Review by blueninja4444

"Beautiful Looking Game With "Meh" Gameplay"

Let me start my review for Ninja Gaiden: DS by saying I love every game and every system. I don't love any game like religion and I would never dare stick up for a game like Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword on the DS, just because it's Ninja Gaiden or Nintendo DS. My review is unbiased, and that's hard to come by with a game like this. Master Chief, Solid Snake, Ryu Hayabusa it doesn't matter to me. If you love the ninja Ryu and play your DS more than you watch T.V, then you probably already have this game and aren't concerned with this review, but if you're just a gamer who wants to know how Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword stacks up in the video game world then read on....

Ryu Hayabusa... Those two words could strike fear into the souls of any evil ninja assassin out there, and better yet it can strike pride into the hearts of any game owner who happens to own a game with this ninja warrior. Ryu is the main character of the Ninja Gaiden series, which has been extremely successful and generally positively reviewed over the years. So what happens when Team Ninja and Tecmo decides to take the lucrative ninja, Ryu, and the whole successful franchise to the Nintendo DS hand-held console and create a game designed to push the DS to the limits and take full advantage of the unique stylus controls? Well, let's find out....

Graphics: 10/10
First of all, I'd just like to say that Ninja Gaiden : Dragon Sword looks amazing! Ninja Gaiden would never settle for sub-par graphics and as you might expect they tried to do everything in their power to make Ninja Gaiden the prettiest game on the DS to date. By owning this game you now officially have the right to stick up for the DS when someone accepts horrible graphics because “It's just a DS game!”.

Ninja Gaiden looks amazing, everything about it does! Heck, even the main menu looks cool, let alone the sleek gameplay animation and the dual screen story cut scenes display. This game has a strong cartoon-ish feel to it, opposed to the console version's mature themes, but it all works great as you and your 3D enemies engage in epic battles on the masterfully designed 2D levels, with some solid animations and the frame-rate, it's oh so smooth!

Of note is that the story is told through comic style cut scenes and storyboards of the sort. Dragon Sword transitions very well from action to story, and the story makes full use of both screens, often using them both as one big screen, or switching to a different style in which one screen shows a broad view of a scene such as Ryu holding a sword, and the other screen is a zoomed in look at the sword.

If graphics is your thing, never fear! Ninja Gaiden: DS is here! It just doesn't get better than this game when it comes to graphics, period.

Sound: 9/10
With production values like Ninja Gaiden : Dragon Sword got, it's pretty much expected that the audio would match the excellence of the visuals. Ninja Gaiden on the DS delivers that expectation with solid sound effects and very impressive. There is a lot of variety in Ninja Gaiden's sound which is good, from Ryu's battle cries to the enemies' sounds of agony and defeat, but even then it can get a little repetitive and drab, but the sound impresses. I should point out, since this is portable Ninja Gaiden, that sound is optional (not required for puzzles, etc.) so this is a great game for a noisy environment, like a cafeteria.

Controls: 4/10
Stylus only controls!! Yes, you heard right! Controls are stylus based like in Zelda on the DS. The only time a button is used in Ninja Gaiden: DS is to guard from enemy attacks, which can also lead to an evasive roll to avoid enemies. The stylus is used for everything else, and I mean everything! From running, to jumping, to hacking, to slashing, to throwing your ninja starts to tracing Japanese words to perform magic, it's all done with the stylus. It sounds like a real flip of the coin for a success, I know.

Unfortunately it doesn't work quite as well as you'd like to imagine, since this is not a 2D game, it's a 3D game. And the stylus? Well it just wasn't meant to work like this. Though It might sound impossible, I would compare stylus controls to button mashing, since there's so many enemies in this game coming at you in large numbers, it makes ‘technique' hard to pull off.

The controls end up being a crap shoot for what you're trying to do. Even if you have superb finesse with the stylus, Ryu ends up not doing what you want him to do in almost every combat situation. You want to throw a ninja star but instead you run straight into the enemy and get knocked the heck out because you accidentally slid the stylus instead of tapped it. And you wanted to jump up and do a ground pound, but instead wound up pulling off a wacky combo you didn't even know you could do. Oppositely, you could attempt a simple slash combo and end up doing a devastating hang-time pile driver from wrestling.

