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Nintendo DS review: Lunar Knights

October 16, 2007

lunarknightscover.jpg

It’s been almost a month since I’ve played Lunar Knights, and it doesn’t look like that’s gonna change anytime soon. You see, I have this habit of putting a game away when it pisses me off. Like I’m punishing it by putting it in a corner and refusing to play it until sufficient time has passed and wounds have healed. Sorry, I’m getting too far ahead of myself I think.

See, I actually liked the game, I really did. Sure the voice acting and the story in general were pretty cheesy, and there were gameplay elements that didn’t really wok out for me, but Lunar Knights is a very solid action RPG that shouldn’t be missed by any fan of the genre. Produced by Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame, Lunar Knights is a quirky side product of his studio, and a spiritual sequel to Boktai for the GBA. It features a swordsman called Lucian and a gunslinger called Aaron, both after the vampires that rule their society, but for much different reasons: Aaron is the typical idealist and Lucian fight for revenge.

First, the good. Like i said, it’s a solid action RPG. Enemies and locations abound, and the ability to upgrade your weapons by using “junk” appealed to the obsessive compulsive in me, and I spent hours just leveling up and earning money to buy items for an upgrade. The story, while a little to earnest for its own good, is decent enough and propelled by killer animated cutscenes. The voice overs needed some work though. The puzzles were decent enough, but I’ve never been much of a puzzle fan myself so I can’t say much about that. I liked how the differences in the two characters made players gravitate towards either Lucian (sword) or Aaron (gunslinger). I leaned more towards Lucian for the mere fact that his sword slashes were strong enough even without terrenials to kill enemies.

About terrenials. They’re like elements that either character can attach to their weapons to imbue them with that element. However, it uses up an energy meter everytime the weapon is used. Aaron can only use his guns when he has energy, so it’s a bit of a bitch to use him sometimes.

What I didn’t like so much was the different weather patterns that you could control. Apparently the vampires control a weather satellite that you can unlock with each vampire boss that you defeat. The unlocked weather patterns cause changes in the areas that you explore such that certain items can be accessed that couldn’t be reached before. Would have been great if the items that you get were worth anything, but I never got anything worth a damn so I just didn’t bother anymore. I also basically ignored the items that gave stat boosts is specific weather because I didn’t want to have to change items all the time and I frankly found it wasteful to have to buy different items for each weather pattern.

The space battles that accompany each boss battle are also rather tedious and the control scheme’s really messed up, by having you move AND fire with the stylus. The resulting effect is that these space battles are tedious and difficult for me to finish, hence my not having finished the game.

The last dungeon in the game takes a good 30 minutes long, then you’re forced into a space battle with the final boss WITHOUT being given a chance to save at any point in between. I tried desperately to finish the last boss battle over and over (you’re just charged some money for every continue, but technically you have unlimited continues) to no avail. I finally just gave up and turned to Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, which is a much more forgiving game. Look, I’m 25. i have a job I need to hold down, and gaming’s not the focus of my day anymore. If you’re gonna give me a really hard boss to beat, then have the decency to offer up a save point so I don’t have to fight my way back to challenge him again.

I’ll probably pick up Lunar Knights one of these days, just because it’s a really good game and i want to see the ending animation sequence. But with Partners in Time to keep me occupied and Phantom Hourglass waiting in the wings, that may be quite some time down the road.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2007 9:39 am

    I gave up on that game about halfway through. I tend to lose interest in games as soon as they aren’t really giving me anything new. A stalling story, repetitive game mechanics and a sharp increase of difficulty will make me drop a game without hesitation. Like you say, there just isn’t the time to spend hours finishing something you aren’t enjoying just because you started it.

  2. Ruben permalink
    October 16, 2007 11:28 am

    I’m glad it’s not just me. I remember putting in much more of an effort when it came to finishing games — even if it seemed like work sometimes. Nowadays, I’ll drop a game exactly as Albo describes. Even if I paid 50 bucks for it! That is, unless the story is SO GOOD that I have to persevere just to find out what happens next. On second thought, even a great story will only keep me interested for so long before other elements will force me to put it down. For example, I was really enjoying the story of Xenosaga. So much so, that I kept playing it in spite of how tedious the exploration was and how hard some of those battles were. Eventually, it was just too much work and I gave up on it. It’s a shame too because from what I’m told, Xenosaga is worth finishing.

