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March 4, 2007

Filed under: gaming»software»lunar_knights

Why I stopped playing Lunar Knights

Consider this a very personal, and massively unreliable, review:

  • You know... for kids! What little drama exists in this game unfolds at the level of "Captain Planet." The voice work is annoying. Nobody has a sense of humor, or (for that matter) depth. As someone in their mid-twenties who plays video games, I'm aware that often my entertainment may be far beneath my chronological age, but it doesn't have to rub it in.
  • There's no need to be difficult. At the same time, I can't imagine a kid actually playing through this thing. Lunar Knights is sometimes irredeemably difficult and cheap. For example, there's a dash move available by double-tapping in any direction. It drains energy, but it's helpful. But when dashing, enemies do a lot more damage--three times as much, I think, which is enough to turn several parts of the game into one-hit kills. Not to mention the fact that the dash is oddly touchy for a mechanic that's been around for years, and often triggers accidentally.
  • The Four Seasons, this ain't. Reviews I have read have been very impressed with the game's weather system, which gives you a variety of climates you can choose when playing through one of the dungeons. Again, this is not a new idea--it's basically the same thing as the dark/light dichotomy used by Zelda and Metroid, or Soul Reaver's spirit world. But you can't change climate except by exiting a level, moving through a set of (clumsily-designed) menus on another part of the world map, and then re-entering the level from the start. Also, my version seems to have been faulty--on the one level where you have to do this four times to open a locked door, the climate refused to change properly on the fourth room. No matter what I did, the room would not respond to the climate, which left me stuck.

I liked Boktai, the game that led to Lunar Knights, for its odd use of a solar sensor to tie the real and virtual worlds together. It was cute. It was also not terribly complicated, and I think that worked in its favor. For this outing, Kojima has displayed his typical sense of humor by including not only the climate and the "sun brightness" display on the top screen, but also the wind speed, temperature, and humidity. They don't do anything--it's more like he's joking about how the game no longer responds to the player's environment, but has to make its own in obsessive detail.

But I think this joke also reveals the big problem with Lunar Knights. Boktai was a fairly simple game, which was a large part of its charm. This is not. It has piles upon piles of complications thrown in--an annoying just-in-time block system that has to be mastered in order to survive combat, the pointless climate system, aiming lock-on (!!!) in an isometric game--combined with silly and lightweight writing. Simultaneously, there is too much and too little going on here.

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