Ninja Gaiden – Dragon Sword

While passing through an airport recently I bought myself a new Nintendo DS Lite, and Ninja Gaiden – Dragon Sword. I’m not going to bother reviewing it – I’m bad at that. But I loved it, in large part because I enjoyed playing the Xbox version ages ago (it was hard) and it plays very similarly.

The whole thing controls with the stylus (and holding any button, which blocks) and it all feels so fluid. It retains the feeling I remember from the xbox, which was that you were always moving somewhere, hitting things, but it never really felt that things weren’t under control. I’m impressed that somehow the two games play so similarly, given that the control scheme is so vastly different. All the same things worked – Flying Swallow still works well on certain sorts of enemies, others need proper block/attack synchronisation, collecting essence still works the same, you still have an annoying motivation to find a good group of respawning enemies next to a save point and farm them for money till you can buy all the upgrades… And the camera is a pain, though much less of one than in the Xbox version. It’s a fixed viewpoint, and pans, which works well except when you’re far enough away that it’s hard to judge depth and you’re flailing away at things you can’t hit.

It’s a lot easier and smaller than the first one. It’s still linear, but has a hub-and-spoke level design, a central area from which you open progressively more portals. I preferred the Xbox game, which had a long linear-ish progression that looped back on itself, bringing you back to old areas sometimes, but never in a way that made you feel that they were hubs. Well, maybe once. Being given a list of ‘here are the portals that you’ll be able to open, you’ve opened these, this one is next’ feels like a cheap way of indicating progress through the game. Maybe people like this sort of thing. But the Xbox version felt better as a story telling vehicle.

Anyway, I liked it.