July 27, 2008

Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword (DS) Review

(First posted on my GameSpot blog.)

What do you get when you get a crappy overused plot, and some pretty good gameplay? Well, not Mario, but Ninja Gaiden. But this time, Ryu Hayabusa goes for a spin on the Nintendo DS.

So how does this start again?

You first play as Momiji, who I think is Ryu's sister. After training, she picks flowers for Sakura, but after picking flowers, she sees some freaky monsters trying to get you at every corner. She is not entirely defenseless, however, and that's because she has her shurikens and her sword. So you as the player will at least try to defend Momiji against the evils of the Black Spider Clan by controlling her, but that's just for a short period of time and serves as introduction to the new controls because she gets abducted anyway.

                   Ryu! Hurry up before the old lady rapes Momiji!


This will draw comparisons to Zelda, which I haven't played, and that's because Ninja Gaiden is almost fully controlled by the stylus. You hack and slash by slashing your screen and releasing projectiles by tapping at your target lightly. This also makes for some control issues and conflicts that arise from the fact that walking is also initiated by tapping at a part of the screen!

Then again, it's more of the hardware's problem if you think about it.

You can defend yourself from attacks as well by pushing any button. I'd advise pressing the R button since your one of your hands is gonna be resting there, and that's because you play Ninja Gaiden like you're playing Brain Age- you flip the DS sideways.


At first glance, you'll see that Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword is a heavy-hitter in the graphics department because they're pretty good to look at. My gripe is that they're pretty much wasted by the monotonous look of most dungeons because most of the rooms look pretty much the same save for a few rooms, thus making it really easy to know which room is important, and which one is not.
     These graphics still shine regardless, and what Team Ninja has exhibited is nothing short of a  benchmark that other third-party developers should follow.

And again, stylus control, and the use of the microphone are some of the game's most advertised features. They're implemented quite well, save for the aforementioned projectile-walking issue.

This leads me to the microphone.

There are times when you have to use the microphone to advance the story, but you don't know exactly when you'll use it.

Like many others, I was stuck at Chapter 3 with the sleeping Muramasa thing which was so self-explanatory that you had to open your PC, connect to the Internet, wait for GameSpot to load, type in the search term, pick the correct title, click Cheats, select one of the many walkthroughs for the game, wait for the thing to load, press Control or Command-F, type Chapter 3, and read it from there.

I mean, yeah, the NPC's note that you should call a person when he's sleeping, but doesn't that mean that if you tap a person that's awake, you don't call them? Instead, they talk randomly? Because common sense usually states that when you want to talk to a person, you call them first. But no, in this game, the NPCs that are actually awake are probably released from the mental institution because they just talk to you without you even calling them. I mean, if you wanted to apply the logic of having to use the microphone to call someone, why don't you just use it to talk to someone awake as well?


And then...

And then there are those times when the game seriously wants you to waste your Ki and use your special Ninja arts to get rid of an obstacle. Now there's nothing wrong with using powers to clear obstacles, it's just that some of them don't even make sense!

Here's an example that makes me grind my teeth:
                           Gamespot rotated it again! Argh... I just wanted to put my own picture!

Now if Ryu can penetrate steel armor with his sword, why the hell would you have to use fire to get rid of a SPIDER WEB? I don't know about you, but that just doesn't make sense to me. What, is Ryu scared of cleaning his sword because the itty-bitty spidow web will make itty-bitty Wiyu's sword cwy? What about the blood that goes into your damn sword?

Speaking of blood...

There's none of that here, and that makes the game family-friendly, which I don't have much of a problem with.

However, the game's really, really easy, and really, really, really short. As in, each chapter amounts to like 30 minutes of gameplay, but the chapters are far too few to be deemed long.

Mind-numbing strategy...

So there are bosses, of course, and though they're pretty big, they only have like 2 to 3 attacks: 1) the throw and; 2-3) plain, semi-powerful attack.
                I rarely get caught by the bosses since they're so mind-numbingly easy.

So what strategy is there to be had with boss fights? Well, they're so strategic and epic, that you can just roll and use projectiles, roll, projectile, roll, projectile until they fall (except for the last boss who knows how to evade). In fact, the only times I succumb to a boss' throw attack is when I hit the invisible barrier which is annoying as heck because you're simply given an illusion of free 3D movement in every boss battle but not given just that! But at least the camera can catch up.

And if you want to accelerate these boss battles, you can always do this:
                                            Oh yeah, you're gonna die.

In fact, to be perfectly honest, I die more deaths from losing life to the "grunts" or the normal enemies in the game, who are far more irritating to kill, than the bosses. Yeah, I die from them. And when I do die from the bosses, it's because fighting these grunts have made me tired from slashing and Izuna-dropping and such. Yeah, there's not button mashing which affects the fingers, but your right (or left) hand will hurt instead. If there was a term used for describing the many slashes you do on the DS, I'd use it.

Oh yeah, it's called carpal tunnel syndrome.


There is still variation in the attacks nonetheless. You can slash down and then up twice to perform a pretty cool dive, or rub the screen so hard it could break to execute the Ultimate Technique. Frankly, I'm underwhelmed at the minimum of varied combos and attacks the game offers, but they're actually pretty cool to watch, and exciting to implement.


Granted, there's still a lot of fun to be had with Ninja Gaiden DS, and maybe you can pick it up unless you're expecting a challenge.

Rating: 8.0/10

                                  Oh look, lesbians! The score just went up a notch!

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