Those who are familiar with the developer Sting know that recently they have been re-releasing many of their past games on the Sony PSP. And their most recent port, Knights in the Nightmare, is no exception. However, unlike Riviera: The Promised Land and Yggdra Union: We'll Never Fight Alone, which had minor control tweaks and a fresh update to their graphics, Knights in the Nightmare's original outing on the Nintendo DS utilized the unique touch-screen based features of the platform. And for those who played the original version or read our review of the game last year, they know this game has a unique gameplay style, to say the least. Does Knights in the Nightmare's PSP outing survive the transition to a more traditional control scheme, or is this a port that becomes a nightmare for those playing it?
Our previous review for the Nintendo DS version of Knights in the Nightmare explains the basics of the gameplay mechanics, so this review will focus on the changes and additions in the PSP version of the game. The first major change is that the Wisp is controlled by the analog stick instead of via the stylus. Since the PSP's analog stick isn't pressure sensitive, Sting has mapped the Circle and Triangle buttons to slow down and speed up the Wisp's movement, respectively. However, this system does have its faults, as the button presses are pressure-sensitive, instead of increasing by a set amount each time the button is pressed. As anyone who has played the original already knows, the frantic pace of the battles, especially the later ones, makes switching away your focus from the enemy projectiles just to change the pace of the Wisp quite annoying. While it's understandable, having the speed increase in stages instead of by the length of the button press would have made this issue much less present.
The change to an analog-based format also causes a few issues in the setup phase before each round in battle. In the Nintendo DS version, players could move the stylus around to survey the field and equip items. In the PSP version, players have to switch between different modes (one for units, one for items, one for enemies, etc.). This becomes quite annoying when you have to re-cycle through the list just because they need to check the stats on an enemy or locate where the various destructible objects are on the field. The change seems quite odd and warrantless considering the analog stick is a fine substitute for the stylus.
Outside of these flaws, however, the PSP version of Knights in the Nightmare shines. Instead of having the four equip-able items attached to the right side of the screen, they can be attached to each of the four corners. This becomes incredibly useful, as many of the stages are laid out in a way where this lessens the dragging distance required to use or equip the item and makes it less likely that players will lose time by getting hit by enemy projectiles. Switching between law and chaos, which affect how attacks are carried out and certain unit's movements, can be done at the press of a button.
Those who played the original game are aware that the game's unique control scheme required quite a bit of an investment in the Tutorial mode, which required players to go through each tutorial individually without any real linking between them. The PSP version fixes this by giving the option to have the tutorials appear in-between the first few levels as needed. It means that each batch of tutorials shows just enough to teach new players, but not confuse them. And for more advanced players, the advanced tips present in the Nintendo DS version still exist in the PSP version, so anyone wanting to learn the game's finer details can do so.
As with any PSP Sting port, Knights in the Nightmare on the PSP features a bevy of updates. Most evident is the graphical update, which makes the game's world even more immersive than the Nintendo DS version. The music has also been greatly improved, no longer restricted by the Nintendo DS' audio processing. However, the most important additions are for the completionists and fans of previous Sting games. Dialogue obtained from the "Pause Talk" feature is now chronicled in a new option in the main menu, which makes linking together the many plot points and character references much easier, and with over a thousand different possible entries, this new addition is immeasurable. For those who played the PSP version of Yggdra Union and have save data for the game still stored on their PSP, a new story path featuring the game's very own Princess Yggdra is now available, which is just as fleshed out as the previous two story paths from the Nintendo DS version.
Just like the Nintendo DS version, the PSP version of Knights in the Nightmare is an incredibly deep and unique game, but sometimes a bit too complex for its own good. The PSP version fixes some of the issues from the original version, but at the same time creates some of its own. If you only own a PSP, this version is more than worth its price in admission. For those who have both systems and couldn't get enough, the new additions will more than whet your appetite. Just don't be expecting everything to be fixed - this game is flawed just as its predecessor, for better or worse.