DS

North America

Knights in the Nightmare

by Nick DiMola - July 20, 2009, 8:48 pm PDT
Total comments: 6

8

This beautiful and intricate game is only hindered by its high barrier of entry and slow start.

It's hard to even begin discussing Knights in the Nightmare without mentioning the obvious: this game is complicated. It’s so complicated, in fact, that there are around one hundred tutorials to read up on before actually starting the adventure. As a matter of fact, I'm certain it's the most complicated game I've ever played.

I will give fair warning: if you consider yourself a casual player, Knights in the Nightmare is definitely not for you. Even those of you who may consider yourselves more dedicated and educated gamers, Knights in the Nightmare may still not be for you. That being said, Knights in the Nightmare is an interesting and innovative title that is unlike any other game before it.

Knights in the Nightmare's story is also quite complicated. It’s told across two different periods in a forward and reverse fashion. In between each battle, players are given a glimpse of the story through the perspective of the Wisp, an entity of light that the player controls. The wisp can re-animate Knights to battle monsters that have dominated the castle. Players will also catch glimpses of the Valkyrie, whose story is also shrouded in mystery.

Though not the ideal way to describe the battle segments in the game, Knights in the Nightmare is basically a compilation of a number of genres conglomerated into a single experience. At its core, Knights in the Nightmare is a strategy RPG. Players act as a god-like character with full control of each Knight on the friendly team. Additionally, these units earn experience and can be leveled up.

The game is also partly a “bullet hell” top-down shooter. As mentioned earlier, players control the Wisp, and in a departure from most strategy RPGs, this cursor is visible in the battlefield. Commands are given by directly touching the Knights and dragging weapons and items onto them mid-battle, then directing their attacks towards enemies. Things start to get complicated when enemies begin attacking. Attacks don't hurt the Wisp's units as one might assume. Instead, the enemies fire complicated bullet patterns at the Wisp. As players control the Knights, they must also avoid enemy fire by dragging the Wisp out of the way. Whenever the Wisp is hit, the counter for the round is dropped by a certain number of seconds, giving players less time to defeat the foes.

In addition to avoiding enemy fire, players must also use the Wisp to collect gems that are dispensed after enemies are attacked. These gems allow players to use item attacks, which are the main damage dealers in the game. Players will eventually defeat the enemy or break an object on the battle field, which will uncover either a new weapon or a personal effect that players can use to recruit new Knights. Further complicating the top-down shooter aspect of the game is an Ikaruga-like element where players must attack particular enemies with certain weapons depending on whether you are currently in Chaos or Law mode.

As you may have gathered, the game occurs in real-time, twisting the genre further into something that is truly unique. Though real-time, the game does offer multiple rounds in which players must defeat enough enemies, sometimes of a certain type in order to win the battle. In between rounds, players can equip new weapons, ready items, or switch Knights in preparation for the subsequent round. Additionally, there is a roulette that players can halt to determine the next round's foes.

When all of these elements come together, the result is a frantic, action-packed experience that is an absolute blast. However, it isn't without its faults. Learning how to play the game is an ordeal. As explained earlier, the game is quite complicated and before you even start playing, there is at least an hour of tutorials to trudge through in order to have some idea of how to play the game. While players can jump right into the game, it's nearly impossible to figure out the basics without completing at least some of the tutorials. Had Sting incorporated these tutorials incrementally into the first few battles, players would be much better off. As it stands, the bombardment of tutorials at the beginning of the game is information overload. Most of the tutorial lessons are lost in the shuffle, and when players are thrown into the fire, they must figure it all out on their own anyway. As suspected, this makes for a rocky start to the game, raising that barrier of entry even higher.

Aside from starting issues, the game also lacks variety. Similar to many strategy RPGs, there are no distractions from the game's battles other than the story. Players will jump from battle to battle, with little changing over time. There is much to do, all of it available from the start, so as you play further into the game, there is nothing new to look forward to or expect other than developments in the story line. Of course, that too is confusing and complicated, and it takes a number of episodes before making any sense.

