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Knights in the Nightmare: The Knight Shift
Company: Atlus

Knights in the Nightmare is a difficult game to write about. Not that it's hard to string together a few words of description; it's just hard to accurately describe the game and all its intricacies.

The DS version of Knights in the Nightmare took a lot of guff from players when it came to difficulty. It was a really hard game, and the tutorial - though helpful - was an hour-long bore. Unfortunately, the PSP version is proving just as difficult at the DS version. This is something players are just going to have to accept and be patient with. Once you "get it," the payoff is worth it.

Thankfully, the hour-long tutorial has been sliced and diced into a series of more palatable sessions. Though not totally integrated into the Campaign's story, they are pieced out in an "as needed" fashion. They're still a bit on the dull side and don't fully explain everything you need to know, but they're good enough to get you started. The rest just comes with playing through the first mission.

Except for the new way of delivering tutorials and redone visuals, much of Knights in the Nightmare remains the same. You play as a Wisp, a small glowing orb charged with reviving knights to save the kingdom from evil forces. The story is, of course, a little deeper than that, but why ruin the discovery?

Gameplay is an odd amalgam of turn-based strategy and a bullet-hell shooter. The strategy elements begin long before you ever set foot (... uhm, Wisp?) on the battlefield.

Selecting soldiers is a little trickier than grabbing your best guys. All soldiers have a Vitality meter indicating how much life is left in them. If a character's Vitality drops, he's out for the rest of the game. If a soldier's Vitality gets low, you can imbue them with experience points or, if you'd rather, sacrifice another soldier.

Weapons add another layer of complexity. Before each match, you'll need to decide which four weapons to take into battle. Not every soldier can use the weapons, so you'll have to check out who you're taking into battle. Once in battle, weapons appear in squares positioned in each corner of the screen. During battle, you'll not only have to make sure everyone can use weapons, but also keep track of Law & Chaos points as well as which phases weapons work best during and what enemy attack patterns. It's a lot to take in, but as I said earlier, the payoff is worth it once everything clicks into place in your head.

The bullet-hell mechanics come into play during battles. Each turn, you need to move your Wisp around the field, landing on soldiers and equipping them with weapons and charging their attacks. As you fly around the field, enemies shoot projectiles that you must dodge - otherwise you lose time.

At the end of each turn, you earn points for killing enemies and collecting items. At that point, a slot machine-like gauge appears, which is used to determine which enemies you'll face in the next turn. The goal is to kill certain enemies and fill up a grid. The basic idea is reminiscent of Bingo, only you have to match monsters to the area's requirements.

There's more to Knights in the Nightmare than I could possibly fit into one preview. It's as deep and challenging as games get. Although very much the same game as the DS version, there's something about the PSP version that makes it an addictive and rewarding title.

Keep an eye out for Knights in the Nightmare this October and be sure to check out our review of the DS version for more information.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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