E3: Knights in the Nightmare PSP Hands-On

One of the announcements of E3 2010 that almost flew under the RPG Site radar was that Atlus was planning to bring the PSP remake of Knights in the Nightmare to North America, with a release date of October 19th 2010 already set.

As soon as we found out about this we rushed off to Atlus for some hands-on time and to check out how the game has dealt with the loss of a touch screen. The overarching answer is this: pretty well.

The DS original was a strange beast, combining strategy RPG elements with that of a ‘bullet hell’ shooter, and that weird and wonderful mish-mash of genres a small cult following of the king that Atlus excels in delivering quality games to.

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In the original the RPG elements come in the form of selecting attacks with a floating cursor, but that cursor is also your avatar, and so you’ll be under constant fire from enemies. You have to make the cursor (called the wisp) dodge attacks while also clicking on attacks with it yourself to dish damage back out.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest change in the PSP version of the title comes thanks to the PSP’s lack of touch screen functionality. On the DS the wisp was directly controlled by the touch screen, but here it’s controlled by the PSP’s analog stick.

Hearing this idea explained to me I was apprehensive, but as soon as I picked up the machine and started playing it all became clear: the stick works well for this movement, and the gameplay begins to resemble that of a dual-joystick shooter a bit, just with the RPG elements in play instead of the second stick.

In many ways I found this control actually superior to the DS version, and this is one of those cases where traditional, old-fashioned controls actually performed better than the touch screen the gameplay system was conceived for. This should be kind of embarrassing for the DS, but the DS has seen a number of RPGs work in ways that wouldn’t with traditional controls, so the original version of Knights in the Nightmare and the console it was on can be forgiven.

Aside from the control changes, the PSP version of the game also sports higher resolution graphics, 16:9 display (essentially widescreen) and a new intro movie created by the guy who did some of the cinematic sequences in the Persona games.

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All of these are welcome changes, and essentially make what was already a very fun and competent game even better. Improved visual fidelity is always great, and the stronger, tighter, more accurate feeling controls go a long way to make some of the more frustrating elements of the gameplay in the original more acceptable.

It’ll take the full version of the game to figure out exactly how beneficial the controls are and indeed if they can become a problem when the game becomes more hectic, but from what I played at E3 2010 this definitely seemed like a superior, improved version of the original title. Stay tuned to RPG Site for the latest on the game and a full review closer to release.

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