These problems are unfortunate given all of the other successes of the game. Both the art style and graphical presentation are top-notch, marking one of the most visually impressive experiences seen on the DS thus far. This standard of quality is carried into the aural arena as well. The music is engaging and impressive, and the sound effects are high fidelity and fitting.

Knights in the Nightmare, while complicated, is an excellent game worthy of players' time and effort. Though the game starts slowly due to excessive tutorials not integrated into the play experience, when players learn the breadth of controls, they will find an engaging, genre-bending combat system, beautiful art, and music that stands apart from anything done on the DS before.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
10 10 8 8 9 8
Graphics
10

All of the characters and enemies are hand drawn sprites in a beautifully hand-drawn, three-dimensional world. The game also offers vibrant special effects mid-battle.

Sound
10

The game's score is epic and leaves a lasting impression. The sound effects are full-bodied and fitting.

Control
8

Controlling Knights in the Nightmare is extremely complicated and challenging. While the controls aren't broken in any way, controlling all of the action on screen can often be too much to deal with at any given time.

Gameplay
8

Again, Knights in the Nightmare is an extremely complicated game, and understanding it all will take quite a long time thanks to the way the tutorials are presented. Additionally, the game lacks any sort of diversity over the course of the quest, putting players in similar back-to-back battles. However, once players gain full knowledge of the intricacies of the controls and gameplay, Knights in the Nightmare proves to be an entertaining, one-of-a-kind experience.

Lastability
9

Though only consisting of battles and story sequences, the game's many battles will make for an extremely lengthy experience. One battle alone can easily last twenty to thirty minutes, giving players plenty to accomplish.

Final
8

Knights in the Nightmare is not for the weak-willed. Players will need a significant time and effort investment to learn everything there is to know about the game's complicated control and play structure. Once players have learned it all, an engaging battle system will keep them entertained for many hours as they recruit new Knights and unravel the events at Castle Aventheim.

Summary

Pros
  • Beautiful art and music
  • Deep, genre-bending battle system
Cons
  • Poorly executed tutorials
  • Steep learning curve
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

LJKKJLCM9July 21, 2009

completely agree with basically the entire review.  Hard to learn, very easy to play after you do.
I love the game, but don't have the time to really dive into it as I'm working 2 jobs and trying to finish school.  But it's definitely on my list of games to return to.

However, the CD that was included with my purchase of the game is awesome.  I truly love the soundtrack to this game.

THE JACKEL

StratosJuly 21, 2009

This game is so complicated that the DS IGN team had to do an entire video showing off how the game is freaking played.

Nice words, Mr Jack. I'm a bit surprised it turned out this good. I might have to make a point of grabbing it before the year is up.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusJuly 21, 2009

This was a really hard game for me to review, my head was basically spinning by the time I finished writing and I had no idea if anything I had put down actually made any sense.

It really is a fun game when you learn it all, but man, getting there is a real pain. I suggest grabbing the game when/if you have a bunch of free time (when you aren't sleepy) and just learn all there is to know. Oh yeah, and as mentioned by Jackel above, the soundtrack is awesome.

GKJuly 21, 2009

I've been debating if I should try this one out or not. The soundtrack is included? Atlus did that with Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier too. My kind of trend...

Oh yeah, AtlusUSA's youtube page has a 4-part tutorial series on the game. Not sure how helpful it is though but it might be worth checking out.

SteleJuly 21, 2009

Sounds interesting.  I'm still working on grinding my way through Disgaea for some of the optional final bosses.  And I finally picked up Chrono Trigger now that it dropped to $20 regular price.  So I'm a little backed up on RPGs, but maybe I'll get to this one.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusJuly 21, 2009

As much as I agree with Nick this game is a 9 or 10 to me. The game is just so damn good once you get past that tutorial and learning curve hump. The game is one of the best looking DS games and is so damn unique.

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Knights in the Nightmare Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Sting
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Knights in the Nightmare
Release Jun 02, 2009
PublisherAtlus
RatingTeen
jpn: Knights in the Nightmare
Release Sep 25, 2008
PublisherSting
RatingAll Ages
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