Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/06/07 | Genre: Action/RPG
First shown to me at E3 2006, Lunar Knights was a Nintendo DS title shown very early in development. As a result, we were not allowed to film the gameplay and we could not interview the Konami PR representative about the game. As a result of this, I was extremely uninterested in the game. Things only became worse as I watched the painful visuals and uninspired gameplay presented before me. There was no way this title was going to be good. Fortunately for NIntendo DS owners, Konami, and Developer Kojima Productions, I was completely wrong with my initial assessment of Lunar Knights--as the final product is everything anyone could want out of a handheld game.
As the next-generation of the Boktai series, Lunar Knights has completely dismissed the any associations to the series in the US. For those of you scratching your heads about what Boktai is, it is a series on the Game Boy Advance that saw two iterations in the US. The game featured a solar-powered reader on the back of the cartridge that forced users to play the game outside in sunlight. Artificial light would not work and despite the best attempts at creativity, playing GBA games in the sun isn't usually that much fun. Even for a hardcore handheld RPG fan like myself, I ignored the series. Now in the fourth incarnation of the Boktai series, Lunar Knights reworks the solar panel for artificial sunlight within the game.
One of the more impressive elements of Lunar Knights is how much Kojima Productions was able to fit on a single NIntendo DS Cartridge. Although they are small in size, they pack plenty of space because Lunar Knights features a multitude of anime cinema sequences. These may not be the highest quality anime videos you have ever seen--but just watching the NIntendo DS showcase cinemas is an impressive feat. I hope this is a sign of things to come for other Nintendo DS titles.
In the world of Lunar Knights, Vampires have done their best to ensure their dominance over humans by blocking sunlight and protecting themselves in special suits of armor. Players begin with the sword-wielding Lucian but soon also get to control the gun-slinging Aaron. Besides the difference in weapons, both Lucian and Aaron spend the majority of their gameplay time in a series of dungeons. You will fight enemies, search for treasure chests, occasionally save others, and face off against bosses. The boss fights are usually fairly easy but can take a long time to beat. But when you do vanquish one of the many Vampire bosses, the fight is not over. Kojima Productions elected to make better use of the Nintendo DS touch screen in a vehicle stage that gives the player the goal of bringing the "nearly dead" vampire corpse in direct contact with the sun. Apparently this is the only way to destroy them with their amazingly protective armor.
The problem with these touch screen space missions is that the gameplay is controlled entirely with the stylus. Want to move your ship left or right? Drag the stylus in the desire direction. Want to fire at an enemy before they shoot at you? Tap on the enemy on the screen. Want to move and shoot at the same time? Sorry, this isn't possible. While I welcome the addition of these flying missions, I really wish the d-pad could have been incorporated or some additional control method could have been given to allow me to move and shoot at the same time.
Lunar Knights also features a vast selection of equipment to purchase, obtain, and wear. Depending on the weather in a given level will determine how effective your gear is. This will force the player to gain a large number of funds just to ensure they can purchase the equipment they will need in a given level. This is one of those design elements that I can get frustrated by but I enjoy the gameplay so much I can ignore it.
Kojima Productions completely surprised me with Lunar Knights. It is a fun and enjoyable Nintendo DS title that I completely recommend. While it may not be for everyone, fans of Castlevania, Zelda, or any Action/RPG genre will find something to love with Lunar Knights. I eagerly anticipate a follow-up to this title and hope it comes soon.