Just over a year ago, I finished Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox and wrote about how great it was, even a few years on. I loved the combat system and the challenge, and I still feel that the fact that it can still be well received as a PS3 game a couple of years after its original release shows how rock solid those foundations were.
With Ninja Gaiden II gracing the 360 at the moment, though, and the graphical mantle having been surrendered to Devil May Cry 4 and, it’s safe to assume, the next God of War, the game is more reliant than even on the underlying mechanics to carry it. While it looks a lot better in motion than it does in screenshots, the first thing on Team Ninja’s shopping list should be an art director, lest it descend further into the id Software back-of-an-emo-kid’s-exercise-book, “what’s more awesome than a demon? A demon with a chainsaw and rocket launcher for arms!” school of monster design.
A writer should be high up that list, too. The story here is laughable, rambling on and raising questions of exactly how many artefacts with the ability to bring about armageddon the Hayabusa clan is entrusted with (since they keep getting stolen, shouldn’t someone else take over?) to whether or not CIA agents really dress like this. The man behind this and the DOA series was sued for sexual harassment? Surely not!
But does it play as well? Frankly, I’ve been disappointed so far. While certainly difficult and still mechanically strong, it’s much cheaper than the original (ignoring the zombie fish), frequently making fiends jump out from around the corner and immediately relieve you of anywhere up to half your life bar. And if you found the first game’s ninjas with exploding shurikens annoying, witness the frequency with which this game pits you against multiple archers with flaming arrows. While you have your own ranged weapons, between dodging shots you won’t have time to power them up and so must either waste whole quivers full of your own stock or charge them with jumps and wall-runs until you’re close enough to hit an attack, having to cope with being knocked back when one manages to tag you. Argh. Continue reading Ninja Gaiden II Impressions
Maybe it’s that shiny Sigma demo that’s doing the rounds or maybe it’s the chat about the inevitable Ninja Gaiden 2. Or, more likely, it’s the goading from a borderline obsessive friend who insists that I’ve missed out on the best action game ever made. I finally got Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox from eBay and have spent some time kicking around with that.
I’d be lying if I said I’d never played NG because I gave it a try back in 2004, only to give up on the second boss because I found it too ball-achingly hard. It still is hard – the difficulty wouldn’t be such a big sticking point if it wasn’t – but it’s one of the deepest and most rewarding action games around. Some parts, especially bosses, are unnecessarily evil (in chapter 9: a tank, another tank, and then a helicopter gunship!?) but although death is often inevitable it’s usually a case of your mistake. It plays like a fighting game which necessitates learning the fighting system and gives rise to the possibility of being killed by one of the peons, an ignominious end for a master ninja.
At the same time the odds are stacked in your favour because most of the time you have all the tricks they do and more, and most of the time you’re stronger and faster as well. It’s much more of a game of skill than the other top 3D actioners, God of War and Devil May Cry, as good as those ones are. Intelligent use of blocking is essential, the various weapons have their benefits and caveats, and it’s hugely beneficial to learn your repertoire of moves. Again, like a fighting game.
I implore you, if the difficulty made you give up on Ninja Gaiden, give it a try. The Xbox version is dirt cheap (still looks great in 720p on the 360) or you can plump for Sigma if you’re a PS3 owner. Or wait for the 360 version of Sigma when the PS3 one sells 50,000. Yeah, I went there.
I’ve written a review of the latest Xbox 360 game, Dead or Alive 4. You can find it at that link or, as always, in my review index. I also don’t mention the bouncing boobies once, making this the first review of a DOA game ever to accomplish that.
Having unlocked most of what there is to be unlocked in the game (I’m only missing Tengu, who requires you to finish time attack mode with all 20 standard and unlockable characters) and played plenty of it and I really like it. As I say in the review, if this turns out to be the last DOA game as certain rumour-mongers seem to think it’ll be a loss since this is one of the few fighting franchises that seems to be have any momentum to it’s development. Maybe that’s just because both DOA3 and 4 have come at a time when players are starving for new games on their respective hardware, but they always seem to receive a good reception.
Just a quick post to let my fellow UK 360 owners who are starving for a new game that the US version of Dead or Alive 4 is following the current trend for third-party games and is multiregion, so you can import and run it on your PAL system without a problem.
I got my copy today and it’s seriously impressive and probably the best looking game on the system so far, although the Fight Night Round 3 demo which is on the Live Marketplace at the moment gives it a run for its money there. I’m starting to find that the games and demos trickling out are already showing some real next-generation visuals, and I can’t wait to see what tricks they’ve got ready for E3. Just look at some of the screenshots of DOA4 and imagine them running a 60fps with all kinds of interactive background trickery going on.
I’ll probably write some proper impressions when I’ve spent some more time with the game.