    That’s it, it’s time for a roll call. This goes for all readers and editors. What are some otherwise great games that you’ve had to put down because of reasons similar to the ones described above?

    I’ll leave you with one more example:
    Radiata Stories. I LOVED this game the moment I picked it up. It had AMAZING voice acting and equally impressive graphics. The characters were very endearing as well. However, it didn’t take me very long to lose interest. The battles went stale very quickly and the story elements were too few and far between.

    I just realized that I have a huge list of games wedged in my brain that fall into this category. Let’s see if the same is true for the rest of the Intendo nation.

  3. October 16, 2007 5:29 pm

    Haha, man I finished both Xenosaga AND Radiata stories and I didn’t really have problems with them.

    What did piss me off recently was playing the legend of Rygar for PS2. Man that game was so average it wasn’t funny. it hearkened back to the plotlines of the SNES side scrollers and had the voice acting of resident evil coupled with developers who’d played too much onimusha. But it was only at the final boss when I gave up on it.

    The one game that ruined my streak of beating games however, was Arc the Lad : Twilight of the Spirits. God that game was awful. The story was almost decent but the music and battle system were awful, and just travelling to places was such a chore.

  4. Ruben permalink
    October 16, 2007 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the info, Ryan. I’ve been meaning to try out Rygar AND Arc the Lad. Now I don’t have to waste my time. BTW, how was Radiata Stories as a whole?

  5. October 16, 2007 11:08 pm

    Now, THIS is what I am talking about! We need more articles like this one that tells us personal experiences with games that had high reviews, no matter how long ago the game came out! I’m not kidding!

    Anyway, Lunar Knights is one of those games that I bought because I saw it at a great price and I had read great reviews about it, but I never really got around to even start it. Ryan’s review gives me the urge to play it, for both the good AND the bad elements that Ryan pointed out… You see, the stuff that Ryan didn’t like is what attracts me to a game: sharp learning curve and up-leveling madness! The only thing that keeps me away from this game is the real-time battle elements… too difficult to play on-the-go while doing other stuff. Maybe I’ll pick it up again when I get bored by Phantom Hourglass.

  6. October 16, 2007 11:47 pm

    Jesus, finally. This one was on the backburner for a while. Good shit, Rye-rye. Seems like most all the editors played this game, then.

    I liked the juxstaposition of 3D ship battles with the 2D isometric main portion, but i also thought it wasn’t much fun at all. They put a lot of potentially cool options in the game that were underdeveloped, which is sad. The elementals and weather effects (which was the big gimmick during the release window) could’ve really gone somewhere interesting, but they were executed so badly that i, like Ryan, just didn’t bother. I also used Lucian the most, and even on-the-fly elemental switching for his sword with the shoulder buttons was irrelevant to your progress. Speaking of irrelevant, Aaron was just a waste of space. They should’ve borrowed from MegaMan Zero and made one character wield both weapons, dropping the Aaron dude’s worthless child dialogue while they’re at it.

    The story fell short of realizing a really dark and (at the least) teenage, emo-goth mini-epic. Then again i’m an idealist with games i like, so maybe i expected too much from it. Shit though, Kojima had some influence on the project. It’s not too much to ask. Also, and i smell an editorial here, when the hell are handheld devs gonna “expand the market” and sell a game to me — one i can relate to? You know, young man saving the world rather than a ragtag group of rascals somehow eradicating a flock of vampires. Maybe some more adult themes, some insinuated sex (not simulated), politics (like Metal Gear does it), adultery, murder, and all the other RPG story elements that are watered down for the kiddies today. Seriously, it’s about damn time. And keep it 2D when you can. It’s in this regard where i might say that 3D came too early, because 2D is far from explored to the fullest.

