Galen hasn't had the best few months. Though he might be the self-proclaimed "ultimate warrior," his world has been invaded by the Army of the Night, his home has been destroyed and his family killed. So he's doing what any other ultimate warrior would do in a similar situation: He's slaughtering everything.
But here's a surprise I learned from N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights, a.k.a. Ninety-Nine Nights 2: Indiscriminately wiping out your enemies is, for the most part, crazy boring. When it's not boring, it's incredibly frustrating. And on a few rare occasions? Frustratingly boring.
This sequel stays pretty much inside the lines of the 2006 hack-n-slasher that spawned it. The Dynasty Warriors-style combat will feel familiar to those who swung their way through thousands of squishy foot soldiers several years back, as will the swift realization that pressing "X" and occasionally "Y" for 6–8 hours still isn't very much fun.
The campaign follows the aforementioned Galen, the unfortunate warrior who's lost everything in his fight to save the world by way of protecting the Orphea Castle and the Light Orb from the Lord of the Night. Yup, it's really that rudimentary. Of course, the story isn't necessarily the focus of the game, but its pure predictability exactly mirrors the dreary combat it accompanies.
Sure, there are times when I felt pretty badass; particularly when I used the light RPG elements to juice up some of my powers. Initially, knocking down scores of enemies with Galen's "Charge" skill felt great, but after the seemingly millionth time, it was just another button to press when running into a new group of enemies.
The first Ninety-Nine Nights had the player commanding groups of largely useless ally soldiers, but in N3II the soldiers are just strewn around the battlefield waiting to be saved. Comfortingly, they've stayed true to the ineptness of their predecessors, preferring to just hang out and let me fight around them rather than be of any real use. Lucky for me, you can't actually hit your allies, or I would have been guilty of several thousand counts of friendly fire (friendly stabbing?).
Of course, the story isn't necessarily the focus of the game, but its pure predictability exactly mirrors the dreary combat it accompanies.
Along the way, Galen meets four other characters that become playable: Maggni, the huge brawler; Zazi, the gun-wielding "Guardian"; Levv, the goblin assassin; and Sephia, the Queen of Orphea. Each of them has a side-story that ostensibly adds depth to the storyline, but these segments don't vary enough from Galen's to give the game any real variation. Each supporting character has a unique ability (Levv can swing from certain items with his grappling hook, for example), but the talents are never used in more interesting ways than simply accessing the next secret area.
Not even the newly-added multiplayer mode could help liven things up; I ran around killing guys while my buddy hit switches to open doors. The only thing distinguishing this mode from the single-player game was an ally that wasn't totally useless.
Add in some immensely frustrating boss battles (many of these bosses have very specific weaknesses with no hints as to what they are) and downright cheap enemies (hundreds of archers armed with knockback-infused bows are just unfair) and you've got a brutal combination of brain-numbing monotony and maddening aggravation. Unless you're in dire need of a Dynasty Warriors-esque fix, Ninety-Nine Nights 2 is not for you.
Taylor Cocke is a Bay Area-based recent graduate from University of California Berkeley. After spending a couple years as the world's greatest lowly intern at Official Xbox Magazine, he has begun his life as a freelance games journalist.
Editor's note: This review is based on the Xbox 360 retail version of N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights provided by Konami.