Kojima marries Igarashi!

If Kojima were to marry Igarashi, and somehow mystically spawn a bastard lovechild: That would be Lunar Knights. My review is up on Modojo, and for the second time (I promise I won't be doing this again; I'm brewing new, authentic posts I swear!) I'm going to borrow it for some worthwhile reading. Note how difficult it seems for me to hold back from writing: "I have an absolute hard-on for this game."

My experience with Boktai lasted a sum total of ten minutes. Within that time I realized that I would have to try to enjoy the game in blistering sunlight, and in doing so, I'd have to somehow find a magical way to actually see what the hell was on the screen. Even backlighting can only go so far. I gave up, and I was sad for doing so, because from everything I had heard, Boktai was a genuinely good action title from Hideo Kojima, albeit one with some occasional flaws.

The occasional flaws are most likely what Konami wanted to avoid when they decided that Boktai-redux on the DS would instead be named Lunar Knights, and would cover a re-envisioning of the franchise, from the ground up. Gone were the casket dragging sessions, and the mostly lauded sunlight sensor; two things that I was happy to have never actually had to struggle through. Also, the majority of the game's original puzzle elements were removed for what is essentially a straightforward action title. With these elements dropped from the gameplay in Lunar Knights, other creative aspects rose to replace them, and the impressive bit is, they all work beautifully.

The sunlight sensor is replaced by the top screen's persistent view of the sky and climate. The world of Lunar Knights is on a constant cycle of day/night, and this affects not only which character, Aaron or Lucian, can recharge their energy through their own natural inclination to light or dark, but also the entire view of the game world changes as well. Climate in Lunar Knights is just as important as the day/night cycle, and managing climates through the unique ParaSol technology allows for gamers to manipulate the weather, and ultimately unlock the occasional new location. Even particular items are tied to certain climates or weather conditions. The end result of the setup is one that leaves so many options for the player, it's truly impressive.

Gamers that want to charge through the game without even exploring the climate are mostly able to do so, but they'll be doing it at a loss of the hidden weapons and bonuses that are all available. The game never becomes dishearteningly difficult, although the occasional group of enemies can be a test. Where fighting with a pack of random enemies might prove to be threatening, bosses rarely feel the same way. The bosses in Lunar Knights are fun, and creative character designs for that matter, but the almost overpowered TRC gauge makes for quick work of almost any foe. The gauge builds from damaging enemies, and taking damage, and can unleash an impressive attack from the six elemental terrenials that players acquire throughout the game. The majority of the attacks are stylus-based, but Aaron and Lucian each have a unique attack for their respective light and dark elements. The characters transform into hulking versions of themselves, which are more powerful than they almost need to be. Players looking for a challenge should try to play the game without these, while players looking for a breeze should keep one on standby for all boss encounters. In the end, it's a good option for players on each side of the spectrum.

The influence of Hideo Kojima is obvious in more than one of the games aspects, and the sneaking element is still present in Lunar Knights, although it is toned down somewhat. Sneaking is almost never necessary, but it is an extra element to gameplay, and really, who's against that? Blowing into the microphone allows players to catch the attention of patrolling enemies with a whistle, and send them off on a wild goose chase while players venture on without harm. While this feels very, very Kojima, it seems that the real influence of Kojima is in Lunar Knights' production value. The visuals aren't necessarily top-notch for the DS, but they are very stylized and charming. The animated cutscenes, on the other hand, are the best I've seen on the system, and the inclusion of an impressive amount of voice acting is really a treat. I had expected this game to have polish, but I was truly surprised at how much it actually delivered. Almost any fault that Lunar Knights has can be easily forgotten by how consistently the game delivers on production value alone.

Players should be aware that this game makes use of the critically difficult to enjoy isometric perspective. The same viewpoint made Scurge:Hive more of a chore than an enjoyment, but Lunar Knights, by adding a lock-on feature to gunshots and other attacks, and increasing the attack range of a sword swipe to what seems like a full 120 or so degrees in any direction, basically alleviates any worries that the isometric view causes. This is really promising, and other developers should look to this game to see how games in this perspective should be handled.

Other unique gameplay elements, like the shooting sequences when purifying enemy vampires, add even more layers of depth to Lunar Knights. The shooting sequences, in particular, are seriously enjoyable and creative, even if the conclusion of each seems to grow simpler as gameplay progresses. I would have much rather seen Starfox Command employ a system similar to the one in Lunar Knights, if only for the frantic pace it consistently provides. Powering weapons, unlocking new abilities, attributing stat bonuses (although very simply) are all present and accounted for as well. It's almost easier to look at what isn't included in Lunar Knights than what is.

What isn't in Lunar Knights? Anything resembling a bad game. No fault of Lunar Knights is enough to make it anything less than one of the best titles on the DS. The game is, as everyone seems to agree, more Castlevania than Metal Gear, but who could fault Konami for bringing their two best franchises into a beautiful marriage?

The review on Modojo can be found here.


  1. Nathan said...
    I'm so jealous. LK sounds like an awesome game, and it's too bad I can't pick it up at the moment. If I can't grab it in the near future, for February and March aren't short on releases, you should give me the hook-up once you finish.
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