    Aaaanyway, I had about a month break in between as well, but i finished it. No real gratification, just a roughly compressed well done anime sequence. I wouldn’t bother unless you really dug them. I liked Boktai a lot more, the first one. The in-game animations of the characters is solid, i will give it that. On the whole, the game was cool on paper and aesthetically in some ways, but mostly half-baked. I’m not too keen on that Phantom Hourglass, either. Doesn’t seem like something i’d enjoy too much.

    “wok out for me”

    Get your mind outta the kitchen, Wong!

  7. October 17, 2007 12:27 am

    In answer to Ruben’s call… Great games I couldn’t bring myself to finish. This be a shameful list.

    Zelda: Wind Waker – Sailing = Death
    Metroid Prime 2 – Dark World Whatever = Death
    Metroid Prime Hunters – Eh. I didn’t know what planet to go to and I realized I didn’t really care anyway. No story to compel me to continue.
    God of War – Great storytelling, awesome boss battles, the in-between beat-em-up just wasn’t worth it.
    Viewtiful Joe – Hard! Didn’t have the time to dedicate to getting good enough.
    Paper Mario – The Thousand Year Door – As much as I loved the presentation and humor, the gameplay was too easy and dry.
    Kingdom Hearts – After 10 or so hours I realized I still didn’t care about the characters.

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head, but I know there are more.

  8. October 17, 2007 1:15 am

    Bill: Radiata Stories was excellent, and on the whole a rather short game if you don’t bother goig through all the possible scenarios, which I didn’t. It’s definitely a decent game, and I loved the art style.

    Albo: I hear you on Metroid Prime Hunters and viewtiful Joe. Hunters came to a point where I wasn;t sure where to go next and I didn’t care much anymore, and Viewtiful Joe was Viewtifully Hard. I thin I was near the end though, at the stage where you fight “clones” of all the bosses so far.

    I had the opposite feeling towards Kingdom Hearts though. I loved the characters and the game, though there were some pacing issues.

  9. Bill permalink
    October 17, 2007 2:59 am

    Errr Ryan are you confusing me with Ruben? Thanks for the info on Radiata Stories, but I am very unlikely to even play the game.

  10. October 17, 2007 6:43 am

    Bill: yes, yes I am confusing you with Ruben.

  11. October 17, 2007 1:08 pm

    Viewtiful Joe was ridiculous with the difficulty. I stuck it out, but there was no payoff after that grueling marathon of all the bosses at once near the end. Their continue system was stupid, too.

    I don’t think i ever finished Hunters because they never gave you even basic hints, and you had to keep re-fighting the same dudes in the same area over and over again. I put up with it for a while because the fully-crafted 3D world they created was so incredible. The gameplay was never there, though. Multi was ok for a little while, the voice chat is what made it.

    Both Primes were really hard to stay interested in. I started Prime 1 in 2004, took a 2 year break and finished it early last year. The final baddie was dope and everything, but that’s not the ideal timeframe to enjoy a game in. Wasn’t my fault, the game just didn’t hold me. Echoes took less time, but that was a chore through and through.

    Paper Mario TYD was a bitch to enjoy. If you haven’t played the original, take it from me: I played it on N64 a few months before i rented TYD; it’s MUCH funnier and funner to play. I still think it failed to live up to SuperStar Saga on all measures, but TYD got some inflated reviews i thought.

    Let me throw in Chibi-Robo. The night and day mechanic and speed of dialogue give it this terrible pacing that i just don’t have the time for, especially when i’m trying to breeze through it; especially when i have to sit 3 uncomfortable feet away from the tv because the GameCube controller wire is so short. Chibi-Robo, for as much praise as it gets, is great for its charm value rather than how fun it is. It’s not really fun, but the quirky cuteness makes it get noticed. I think everyone who’s recommended it to every person they know did so because of that charm factor, which probably explains why so many people’s wives enjoyed it as well. Same probably applies to Animal Crossing.

    We should seriously turn this into an editorial (roundtable? An EIC can dream..).

  12. October 17, 2007 5:04 pm

    Albo loves roundtables.

  13. October 17, 2007 5:39 pm

    So did Arthur, and look what happened to him.

  14. October 17, 2007 6:37 pm

    Every man dies, Ryan. But not every man truly lives.

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