When last I wrote about the game I was still plodding through the opening chapters. Now, having seen it through I can say without a doubt that there’s no finer action game on the DS and that anyone hoping to compare should bow with respect and shamelessly copy this game.
As I expected there aren’t any other weapons besides the upgradeable dragon sword, some explosive arrows, and a handful of ninpo magic attacks, but the gameplay remained mostly solid and rewarding throughout. The difficulty didn’t ramp up too much but the game starts throwing more and more enemies at you, along with environmental hazards, which leads to plenty of cheap jabs to your health bar. It didn’t lead to many outright deaths, and it’s really just a nagging complaint, but it definitely made me feel very un-ninja-y.
The boss battles also leave a lot for a master ninja to desire. With a few end-of-game exceptions they don’t feel as epic as the console versions and the attack patterns come slow and easy to avoid. Not even the final showdown felt as harrowing as the original game’s battle against Alma, which is a moment of horror that is forever ingrained in my mind. In Dragon Sword her evil Fiend sisters feel about as scary as being confronted by a Renaissance Festival player who dresses up and pretends it really is 1459.
Ryu’s lightning fast attacks may also contribute to how easy the whole adventure is. With few misinterpretations by the touch screen it’s easy to stay airborne while slicing and dashing through a dozen enemies, landing with just enough time to charge up your even-more-powerful Essence attack. Should you get in a jam you can almost always rely on your ninpo magic to level the field and even conjure up a spell that refills your health.
I’m sure the game is much more challenging on the next difficulty setting but I’m not the sort to trudge back through a game just to make it harder. Nor am I the type to play through all difficulty settings just to find hidden items, which is the only way to collect all of those pesky wooden amulets. The reward? You can rewatch the cutscenes, see character bios, and read diary entries. The diaries are entertaining, especially for the villains, but definitely not worth that kind of commitment.
The magic’s still here. Team Ninja has once again retooled their original 2004 adventure and I’ve once again trounced my way through it, living the rockstar ninja lifestyle and loving every bit of it. Now can we please get on with Ninja Gaiden 2 and another four years of remakes and updates?