Review by De5
Your stylus is your sword in this great action game from Team Ninja.
When Nintendo announced that The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass would use the touch screen as the main control set up, many people were skeptical about how it would work, and to what degree of success that they would pull it off. It was definitely the kind of control scheme that if not done properly, it would ruin the entire game based around it. Thankfully, the control scheme turned out really well, and saved what would otherwise be "Zelda-lite". Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is the next in line to turn a once button heavy game into a stylus oriented one, and Team Ninja nailed it.
Dragon Sword takes place six months after Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, revolving around the Dragon Sword, the awakening of an ancient evil, and the new character, Momiji, who you'll play as for a short while in the beginning of the game, to introduce you to the control scheme, before Ryu gets in on the action. The story isn't incredibly epic, but it sets the stage well for the pocket sized action, and is told through beautiful 2D anime styled stills, which are shown in a comic book like fashion. In fact, the whole game is beautiful, one of the best looking games on the DS. The game uses 2D backdrops and 3D character models, allowing the game to have a lot more environmental detail, while the game goes into full 3D for the boss fights, for a more dynamic camera. The character models all animate extremely fluidly as well, and with the action as fast paced as it is, you'll wonder how the DS can do all this without a single hint of slowdown. Audio follows suit as well, providing a fast paced soundtrack to complement all the action, as well as an array of grunts, shouts, and sword clanks that bring it all to life.
If you want to draw the comparison, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a more complex action oriented version of Phantom Hourglass. You'll hold the DS sideways a la Brain Age or Planet Puzzle League, and control everything with the stylus, except for blocking, which is handled with any button on the DS. Point and drag around the screen, and Ryu will follow. Make an upwards stroke, and Ryu will jump. Move your stylus across an enemy, and Ryu will make sure his sword does the same. Of course, there are more complex combos you can do. You can also double jump by making two upwards strokes, then a downwards stroke will have Ryu come crashing down to the ground in a devastating blow, and unleash a super powerful attack by scribbling over Ryu, and then letting go. You'll also be able to unlock more attacks and combos to use as you progress through the game.
All of this is extremely easy to get used to, and works extremely well. You'll be introduced to it all gradually in the beginning of the game through small tutorials, to ease you into the control scheme better. Soon enough, you'll be pulling off devastating combos and picking apart your foes with ease.
You'll travel around taking out enemies, while the village acts as kind of a hub world where you can purchase upgrades and talk to the NPCs. Most of the time, you'll be slashing enemies, trapped by barriers that will only go away once you take them all out. This sounds repetitive, but the combat is fun and engaging enough to keep you going. In the handful of cases you're not swiping swords, you're avoiding traps and solving simple puzzles to pave the way on to the boss battles.
Unfortunately, this is one of the areas that the game falters. The bosses are big, the bosses are epic, and the bosses are fun, but they're also a bit easy. In fact, the whole game is on the easy side compared to the console games, which will definitely be a letdown if you're coming off Dragon Sword's bigger brothers. But I can't fault it too much for that, it's clear Team Ninja wanted to appeal to the more casual crowd, most of witch likely wouldn't be able to handle the difficulty of the console games. For those who really need a challenge, going through the game will unlock a harder difficulty. While it still doesn't stack up, it should suit the needs of most for an on the go challenge.
You'll beat the game in about 7-8 hours, but there are a few unlockables after you beat the game, as well as upload your scores, which are based on how skillfully you take out monsters, to Wi-Fi leaderboards to see where you rank up amongst other ninja. It may be a slightly watered down Ninja Gaiden, it's excellent controls and engaging gameplay make this some great ninja action to go on the go.
Overall - 8.5/10
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (US, 03/25/08)
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