Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword

Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword
Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword Cover
Platform Nintendo DS
Genre Bloodless Portable Ninja
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 10
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 9
Story: 7
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Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword is a new action game for the Nintendo DS. It features 3D graphics with pre-rendered backgrounds and the story is set six months after the events in Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. I recently posted my first hour review of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden and was inspired to try out the newest offering in the series. This was an excellent decision because Dragon Sword was a great game and plays perfectly on the Nintendo DS. Read on for the full review, but note, Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword is not to be confused with Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos for the NES or Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360.

Scores

Gameplay: 10
I honestly didn't know the DS had it in her. This game gives me further evidence on why the Nintendo DS may be the greatest system ever. Everything in Dragon Sword is controlled by the stylus and you hold the game on its side like in Hotel Dusk. Sword slashes are performed by simply slicing the bad guy with your stylus and a small selection of special moves can be performed with slightly more complex actions. If I had any complaint it is that the game's so-called "Ultimate Technique" is too true to its name. The Ultimate Technique is performed by slashing Ryu a few times and then he'll start glowing and then finally unleash a barrage of death frisbees. It's really hard to pull off in the middle of battle but if you're able to get it off right away, you can string these techniques until all the enemies are vanquished. I was even able to kill off the first few bosses using just this but thankfully they got much tougher along the way.

Dragon Sword also has ninja ninpo moves which are used by tapping an icon in the corner and then drawing some fake kanji characters. You can summon fireballs and hurricanes but the most useful is the one that refills your health. Because there are no potions in the game, you rely most on this technique and collecting blue, health-refilling souls.

Fun Factor: 9
Dragon Sword is really short, according to the game my final time was 4:31 (I would estimate more around 6-8 hours). But this honestly doesn't bother me at all. Of course there could have been more levels and more bosses but the length works. I never got bored and I was able to beat it in basically two sittings over a weekend. Weekend games are the best. I've been playing Hotel Dusk and Odin Sphere for months now and I nearly dread picking them up to continue.

So the length of the game isn't an issue with me, but there is a Ninja Gaiden staple missing: blood and gore. Ninja Gaiden was a crazy violent game and it appears that Ninja Gaiden II is stepping that up to the extreme, but there is not a drop of blood in sight in Dragon Sword. From reading further it looks like Itagami (the crazy lead designer of the Ninja Gaiden series) was trying to open up the game to a broader audience, which I'm sure he did, but I miss decapitations. The other staple, tight leather outfits and/or large breasts, are only half there in some (hot) fiends with weird drawings on them.

Graphics and Sound: 9
Great graphics and great music highlight Dragon Sword's presentation. All the action takes place on the right screen and there's a map on the left (this game is played on its side). This allows for quick navigation of the levels. The main character, Ryu, is easily recognizable on the battle screen but because of the vertical screen, some enemies toss projectiles at you from off-screen. The cutscenes between levels are awesome looking with their comic book style layout. The only music I noticed were some rock beats which worked really well with the game, but the music mostly stayed out of the way. The game throws in some voice acting here or there but I feel like it could have used more.

Story: 7
My biggest problem with Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword's story is that it kind of assumes you've played the first one for the Xbox. The game is mentioned many times as "that incident," and while it was still easy enough to figure things out, I felt gamers might be missing something. Though this is really a minor quibble and probably not a big deal. Dragon Sword isn't necessary a spin-off but the story is pretty straight forward and doesn't seem to have any kind of impact on the overall Ninja Gaiden story. You basically traverse ten levels to collect things and kill a boss. Simple, but effective.

Overall: 9
Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword is a great entrant into the series and a must-play on the DS. I would say it's a must-own but because of its short length some people might be leery. If you can get your hands on this game though, play it. This is the way action games should be done on the Nintendo DS. And of course there's a harder difficulty mode available for you purists as this game was noticeably easier than Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. Easy and short shouldn't be turn-offs though as this is an amazing game. Go play it. Oh, and read The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader. A true masterpiece in ninja literature. I kept thinking about it the entire time I was playing Dragon Sword.

Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword Ryu Momiji