Knights in the Nightmare

A thing to note about the PSP is that it was the home to a lot of SRPG’s. Strategy Role-Playing Game for the newbies. This seems weird, as this is a genre known for having long, back and forth battles that would not normally make it friendly for a handheld format. Funny thing is, for the most part, these kind of games actually worked on the PSP, having a smaller amount of units on a map, or quick battles, and something to speed up the process. Provided you installed the fan patch to fix the magic and summons slowing the game down to a crawl, Final Fantasy Tactics was a fun way to spend a commute.

Knights in the Nightmare is one of these games. This is a game that takes its format and makes the most of it. It’s fast paced, it’s hectic with shit flying all over the screen. Knights is this freak of nature; a tactical RPG and a bullet hell shooter. I understand that this does not make any sense.

KitN is a game by one of my favorite overlooked developers: Sting. Not be confused with the legendary pro wrestler, or the guy that was in a band with my illegitimate father. Sting is a company that makes stuff that goes off the beaten path; they are responsible for the greatest roguelike ever made in Baroque, for example. They also apparently worked on the Wonderswan port of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, meaning that I need to start up a new Wizardry playthrough sometime. Knights continues this Sting tradition of being different, and also being awesome.

dude, you…you can’t say that…

Battles don’t play out the way they do in other SRPG’s. Your units are fixed in place (with the exception of two unit types, that only move when using certain attacks), can only face and attack in two directions. Enemies don’t actually do damage to your units, instead focusing on attack you, The Player, specifically. This is where the bullet hell comes in, as the real main character is you, represented by the cursor, and enemies fire projectiles that your cursor needs to dodge. Getting hit takes away not life, but time. Right, forgot to mention that these battles take places over the course of timed rounds, and you have to complete a battle before the final round is over. And to win battles, you can’t just blindly kill every enemy; you have to kill them in a way that fills a tic-tac-toe grid, and you can select enemies that fill that specific part of that grid via a between rounds roulette wheel.

This sounds confusing, admittedly. But it’s to this game’s credit that it becomes second-nature pretty quick. KitN presents you with a lot of numbers and menus, yet it never feels overwhelming, allowing you to get back into those fast-paced, snappy battles. On a mechanical level alone, Knights in the Nightmare is extremely cool, unique, and worth playing. The PSP version (this also got a DS release) also includes a small extra campaign if you have save data from Yggdra Union.

I’m spending all this time talking about how the game plays and its uniqueness because, again, this is a game by Sting, and this unorthodox style carries over into its plot. Much like their best game, Baroque (will never not take time to say Baroque is awesome), Knights in the Nightmare is also a nihilistic, somber story about the shitty side of humanity and the world coming to an end. Your “cursor” is actually the soul of an assassinated king. Due to said king being preordained as having the power to defend humanity against gods and demons, he can’t truly die, and now rules over an army of dead soldiers in an attempt to restore some semblance of order in a world that has quickly gone to shit since your murder, thanks to your killer also summoning a powerful demon. From the testimony of various soldiers and generals, you were a wise, caring leader that’s worth fighting for, even in death…then you experience the story from the perspectives of those outside of your kingdom and realize that, actually, you were a racist, genocidal monster that did everything he could to hold down other non-human races in poverty and unlivable conditions.Your undeath will also involve you resuming your duties, literally wiping out entire villages and tribes on your way to taking out this god that wants to end humanity. Needless to say, this is a game that has a little bit of moral ambiguity to it. You’re a bad guy doing a good thing for bad reasons, and a lot of people are going to get killed along the way.

This story is told through a series of disjointed, out of order flashbacks. Scenes of a knight’s life moments before their death. The torturous transformation of your son into a werewolf, and his eventual death at your hands. Your assassin unwittingly making his own daughter into a sacrifice. All the political intrigue of the various kingdoms. Then, after it’s all over, you find out that this is a story being told by the Grim Reaper himself, questioning humanity’s constant conflict and willingness to kill one another. I dare say that Knights in the Nightmare may have a touch of “The Politics.” Now, I will maintain that Sting’s best narrative effort was, again, Baroque, but Knights still does some cool stuff that can make you feel very uncomfortable at times. This is a game with multiple endings, and none of them are particularly happy ones.

When I thought about dedicating an entire month to the PSP, I didn’t want to simply do write ups of its best games, like Metal Gear and Monster Hunter; you can find those anywhere. I wanted instead to focus on stuff that’s less known, but still immensely interesting. Knights in the Nightmare is cool, it’s fun, it’s sad, it’s weird, it’s fucked up. I love it, and I hope that you’ll play it yourself and love it, too.

AUGUST IS PSP MONTH!!

a small sample of my collection

Continuing my gimmick of doing unique stuff with this site while it is still Summer, I thought I would actually plan out my posts in advance this month, rather than the usual “write about whatever.” The theme for August is, obviously, the Playstation Portable.

Why the PSP? Well, for one, it’s a step below the original Game Boy in terms of being my favorite handheld system. And for two, I thought it would be fun to talk about it. During the PSP’s day, it was a widely derided system in a lot of my particular online circles. It was gay shit for homos and why would you want to play that fucking thing don’t you know that SONY KILLED THE DREAMCAST!? Also, I watched my wonderful friend Miffy play the Cover Girl magazine game on the thing, and that really kickstarted my thought process. You can check out the post she made on it over here.

