Knights in the Nightmare
Mike "Pheriannath" Katsufrakis
Sting/Atlus - NintendoDS
Every now and then, a title comes across my desk that just defies explanation, and Knights in the Nightmare, the new strategy RPG from Sting and Atlus just happens to be one of them. Instead of directly controlling your party members, you actually play as (seriously) the cursor. Your units do not move around the map, with a few exceptions. Your units do not in fact exist.
You see, the conceit of Knights is that you recruit an army of recently deceased souls, but they only appear as a shadow of their former selves on the battlefield. You, the “wisp” (read: cursor) can interact with these lost souls and cause them to attack or use items. Since your army is ethereal in nature, the enemies you encounter actually attack the cursor. Controlling the cursor is fairly unique in a game like this- you hold the stylus against the bottom screen and use it like you would a mouse, with your movements reflected on the top screen. When enemies attack you, they actually spit out a pattern of bullets, pretty much exactly in the same manner as you would see in a bullet-hell shooter.
Another way this title breaks from the norm is how turns are handled. Instead of a set number of actions taken per side, the game gives you a timer. However, this timer does not simply count down; that wouldn’t break from the norm enough! To trigger an attack or ability from one of your units, you drag the cursor over their head and hold it to charge a power meter, determining the strength of the attack. Charging power drains seconds from the timer, and once your time is up, the turn ends. The action isn’t turn-based, though. Your enemies will constantly move through their patterns and fire off their colorful bullets at the cursor, so even the basic gameplay stays hectic.
I could spend the remainder of this review rattling off how incomprehensible the gameplay is when described, but as there is between 45-60 minutes worth of tutorial content, I will simply let you know that if this game is for you, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. It’s a gorgeous game, with some of the best pixel art I’ve seen on the DS thus far. Despite its confusing nature, it’s one of the faster-paced strategy games I’ve played in a long while, and the missions are just short enough to play on the go.