Platform: PS3, 360
Patch Details 1.01
Well, no doubt you have read about the game, be it on IGN, which gave it a 3/10, or one of the other “major” sites to give it a low score. But was it a fair score? Or were they just ranting because Itagaki left the studio? Or it was a good time to get hits? Well, today, I will take an in depth look into the game and see if Hayashi taking over this violent action game franchise, and his choice to get rid of dismemberment and focus on story was a good direction for this bloody action game.
I keep getting told that if I play Ninja Gaiden for the story, then I am stupid, and that its focus on solid gameplay is why it never had a story. My question is this: Why can I not have both? The gameplay engine is set, tweaks will be made, but why do I have to sit through the painful stories of NG and NG2 with solid gameplay? I think they could do both!
The story centers on Ryu Hayabusa killing lots of ninja and such. But instead of ending the story there, Hayashi decided to continue it past chapter one! Ryu gets cursed by the Regent of the Mask while on a mission and decides to press on in his mission while tracking the Regent and bearing the curse on his arm.
Hayashi wanted to add character to Ryu through the game, and he did just that with characters that have some depth, unlike those from the other NG games. The story is handled well, but there are a few missions that feel like they are just filler, such as fighting alongside of Momiji, which, while fun, served no real plot relevance at all.
But when the story is in play, and the Regent of the Mask is in the scene, it all plays out so well. And there are some plot twists, which is something new to this franchise and a welcome change, with the last three boss fights being very well told.
Overall, story mode took me 9 hours to complete, but that was a marathon play on normal mode. If you are new to Ninja Gaiden, which I am not, this game will likely take longer to complete.
Here is what the people are mad about: all the gameplay changes, the exclusion of dismemberment, removing all weapons aside from the Dragon Sword (Claws and Scythe, the latter of which is yet to be released, are free DLC for story mode); however, people are overlooking something. Dismemberment was only in the game as a way to do Obliterations, which are still in the game when an enemy enters critical HP, which means, unlike in NG2, they can no longer be spammed.
The gameplay as a whole is unchanged; you have all the skills you would normally have with the Dragon Sword, but the level-up system is changed. You no longer get weapon levels or essence at all, and no more items either. You heal after each fight, and you get different swords that enable new moves; all swords are story-based and granted after progress is made.
Shops are removed, so no purchasing healers and stocking up before fights. Going into a boss fight, it’s you vs. him. No items to fall back on and no more ultimate spamming due to the fact that ninpo and ultimates now charge up during combat. You cannot just use them forever.
Steel on Bone was designed to bring you closer to the combat and to show a more vicious nature of the combat. And I have to say, it is more brutal than dismemberment, which largely reminded me of all those grade-B movies of people losing limbs yet still able to fight for five minutes while blood flies everywhere. Steel on Bone adds that level of, and I HATE to say this… realism. It makes the game less childish with its gore.
With the fast paced combat still going on, there is an addition of Quick Time Events (QTE’s) in the game, but they are normally used for Steel on Bone, or assigned to certain actions, such as “slide under object” or “Glide” So, the QTEs are generally the same buttons linked to certain actions.
A change I noticed in the game was the lack of cancels, meaning you cannot dash out of your attacks anytime you want, which means your dodges and counters have to be pre-thought-out. And that adds more know-how to the game. You have to understand the A.I. and the enemies’ attacks more than just reflexes. Don’t misunderstand me, you still need reflexes, but now you have to use more than just the pro tactic of “On Landing Charges,” or OLCs, that were abused in the first two games.
The online modes, both PvP and the co-op, are fun but flawed.. So I will start off with the co-op, which this game has dubbed “Ninja Trials.” It is pretty much just like the co-op from Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, but with more missions. For those who never played Sigma 2, you and a buddy are dropped onto a small map and you kill waves of enemies, and it gets harder and harder as you progress. It seems to have some slow down issues in busy missions, and in “Leader” difficulty, it froze on me, which is frustrating. So, it has some issues, but all in all, it is great fun to play, and hopefully in future patches, they fix it.
You make up a ninja for the online, and by that, I mean you choose what color you want him wearing. You can unlock different gloves and masks as you level up, and you have to level up the katana to get your full moves list, so at the start, you’ll be missing most of the moves you got used to in the single player mode.
PvP, which has been dubbed “Clan Battles,” is quite fun, and I normally hate PvP games, but this one is something new. Unlike the 4,000+ shooter clones on the market, Ninja Gaiden makes PvP work well and has stealth involved in it, which is shallow —you just walk and turn invisible — but you have to keep you guard up at all times. Balance is the problem. Like with EVERY other online game ever made, half the time, I am getting shot by arrows from across the map and ninpo from off-screen, which is a one-shot kill. So again, good fun but unbalanced and frustrating at times.
One gameplay feature this one kept was the god-awful camera Ninja Gaiden is known for. Spending half of the fights staring at Ryu’s butt, and upon turning the camera, finding yourself face to face with his crotch is not my idea of a swell time; meanwhile, you are getting torn to shreds by the AI, which does not have to fight with the camera.
Despite what anyone says, the gameplay is mostly the same. A lack of weapons is unforgivable, but since they are free DLC, it is more bearable. I would have been far more against the game if they were pay weapons.
Well, it is not going to break any new ground or set standards with the graphics in the game, but they compare to MGS4 on average, so they are far from bad. The main thing that holds it back is odd facial animations at times, but conveying emotion in the face is hard to do, and very few games have gotten it right.
Story mode is stable in the tech department, but the multiplayer is not so lucky. Ninja Trials does suffer from slow down issues, but in mind that these are NOT framerate problems! It just slows down, so you can still work with it very well. It kinda gives you more time to think, too. And both modes suffer lag, be it ice-skating AI enemies or players doing some crazy ninja dodging… no pun intended. But I have started an Izuna Drop on a player only to have them stealth kill me after landing, so the online tech is not that good.
With certain Ninja Trials freezing (Patch 1.01) making it unable to complete them.
All in all, through the story, you will not have any problems, and the online PvP is mostly fine with just a bit of lag, so tech-wise (tech-wise, what? You didn’t finish the sentence, sir.)
A lack of weapons is the worst thing this game suffers from, but with free weapons coming up, that point will be nullified. Cinematics are added in but do not break the flow of the game completely.
All in all, the game brings forward a fresh look at Ninja Gaiden, with a more mature tone and deeper story, fleshing out Hayabusa as a character. Gameplay is still fast and requires skill, but it is now more brutal than ever before. While still staying close to its roots, and though it does slip in certain areas, it never falls completely, with some chapters not seeming to fit into the story very well. It becomes a blend of solid gameplay and storytelling that Ninja Gaiden has lacked.
+Steel on Bone
-Lack of Weapons
-Lag and Freezing Issues Online
– Unbalanced Online Modes
*Regent of the Mask