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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Kojima Productions
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1-2
February 06, 2007
Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django

Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hands

 Written by David Taylor  on November 01, 2006

First Impressions: Boktai minus the melanoma?the best of both worlds.

Players' opinions are often split about Konami's Boktai series. The two Game Boy Advance action RPGs (Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand and Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django) were innovative and well known for their use of their solar panel feature. This panel, located on the cartridge itself, allowed players to collect real-world sunlight. The game in turn converted this sunlight into energy that players used to power weapons and gain money. However it soon became clear that this innovation was also the series' curse. Due to these mechanics the player was forced to sit in the sun with their Game Boy Advance and sweat it out. Many players complained that it was difficult to impossible to play at night, in-doors, or even on an overcast day. Nevertheless, when the games worked, they were considered extremely entertaining. With this in mind Hideo Kojima and his team at Kojima Productions chose to abandon the sun panel but rework the core concept into a user-friendlier interface. The result is this winter's DS release, Lunar Knights.

Lunar Knights is more of a spin-off than a true sequel. The game takes place in the same universe as the Boktai series, but during a different time period and with new characters. The story is essentially the same. In the future vampires have taken over the Earth and enslaved humanity. Since vampires dislike sunlight (like most MMORPG players), they have blocked out the real sun and created a tolerable artificial one. It is up to Lunar Knight's two protagonists, Aaron and Lucian, to thwart this evil menace and save humanity.

Lunar Knights' emphasis is more on straightforward action than its predecessors. The game features all the staples of the RPG genre including experience points, item upgrades and conversations with NPCs. The action takes place in real-time akin to the Secret of Mana series. The main game takes place in the same colorful 2-D isometric perspective familiar to most Boktai fans.

The objective of each dungeon is to defeat its vampiric boss to advance to the next area. There are two parts to accomplishing this goal. The first is rendering the boss helpless through battle. The second is transporting the fiend into space using the ?Casket Rocket? ship. This second task is where the game's shooter sequences come into play. Here Lunar Knights turns into a 3-D shooter akin to Star Fox and Panzer Dragoon. The player controls the ship during these sequences with the DS stylus. Holding the stylus on the Casket Rocket allows the player to navigate the ship through obstacles. The player locks on enemies by tapping them with the stylus.

Lunar Knight's gameplay relies heavily upon in-game time and weather. Most of the action takes place on the lower DS touch screen. The top screen keeps track of the time of day, temperature and climate. Kojima Productions decided to use an in-game sun instead of the solar panel. Night changes into day and vice versa in real time. The time of day is important in switching between the two characters. Aaron draws his power from the sun whereas Lucian's stems from the moon. Climatic changes can have both a positive and negative affect on the game. Storms can block out the sun and affect the heroes' powers. On the other hand, lightning often reveals hidden items.

Both Aaron and Lucian possess their own unique strengths. Aaron, much like Django in the Boktai games, specializes in distance attacks with his solar gun. Lucian, on the other hand, is a close-range fighter who prefers the sword. Both of them have the ability to turn into other forms when the game's TRC meter if fully charged. Players charge this meter by landing hits on enemies. When activated, Lucian can turn into a vampire and suck the blood of his enemies, and Aaron into a pyro-maniacal sun avatar.

The TRC meter also allows players to unleash powerful Burst Attacks using one of six Terrennials, magical beings that represent six elements (Fire, Ice, Cloud, Earth, Dark, and Sun). The Nintendo DS hardware plays an integral part in these attacks. For example, players must draw spirals on the DS screen to activate the whirlwind attack. Players activate a frosty ice attack by blowing into the DS microphone.

Perhaps one of the most unique additions is the ability to use the sun sensors on the GBA Boktai cartridges. By plugging these games into the GBA slot on the DS, players can use real-world sunlight in the game. This gives the player extra slots in the game's solar sensor meter. Additionally it allows for sunlight collection even if it is raining in the game's world. Both are particularly helpful when playing as Aaron.

Never fear social gamers for Lunar Knights supports a WiFi multiplayer mode. In this ?Battle Royale? mode up to four players can clash against one another. Only one cartridge is needed for other players can download the mode from those with cartridges.

Final Thoughts
Lunar Knights seems to have something for everyone: strategy, immersive time elements, frantic RPG action and the surprising addition of a 3-D shooter. Is this too much for one game? Perhaps. But considering Kojima's track record, there is little doubt that Konami will have a top quality, and perhaps genre defining, RPG this winter with Lunar Knights.

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