October 2nd, 2008
Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword
Ninja Gaiden is a series made famous by its crushingly tough demands of dexterity and coordination. You need to be one step ahead of your enemy and in full control of the situation at all times. It’s interesting then to observe how this title has been adapted to the most accessible console on the market.
While the PSone-styled, 3D-models-on-pre-rendered-backdrop production is fantastic and covers up alot of hardware limitations, the game design is really where it’s at. Basically Tecmo have taken this teeth-crunchingly difficult franchise, suited only towards hardened players and added some breathing space to the play mechanics so that it can be enjoyed by a wider group of players while still respectable to its roots. All actions are performed with the stylus; you draw a line to slash, tap to throw a projectile etc. Because the physical actions match the moves that Ryu performs on screen, understanding how to play requires little time and once you’ve conquered a few of the initial battles it doesn’t take long to become fluent.
Furthermore, the more complicated constructs aren’t really complicated at all. To perform “magic” you touch an icon on the minimalistic interface and then trace the on screen Japanese character to perform. Additional spells can be selected from the same menu, just a quick tap away.
The camera angle is also fixed and scrolls automatically if you move to the next part of the area. This reduces the player’s dependence on camera control, keeping the emphasis on the action. The other mechanics such as combos, karma and upgrades are all naturally blended into the gameplay and the game eases you in nicely.
Dragon Sword is a short game (8hrs) and you’ll probably not want to play it more than once. There’s a whole bunch of additional content which will please fans of the series looking for an added challenge. I warn you though, you’ll be doing the same thing again and again (room, invisible door appears, beat baddies, next room, puzzle). While this is essentially the formula of the whole game, by the time you get to the end you only then begin to tire of the same repitive process. There’s always just enough spice to keep you interested and the games combat; a wishy-washy-mish-mash of stylus acrobatics feel well honed and just a great way to kill time. Another successful franchise, re-engineered for the DS hardware, worth your gold.
Guitar Hero On Tour
Even though I shared my thoughts on this iteration of the Guitar Hero franchise sometime ago, just recently (as in probably a month ago now!) I managed to get some closer hands on impressions of the game so I wanted to document how my feelings have changed since then.
First things first, no matter how you hold the hand grip, On Tour is still going to cramp your hand, wrist and/or fingers to the point of arthritic torture. There is no way around it – for this game to function you need a peripheral, and that peripheral needs to be of certain dimensions and make up. It isn’t then so much the fault of the peripheral but rather a lack of alternative ways to experience Guitar Hero on a handheld. So when push comes to shove, I recommend that you try the game first.
Peripheral aside, I honestly don’t think that the game itself could be improved to a substantial degree. I’ve heard a lot of negative criticism level towards the empty graphics and short track list but really, how much decent quality MP3 and bitmap graphics can you cram into a 128mb game card? Not much I’d say.
Everything else in the game is authentic to the franchise. The music is definitely teen friendly, which is another reason fans of the serious seem to lose their marbles over this title. Seriously, this game is marketed towards the a younger market, not yet ready for the insane note crunching of the bigger titles. In this regard On Tour is a winner and more than adequately cuts it as a portable rendition of the popular franchise. Fantastic marketing decision too and it shows from the sales.