Review by Bkstunt_31
Ninja action on the go!
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (notice the DS reference) is a hand held sequel to the Ninja Gaiden game originally released on the Xbox. In it, you once again control Ryu Hayabusa, who after the events of the first game went back to Hayabusa village to help rebuild it and continue training. Being a DS game, it's biggest feature is letting you use the stylus to control and attack with Ryu, so without giving away more here's what I though of it.
The story more or less consists of Ryu trying to rescue his training partner Momiji, who also happens to be a shrine maiden who protects the dragon orb, a stone that can release the "true potential" of Ryu's Dragon Sword. Now, I'll level with you, I haven't beaten the Xbox Ninja Gaiden, so I don't know if Ryu's training partner Momiji is from the first one or not, but I do know that Dragon Sword has some elements of Ninja Gaiden tied into it, such as Muramasa the shop keeper, and the re-appearance of certain enemies. Now, Momiji appears to have been kidnapped by a witch who was commanding a squad of BS (Black Spider) ninjas under the order of some greater fiends, so its up to Ryu to save her!
Overall the story is pretty shallow and short, being broken into chapters with one plot twist that wasn't very hard to figure out at all. I did enjoy the chaptered structure, though, and I especially enjoyed interacting with the few villagers in Hayabusa village, as they stayed on top of current events and even tried to help you progress in the story.
Hmm, where to begin? Well, there's not much to the gameplay in Dragon Sword really. The first unique part of it is that you have to hold the DS vertically instead of horizontally (like a book). To move Ryu you simply point and hold where you want him to travel to. To attack, simply swipe your stylus over an enemy to start off Ryu's combo attack. Sure, Ryu doesn't have nearly the move set that he used to have, but he does have a few moves left, such as the Flying Swallow, Counter-attack, and the Izuna Drop, though these moves require special sweeps of your sword (the tutorial will show you how to preform these moves simply). Ryu can also throw ninja stars by tapping at an enemy. The last major part of Dragon Sword's gameplay is Ryu's Ninjutsu/Ninpo. After obtaining the necessary scrolls, you can start to cast your Ninpo. At this point a large Japanese character will appear on screen and you will have to trace it out. While you are tracing it out, Ryu will make hand signals until you complete the character and cast the spell (very cool graphics there!).
Now, in battle, when you kill an enemy they can drop three different types of orbs: health, magic, or karma orbs. Using karma orbs you can buy magic scrolls or sword and health upgrades from Muramasa.
I found the gameplay to be extremely enjoyable and addictive, always wanting to just kill a few more enemies so I could afford that next item at Muramasa's shop. But it was also a bit frustrating at times when Ryu wouldn't do what I wanted him to, since space is limited on the DS screen and you have to be VERY exact when you want Ryu to do some of his advanced moves. There were also a generous helping of over sized bosses throughout the game, but unfortunately most of them were extremely easy and predictable.
The graphics in Dragon Sword are actually pretty impressive, considering Ryu's 3D self moves so smoothly and with no glitches at all. The animations all look solid as well, so even though Ryu still looks a bit blocky in 3D (the same way Final Fantasy III looked), I was still impressed. The environments are pretty varied but lack details. Once you've seen one room of any given area, you've seen just about everything. On the plus side, some rooms interact with Ryu (falling icicles/flaming lave, etc..) adding some much-needed variety.
There aren't any real FMV segments, which was disappointing since the artwork is so good, but there are short little cut scenes from time to time which, besides looking spectacular, do feature some nice animations. And as I mentioned before, the hand signals are a nice touch as well.
Music/Sound Effects: 8/10
Well, the music is fairly standard for an action game: fast paced and completely forgettable. I did, however, take special note of the music that introduced each chapter, as it sounds exactly how the old-school NES Ninja Gaiden games sounded (the NES games made a break-through in the "memorable music" department in video game history, in my opinion). I really didn't mind the bland action music though, as Ryu's battle cries drown it out. Ryu's sound effects are all top-notch, showing every other ninja out there what they should sound like in battle!
Everyone knows that the Ninja Gaiden series is known for it's blinding difficulty. Dragon Sword comes in four selectable difficulties, from easy to "master ninja", though only easy and normal are selectable from the get-go. There are also several hidden wooden planks that you can find throughout the game that unlock character's bio's and a cut scene viewer, among other things. Finding all of them will mean playing through every mode and completing all of Ryu's challenges (where Ryu fights a horde of enemies at a single time). Other than that, the story won't change and there's only really one way to beat the game, but it's there for the ninja lovers.
Overall, Dragon Sword is an enjoyable, if short, experience, providing unique controls while turning your stylus into a katana. I'd recommend giving it a try IF you can find it (it seems to be somewhat rare nowadays). Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (US, 03/25/08)
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