to add them to your army, and if you have the correct item to offer them, they will join you. With over 100 characters, this could have you busy for a while. There are 7 different class types, each with its own unique weapons type and abilities. There is a limit to how far you can level up a single character, but by fusing their souls together you can create even stronger allies. Each one you find has a short scene depicting their final moments, filling in more of the story, so collecting as many as possible is important.
The weapons system is similar to the character system. Leveling up a weapon makes it stronger, but over using them will make them break. You can fuse like items together to raise their durability, but the new item takes on the lowest item’s attributes. Keeping an eye on your weapons durability is crucial, you don’t want to invest all that time into building something good, only to have it break. Weapons have alignments to either Law or Chaos, and have abilities that can only be used in their mode type. The different modes offer advantages and disadvantages, so it is good to keep your inventory diverse.
One thing I could have done without were the tutorials. They go on forever, and give you video demos after a long read. I don’t appreciate this kind of teaching. I would have preferred a more hands on approach, allowing me to do it myself as they tell me how. Normally, this is how a game tutorial works, and this game has A LOT of rules. The game takes it’s time telling you, bit by bit, all of the in’s and outs. I had over 4 hours logged and still didn’t have all the class types, and there are even more tutorials if you select them from the main menu. I couldn’t take it all in at once and remember ten minutes of reading when it came time to apply it. I prefer the crash course method.
The graphics are beautiful. I loved the nostalgic feeling I got seeing the hand drawn imagery, you don’t see that enough. I liked RPG’s better when they used pre-rendered backgrounds, before everything had to be 3D. Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, or Secret of Mana are all good examples of this. Some things are better drawn.
My original fear about the game being originally designed for the NDS wasn’t all wrong. The port was done well, but there are signs of the previous platform everywhere. The controls work well on the PSP, but I can see exactly how a stylus would be the prime element of control. I suppose this leaves the version you buy a matter of control preference.
The spoken audio has a lower quality then I would expect from the PSP. The dialogue is likely a direct conversion from the NDS files. It sounds off on the system speakers, even headphones didn’t help. That isn’t to say the audio is bad, in fact it is far from it. The music is fabulous, each tune really fits the scene. The sound effects are done well too. Some of them have that lower quality ting, but many of them fit well.
All in all, I like this game. It has a difficult learning curve, which may deter many people from completing it, but for those who take the time, it is a fun experience. It reminds me of Pinball Quest on the NES: mostly arcade, little bit RPG. I went into this game with the opposite perception and it caught me off guard. The game has many RPG elements but it is in a class of its own. I think people might find the original DS version truer to the gameplay, but the larger screen size on the PSP really lets the graphics shine. The play style is quick and exciting, once you learn all the details, and it makes for easy portability. I don’t mind playing a solid RPG on a portable unit, but it doesn’t make it easy to find a stopping point.
If you don’t mind pushing through the learning curve, this game will be a lot of fun. If you get easily frustrated, or are impatient, I would pass. This is not a “Pick Up & Play” title. If you don’t have a Nintendo DS, and this game was one you missed out on, go for it. The PSP version has an exclusive character (making three unique perspectives on the story) and, for a limited time comes with a free copy of Yggdra Union. For more on that offer CLICK HERE
<Atlus is great for trying something new>