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Lunar Knights (DS) artwork

Lunar Knights (DS) review

"Trapped in a never-ending night, humans have no choice but to be enslaved in the cities, or fight for survival on the fringes of society. Even in the darkest of times, one thing the human race can not be stripped of is hope."

Vampires rule the Earth. With the environmental control satellite system, ParaSOL, under their command, daylight is little more than a forgotten enemy. Trapped in a never-ending night, humans have no choice but to be enslaved in the cities, or fight for survival on the fringes of society. Even in the darkest of times, one thing the human race can not be stripped of is hope. Legend foretells of a union between the Solar Knight and Lunar Knight, the marriage of light and dark, that will bring humanity back to its feet. Driven by separate motivations, two boys will be thrust together to topple the vampire hierarchy.

With a heavy-handed story and two heroic stereotypes for the price of one, Lunar Knights was quickly looking to become a smorgasbord of clichťs. First off is Lucian, an angsty amnesiac with a mammoth sword, and a dark secret that drives his fervent pursuit of the vampires. Then there is Aaron, the brash prodigy and Solar Gun slinger, which he was unable to fire before the life of a young girl hanged in the balance. I could feel my eyes about to go on a roll, but I was rudely interrupted by a swarm of decayed skeletons and fire-mouthed demons. Perhaps Lunar Knights had something up its sleeve after all.

Lunar Knights begins as a simple hack Ďní slash with Lucian cutting down the Dark Tribe in a few wide arcs of his blade. Flying at his side is the winged cat, Nero, a Terrenial presiding over the element of darkness. Every monster felled, every castle room cleared, brings them one step closer to the local vampire lord, Margrave. There is a skylight ahead, giving Lucian the opportunity to stand under the night sky and charge his blade with energy. Itís a short respite before Margrave appears, laughing cockily as flames spike through the seams of his hulking casket armor. With a smirk on his face, Lucian fuses with Nero to become a raging beast and leaps upon Margrave, viciously clawing the vampireís flesh from its casing. Margrave has been subdued, and with it, his reign over that region of the ParaSOL.

The fight is not over yet though. Lucian calls forth Laplae, a space ship that will transport him beyond the orbit of ParaSOL and to the interstellar satellite, Sunflower. Margraveís body is dead, but killing his soul requires the intense power of unfiltered sunlight. Itís a dangerous flight through space, testing Lucianís skills as both pilot and gunner. Security drones fly in from all corners, but with a few swipes of the touchscreen interface, Laplae swings around them and shatters their weak armor with blaster-fire. A quick jaunt through the asteroid field and Laplae docks with Sunflower, releasing Margraveís essence into the Solar Sigil, an arching spiral of sunlight. Margrave is dead, and the power of the fire Terrenial now belongs to Lucian.

Shortly after landing, Lucian is reluctantly joined by the young gunslinger, Aaron. Although either of the boys can jump into the fray at any time, itís Lucian who takes the brunt of the battles. Aaronís gun has the benefit of range, but it simply canít match the destructive power of sharp steel. At best, Lucian tolerates Aaronís presence, calling on him to flip an occasional switch or take out a poisonous spider from afar. Even then, Aaron is limited by his gunís reliance upon the energy of the outdoor sun. He does his best to keep up by sucking down energy potions, hurriedly stuffing his stomach with fruit before it spoils, and even buying energy at recharging stations, but he still canít hold a candle to Lucianís energy-free swordsmanship.

The boys battle through a ruined town, the sewers, and a train station on their journey to the vampiresí capital city, freeing the Terrenials of frost, sky, and earth along the way. While resting a countryside inn, a fellow gunslinger tips them off to some treasure that Margrave held. Back to the castle they go, to the deepest reaches of the dungeon, only to find a weather station and a large chasm. Disgruntled, they leave the castle and pay a visit to Sheridan, a scientist who can now alter the climate via the unlocked ParaSOL. With the climate changed to something a little more tropical, they run to the bowels of the castle again, but the weather station is still unresponsive. After another trip back to Sheridan, a change to a windy climate, and yet another trek through the castle, the weather station is finally active. With the wind at their backs, the boys cross the chasm to find a treasure chest waiting. The prize Ė an energy restoring mushroom that is sure to spoil before they even make it back out.

Still hopeful, the boys go treasure hunting through the other dungeons, using the weather stations to make plants grow into steps, water into walkways, and using the Terrenials to destroy elemental barricades. Most of the chests only contain bits of food and potions, but a few open to reveal pieces armor imbued with bonuses to vitality, energy levels, and weapon skill, but completely dependent upon the environment. The boys inspect their findings with anticipation, but sigh with disappointment. A little extra energy is always welcome, but who wants to bother with armor that only works when the sky is cloudy or the temperature is above 80 degrees? Even the local vendors didnít want to buy them.

The real finds were the weapons, like Aaronís flamethrower-esque Dragoon Gun, the slow but destructive Bomber Gun, and Lucianís lance that charges up like a drill. With a few pieces of found junk in tow, they skitter off to Sheridanís to add some improvements to their new toys. So far, the vampires and their Dark Tribe monsters have been easy prey. Joining with the Terrenials to create swirling tornadoes, devastating earthquakes, and thundering meteor showers had made quick work of them. The real challenge lay ahead. Once in the city, they will need the strongest weapons Sheridan can make, a heavy cache of potions, and every ounce of sword-swinging, trigger-pulling skill they can muster. With fire-spewing dogs, acid-tossing blobs, and swashbuckling skeletons roaming the streets, they will have to learn to work as a team. Perhaps Aaron and his new collection of guns will finally get the chance to shine.

Lunar Knights truly starts off on the wrong foot. The bland characters, constant backtracking, redundant puzzle-solving, and seemingly useless equipment donít radiate the sense of adventure I was hoping for. Even the weather-based ability system, while being incredibly unique, rarely feels like it works to your advantage. Itís only during the latter half of the game when you will find that standard button-mashing and plowing through enemies does not work. You will need to strategize your attacks, use the Terrenials to their fullest potential, monitor the weather, and swap armor accordingly. It is just too late in the game. By then, the sense of wonder when exploring and the excitement over new equipment that I should have felt was gone, leaving Lunar Knights as an average hack Ďní slash with some very original ideas.


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Staff review by Brian Rowe (February 26, 2007)

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