The two original Boktai games released for the GBA were among the most innovative and unique titles in recent memory. This also limited them to a very small fanbase and in turn less than impressive sales numbers. Regardless both games captured the imaginations of many gamers and even developed a small cult following. Now that Kojima Productions has decided to move the series to Nintendo’s newest handheld they have made several changes to the formula and even donned it with a new moniker we will see if it can attract new fans or simply alienate the current audience.
For those of you not fortunate enough to play the two original titles let me give you a quick synopsis. Boktai was unique in the fact that the cartridge itself contained a light sensor that was used throughout the game to give your character power. The problem with this is that it forced you to play the game at specific times of the day or simply find a light source capable of producing the correct wattage to fool the game into thinking it was genuine sunlight.
With this DS follow-up Konami has severed the Boktai name and even the light sensor and created a game more in line with a Castlevania. They have replaced the sensor with an in-game day/night cycle system that is imperative to the core mechanic found in the original games; surprisingly it works. The top screen on the DS will serve as your sky where you can track clouds and day cycles. This will become more crucial as you progress through the game as you will be forced to switch back and forth between the main characters to stay alive.
The game begins with you taking control of Lucian; a sword-wielding vampire killer that draws his energy from the moon. You learn early on that vampires have taken over the planet and created a sort of eternal darkness so they can thrive. It bodes well that your hero acquires power from the moon wouldn’t you say? Eventually you will meet up with the original gun-toting bad ass from the original games, Aaron. He rounds out the combo nicely by adding firepower to your arsenal, oh and did I also mention that he gains his power from the sun.
While the story is partially different than that of its predecessors the DS game is basically a redesign of the first two games with a few tweaks here and there. The enemies are pretty much the same palette as the originals and even the engine has been rehashed for this “sequel”. This is not necessarily a bad move as most gamers probably missed out on the original two titles, but for fans of the series that played both of those games, there will be almost too much familiar ground.
Lunar Knights plays from an isometric perspective and mixes fast-paced combat with minimal puzzle solving. Unlike the first two entries LK relies more on kicking ass and less on finding keys. You will also find a space shooter that is controlled via the touch screen, which seems a bit out of place in a vampire hunting game, but it manages to mesh well with the rest of the game.
Probably the coolest addition to this DS entry though is the implementation of stealth into the game. In the spirit of Kojima’s more popular franchise Metal Gear, the team has brought back the sneaking elements from the first entry and added a nice DS touch. You can now use the built-in microphone on the handheld to whistle at guards and distract them. While it’s not essential to use the stealth element; in fact you can blow through the entire game completely disregarding it, it does add a nice layer of strategy and diversity to break up the action.
Visually you will not see too much of a difference from the other two games, but this in no way means the game is atrocious to look at, quite the opposite in fact. With the added horsepower Konami has upped the enemy count and even added some more spectacular bosses for you to plow through. The only graphical complaints to speak of are during some of the space shooter missions where the game does tend to slow down a bit when too much is happening on screen. Other than that the game is basically Boktai on a hefty does of visual steroids. The sound has also received a nice upgrade with the addition of some minor voice work and an incredibly catchy soundtrack. These are also complimented by the surprisingly well done animated cut scenes that progress the story.
Lunar Knights is basically a bigger, better version of the original games. It’s almost as if this is more of a collaboration of those two games with some nice DS extras to introduce the series to a whole new audience. Konami has even thrown in the ability to plug in your old Boktai cartridges and charge up your characters using the power of the sun. With a bigger focus on action the sequel seems more suited as a handheld game than its predecessors, thus making it yet another must own DS title. If you enjoyed the first two games then this will still impress and if you have yet to take the plunge into the series, there has never been a better time to get started.