Gaming Today Impressions of Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (DS)
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Tecmo Price: $34.99 Platform: Nintendo DS Category: Action, Adventure ESRB: “T” for Teen Release Date: March 25, 2008 Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is the first title in the series to appear on the Nintendo DS, and if you think about it, the warning bells should go off in your head. Compound these warning bells with the screeching siren that is the plotline taking place between the game for the original Xbox and the sequel on the 360; most gamers would be pretty wary of playing Team Ninja’s latest foray into one of the most lauded gaming series ever. I can happily report to you that any feelings of trepidation you may feel when contemplating giving Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword a try is completely unfounded. As a matter of fact, this game made me happy that I actually own a DS and prior to that it has sat on my bookshelf since Phantom Hourglass collecting dust. So, when I received this blessing in the mail, I excitedly recharged the battery and commenced to play. While fans of the series may notice some of the same characters and locations in Dragon Sword, it merely gives you a since of familiarity instead of receptiveness. The storyline is very interesting as it tells the tale of a time when Dragons and Humans coexisted in harmony until the Dark Dragon decided to take over the world. The dragons that sided with the humans forged a sword from their fangs and bestowed what became known as the Dragon Sword upon them. While the name of the sword may seem a bit unoriginal, it does not matter and they could have called it the “pointy thing made of teeth” and it would still have the same effect because that awesome sword slew the Dark Dragon and restored peace to the land. Ryu Hayabusa, our hero, now wields this legendary sword because, well, he descends from the Dragon Lineage. This sword must be protected from dark forces because it holds the power of all the good dragons that forged the sword. During a battle that happened a few months before our story takes place, the blade was shattered, the enemies defeated and peace once again crept over the village of Hayabusa. Six months have passed since this incident, but the forces of evil are back with a vengeance and are hell bent on destroying the village once and for all. Momiji is set upon and abducted by the Black Spider Clan, lead by the sorceress Obaba, and in order to rescue the kidnapped Momiji, Ryu Hayabusa must use all the power coursing through his ninja blood to save the day.
Dragon Sword is probably the most visually stunning of any DS game I have played to date. The animation sequences are artistic, crisp, and lovely and the gorgeous 2D backdrops, and 3D character renderings prove that Team Ninja pulled out all the stops. When the game does switch between 2d and 3D the transition is flawless and after a while you no longer notice any changes in the dimensions. The music, sound effects, and minute amount of voice acting (the dialogue is in narrative a format) is top notch and up to par with most games of this genre.
When playing Dragon Sword, you hold your DS like a book and the left side of the DS shows an area map, while your menu and gameplay is entirely on the right hand side. You use the stylus to perform attack moves, to direct Ryu’s progress, and to examine items. The A, B, X, and Y buttons and the D-Pad are solely used to block and so you can use any of the aforementioned to block your enemies attack at anytime. You can also hold one of these down and move the stylus left or right to roll/block attacks as well. The start button will bring up the inventory screen, which shows you special Ninpo magic spells you can use, and to execute these special moves, you trace a figure on the screen with your stylus. All action in the game is fast-paced and some of the special moves are really easy to pull off, sword fighting is as simple as moving the stylus up and down, and tapping on enemies will send ninja stars their way. While the special moves are indeed cool, all you really have to do is frantically move the stylus over each enemy in any direction to beat them; therefore thinking strategically is not necessary. Just make sure you go light on the stylus when hacking and slashing your way through the game, because I scratched my screen up playing Dragon Sword. There aren’t any special side quests or true mini games in Dragon Sword, which prevail in most DS titles, but there is a small distraction included which allows you to unlock character bios and other small features by collecting wooden talismans. You obtain these by finding the Sea Swallow or fighting your way through the Netherworld and once you have collected enough, you can eventually start a session called “Muramasa’s Prizes”.
Save points are also heath regenerators, and they are not only strategically placed, but conveniently as well. Sometimes though, the game is so easy, even on the hardest setting that you do not have to utilize these areas unless you just want to save your progression through the game. That being said, it is still enjoyable despite being a relatively short game and I finished it in less than 8 hours. Once I had beaten the game, the hard mode opened up for me which the only difference you will notice is that maybe it will take you a bit longer to finish the second time around. Therefore, the replay value is a tad bit low, so that may be something you want to consider before purchasing the game. Tomonobu Itagaki and the whole of Team Ninja lend their hands to Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and I am highly impressed with the effort they put into this handheld. The action never gets stale, the fighting is sometimes relentless, the graphics are top of the line, and above all it is fun. My neck tends to get sore playing the DS, so if you are like me, you may want to lie down or prop yourself up on some pillows and this is the only complaint I really had with the game, and I have that same complaint with every handheld system. Granted, the Wi-Fi compatibility is only good if you want to show off your rankings to fellow members, you know, a “mine is bigger than yours” contest. But Wi-Fi capabilities aside, this feature is not what is most important about the game or any game for that matter. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a picture prefect little gem that takes you on a ride through a fantastic land of fun hack and slash goodness. Yes it is short, yes it is easy, and yes it is not extremely challenging. The Wi-Fi capabilities have nothing to really offer, and bending over the DS will give you a pain in the neck and but none of that takes away from the overall fun that just oozes from this title. Shane Bettenhausen over on 1UP has a more traditional review posted, and you can check it out here.
Also, be sure to also check out the new Super Scribblenauts review.