I ended up getting one of those newer model silver PSP’s around 2007-2008 because I really wanted to play Mega Man Powered Up, the remake of Mega Man 1 with a level editor. Might do a write up on that one. That little system quickly endeared itself to me. Lots of great games. Being able to play old PSX games on it. The unnecessary-but-I’m-glad-they-were-there media players. It kept me sane during a particularly hellish time I had in Santa Clarita, California. As much I did and do like the original Nintendo DS, I am going to put forth that the PSP is the better system. I say this knowing full well that the DS has Bangai-O Spirits.

So, every post I make here this month will have something to do with the PSP. Game reviews, digging through The Archive, and so on. It should be fun, I think.

Taking this paragraph break out to link to some PSP writings I did on the old version of this site, when I was still dumb enough to think that making an entire site in Twine would be a good idea:

Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 3rd Story

Work Time Fun

Cool. That’s the end of this announcement post. I’ll have something up later in the week. Until then.

Racing Game Roundup, Handheld Edition

Another month, another upcoming Gran Prix, it’s time to play some racers and talk about them on the internet! This particular entry will follow a theme that I will expand upon in an upcoming post.

Gran Turismo PSP

I’m still torn on how I feel about this one. Obviously, you’re not doing a 1:1 recreation of a console GT on a new handheld. It would be ridiculous to expect nearly a thousand cars, loads of tracks, more than four cars racing on said tracks at a time, and all the various bells and whistles that you associate with Gran Turismo when the PSP is still so new.

Then I did a few seconds of research and found out that this came out in fucking 2009. 2009, and Polyphony Digital thought that it would be a good idea to release something so bare-bones. You get a small amount of cars available at a time, in two lap races on a small amount of tracks, and that’s about it. No license challenges, no ranked challenges, nothing. Just pick a car and drive. And while I can respect that simplicity, and totally understand why things would be so stripped down for a game that you’re mostly going to be playing during bus/train rides or during a break at work, there’s not really much of a reason to come back after a while. Due to the random nature of buying cars; you can only buy from about 4-5 dealerships at a time, and they’re randomly determined after finishing a race, unlocking shit is a lot more tedious than it needs to be.

Despite all this, it’s still Gran Turismo. It still plays well. I can still drive a 240z at Suzuka and Monaco. I can’t completely hate it, but I can feel a bit let down by it.

 

Ridge Racer PSP

Until I sat down and played this, I only knew about this version of Ridge Racer from one thing: that disastrous Sony E3 presentation. You know, the one that spawned a series of extremely unfunny memes? Giant Enemy Crabs lol and all that bull shit? “Jokes” that were so fucking bad that it caused me to feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Sony. Like, congrats Gamers, you are all so annoying and terrible at telling jokes that you made a massive corporation that released a $700 console and openly thought it was “too cheap” look like the good guys. Fucking assholes. Anyways, I ignored Ridge Racer as a result of this.

If you needed any further proof that gamers ruin everything, it’s this, because Ridge Racer on the PSP is fucking awesome.

Holy shit, this game rules. It is essentially a Ridge Racer Nostalgia Fest, in that you drive through tracks from previous games, and listen to music from previous games, as well. So you can tear through Wonder Hill from Ridge Racer 4 while listening to that really cool Genpei Toumaden remix from Ridge Racer 5. Or listen to music from the first game while driving on the beach track from Ridge Racer Revolution. All while using the new nitrous boost system that would later be used in 6 and 7. It’s cool, and extremely fun.

I do need to take this time to mention how good this game looks. Ridge Racer came out in 2004, once again proving that Namco’s artists are some of the absolute best in the entire industry. Great stuff.

Ridge Racer is a fun as fuck racer with a lot of shit in it. Also, the loading screen is a playable version of Rally-X.

 

Pimp My Ride

Oh yes. I saw this, and knew that I had to play it. This is the kind of low effort garbage I adore. Now, it’s been about a million years since I have seen an episode of Pimp My Ride, but I do remember that it was a show where people with shitty cars would beg popular Hip-Hop artist Xzibit for help, to which he would send the car to a garage, where a team of experts would then put a bunch of shit on said car that made it look even worse in the end. You know, like “yo man, we put an aquarium in the roof towards the back seat, so when you’re failing to once again convince your girl to try anal, you can take a gander at this Flounder.” Shit like that. I was not a fan of the show, but my friends were, so I ended up having to watch a lot of episodes.

Pimp My Ride The Video Game is a shitty open-world driving game. The first half is you driving around, picking up cash icons and crashing into other cars to get money. You can also do some extremely low effort mini-games, like dancing and honking your horn at a crowd of onlookers.

You do this until you get a certain amount of money. Once you do, then comes the second half: Pimping a Ride. Credit where it’s due, the developers actually got Xzibit to do a phoned-in voice over here. The X to the Z sends you back out into Pimp City (yes, really) to make stops at various Pimp Stations with loading screens are full of “Pimp Hints” between them to Pimp out some poor fuckers’ car. I’ve heard the word “Pimp” so many times that the word has lost all meaning; it may as well be its own Smurf language at this point. This Pimping game is really Pimpy and can seriously Pimp my Pimp, and if you don’t like it, Pimp off.

Now, the idea of competing to customize a better car could make for a good game. That is not the case here. Predictably, the game plays and controls like absolute Pimp. This is not a game made by an A-Team with a lot of money behind it, and it shows. But at least it’s Pimp in an interesting way. The kind of game you play and laugh at for a little while, before scrambling to put the Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer UMD into your system. It Pimps, but there are games out there that Pimp more.

nice interior