I still remember when I originally learned about Knights in the Nightmare being ported to the PSP. It just didn’t seem like a good fit to me. How do you take a game that was so finely controlled with a stylus (or what could be considered a mouse) and translate it into a “traditional” gaming experience? It did not make sense to me to choose such a platform, but such a decision was made. Even though I saw Knights in action online several months ago, I did not believe it for myself until I saw it in motion. Amazingly, this is almost exactly the same game available for the DS and stands just as proud as its twin. It is an excellent thing considering how amazing the DS version is in general.
In case you don’t own a DS and don’t know the plot, Knights in the Nightmare follows a single wisp trying to make his way through the dark lonesome night. How has this never-ending night occurred? No one really knows, but the king’s guards are destroyed, the prince is missing, monsters are appearing all over the place and the people are scared. So will the wisp make his way through the night and discover what happened and what was stolen from him?
Gameplay flows exactly like its DS counterpart. You choose which weapons and items you bring into battle. From there, you take a look at the field and start the battle. You then highlight the proper knight, charge him and let the damage fly to collect items. Gems, crystals and other items fly out of the monster, giving you an opportunity to collect them to use your powerful weapons. And you need them in order to cause massive damage to the enemy. The round ends when all monsters are destroyed, and the chapter ends when you get a row, column or diagonal of “kills” on the monster counter. From there, what you do with the spoils is exactly the same: level your units, fuse weapons together, sharpen weapons, fuse souls together and grind in old battles for extras.
The d-pad/thumb stick (I’m partial to the d-pad) controls the wisp surprisingly well. I never once felt the wisp was too slippery or overly tight or out of control. The R button switching between the two natures of law and chaos is a stroke of genius and helps keep the action flowing. The developer’s comparison of the game to the genre known as the “bullet nightmare” is a more accurate description here than the DS version simply due to its control scheme. This is not to say one version is less intense than the other; the PSP version is just as intense as the DS version. This is a game that requires all the concentration you’ve got and can quickly be a time-eater if you’re not careful.
Graphically, Knights in the Nightmare is dark and can be considered “disturbingly gorgeous.” A ruined chapel with a candelabra, a dark forest filled with dryads and skeletons, a dock with flowing water, a fearsome werewolf out for your wisp’s and the knights’ souls, a ruined castle that looks like it is haunted and yet no one seems to notice. As such, the game is on par with its DS twin, though it is a bit smoother.
The game sounds a bit stronger because it has much less flair than the DS version. Characters now speak little lines of dialogue here and there during battles. Music is, of course, as moody and intense as ever. What was originally awesome on the DS still shines on this port as well: strings rubbing against a drumming backdrop, the soothing sound of the demons being purified away from a site and the little sounds that emphasize the action. Voice acting can be a little grating at times, but it isn’t so annoying I wanted to turn off the audio. It’s just there to give the knights a bit more life.
If there is one thing that consistently amazes me about Knights is that it works. I still cannot get over it. Here is a game that is perfectly ported to a system. It retains what is great about the original game, works with the quirks of the system and adds little flairs to make it unique. Each version has its own strengths and weaknesses, and now it comes down to a preference of choice. Isn’t this how a “good” port is supposed to be? Each system plays the game well enough, and it really doesn’t matter which copy you grab because both run excellently. I love it that Atlus went the extra mile and made this game as well as it would any other game in its library.
So is there a reason PSP owners should rush out and buy Knights in the Nightmare this instant? Yes, because they now have access to a game DS gamers have known about for almost a year now. Great atmosphere, an interesting story and a great mixture of gameplay genres make Knights one of the most addictive games on both portable systems. What I wrote on the DS version still holds true here, and the two reviews are almost interchangeable essentially because they both work identically. I do admit I’m partial to the DS version simply because of the intuitive control scheme. Now go pick your favorite system and have a ball — err, nightmare. Now dream that impossible dream of the dead coming back to life to hunt their killers. Unpleasant dreams, everyone.