But the controls also work positively in some situations. Some things can only be done with the stylus controls, such as throwing ninja stars real fast by tapping different enemies. Everything else could've been pulled off with classic controls and it would've been great for a “classic controls” option so you don't have to screw around with the stylus, but alas, Ninja Gaiden DS tries to shove it's “Innovations!” down your throat.

Story: 6/10
Ok here's the story: You're a cool looking ninja, and you got a hot ninja-chick ally. Your ninja chick ally is captured so now you're just a solo cool looking ninja who kills anything that moves, except whiney townsfolk. Ok, that's about all of the story you'll probably care about.

In order to stick with the trend of naming DS games' subtitles something with the initials D and S, the story revolves around Ryu Hayabusa and his female companion Momiji while Ryu realizes the power of his ninja sword (Dragon Sword) and the enemies are after some artifact associated with your sword. It's not great, and it certainly doesn't compare to the home consoles' versions of Ninja Gaiden but it'll get you through if you're looking for a portable ninja story.

Gameplay: 7/10
The controls may be awkward and a lost hope, but that doesn't mean you should rag on the gameplay. Ninja Gaiden: DS differs from similar ninja titles (Such as Tenchu: Dark Secrets) by not being a stealth based ninja game. There is no sneaking in this game, just a lot of violent confrontations and dead ninjas (and monsters) on the ground.

The game is a hack and slash, and it usually involves you getting trapped in a small open section as you brutally slaughter through everything in your way to turn off the walls and advance to the next section. Occasionally there are optional fights such as archers in a tower shooting at you and you can choose to duck and dodge past them, but killing people is just that much fun in this game.

You'll be okay when you start up Ninja Gaiden as long as you don't let the game's ‘intuitive' controls trick you into thinking the gameplay is revolutionary. It's a simple hack n slash game with some Ninja Gaiden elements, such as casting magic spells and repeatedly bouncing off the walls to climb upwards. The bosses are big, they're bad, and of course, they're dragons. Some people have said the bosses are very easy, you may agree with them, but you may also think the bosses, as beautiful as they look with these graphics, a bit on the cheap side (can't block, etc.).

The game also features some very small puzzles to figure out, such as searching for a way to get past a giant spider-web that's blocking your path early in the game, or roaming the town to chat with the townspeople and save your game, but the core game is a true beat ‘em up that luckily has a lot of variety (once you finally get used to the stylus controls) and shouldn't get too stale on you any time soon.

Replayability/ Longevity: 6/10
If you like Ninja Gaiden: DS then you'll be able to squeeze a lot of fun out of this game. There's multiple difficulties and even the ability to play as a different character (instead of Ryu). If the graphics and fast gameplay can hook you, you'll have a hard time going back to some of the more bland and basic DS game (Tenchu DS again).

Sadly, this game has no multiplayer to speak of. Death matches would not really work in a game like this, so the next choice would be a fun co-operative mode. Heck, the game even has Momiji as a playable character, so why not let your buddy connect with you ad-hoc and you play as Ryu and he (or she) plays as Momiji? Co-op or multiplayer in general would've been a great addition to this game and it's lifeline. If you're just an average fan, you'll be likely to sell this game after one play through since it doesn't offer much incentive for a second one.

Overall: 6
All in all Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a highly anticipated game on the DS that had great production values, and as such it looks beautiful and sounds fantastic but plays rather awkward and depending on your tastes, may (or may not) get repetitive very fast. I won't compare it to it's big Ninja Gaiden brothers, but if you do like Ninja Gaiden and enjoy hack n slashes of the sort, then you will like Ninja Gaiden. It's sure to go down in history as a great DS game, so if you decide to hold off on this game until it gets cheaper or just rent it, somehow, then by all means you can do that and be very satisfied. Me, personally, I pre-ordered the game and got a unique Ninja Gaiden DS stylus, but I feel it wouldn't be worth the pre-order price if I hadn't gotten the stylus. Ninja Gaiden DS is an above average 6 out of 10....

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 04/01/08

Game Release: Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (US, 03/25/08)

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