Preview: Lunar Knights (DS)

There are some games that just never catch on in the United States. It may be that they are never released here and only have a small import market such as Sakura Taisen or that the game just never got much more then a cult following Mother/Earthbound. These games often show some companies trepidation on dropping a niche franchise in the United States. Other games, such as Konamiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Boktai series, just never catch on for one reason or another. Unlike the two former examples, Konami has been wonderfully determined to make this game a success in the United States. Despite not releasing Boktai 3 in the United States, Konami is going to give Boktai 4 another shot. The fourth game, entitled Lunar Knights, might just be the game to be the breakout success in the US that the franchise so desperately deserves.

You remember Boktai, right? Ok, you might not remember Boktai, but youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve at least heard of the â┚¬Å”sunlight gameâ┚¬Â, right? Gamers complained left and right about Boktai for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason of course was the fact that you had to go outside (or play under a black light) to play Boktai. Lunar Knights allows players to either use an artificial sun to hunt vampires or to use either Boktai 1 or 2 to act as a sunlight sensor.

While the sunlight aspect of the game is quite odd, the original story was rooted in the video game classic. You hunt vampires using the sunlight gun as a weapon. The new story takes the characters from the first three games, changes their names (ugh), and sets you fighting vampires in space. Yes. Outer space.

The biggest change to the game play is how you play the two heroes, the solar boy Aaron and the half vampire Lucian. The gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s sky has been blotted out by the vampires. Theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve established artificial sky and now are able to control the weather. Aaron can still harness and enhance the power of the sun while Lucian uses the moon to fight all manners of the undead. Both play differently as well. While Aaron plays much more like a ranged character, Lucian is best at close combat. The game play is further enhanced by the fact that the constantly changing weather conditions will keep gamers on their feet trying to use strategy to defeat all manners of baddies.

Lunar Knights still maintains the traditional set up of the game. You go into a castle, fight the master vampire, defeat him, and then drag him out into the sun to destroy him. Unlike previous games where you physically dragged the vampireâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s coffin to the light to melt it, Lunar Knights makes gamers take the vampire deep into outer space (away from the artificial skies). Lunar Knights switches to a shooter where you have to guide the coffin to cause the vampireâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s demise.

Lunar Knights could potentially be a big success in the United States. Knights features interesting game play without feeling gimmicky like (arguably) the earlier Game Boy Advanced games. If one thing is for sure itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s that Konami knows how to make a rousing vampire hunting game. Given the high quality of the past two Castlevania games on the DS, Konami has some big shoes to fill with a previously and unfairly stigmatized franchise in the United States. Hopefully Lunar Knights finds the audience that the Nintendo DS in the United States that it deserves.

Lunar Knights will be available on the Nintendo DS on February 13th.