|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Team Ninja||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tecmo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Do you need a good ninja fix while waiting for the release of Ninja Gaiden II? Do you want to play a great and very innovative action game on the Nintendo DS? Would you like to see what Tecmo has been doing all this time? If your answer is yes to any or all of those questions, it's time for you to get your hands on Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. It's what we all expected and more.
Nintendo DS is not known for its action-packed games; most attempts to create a game of that genre for the little handheld turned out less than successful. Probably because of that, we're all kind of hesitant to drop our hard-earned dollars on titles that might just disappoint. Instead, we buy RPGs, puzzles, and brain games for the DS, or anything that contains Mario, Link, or Pokémon. Who knew the DS had the potential to offer a great action experience, almost comparable to what you'd get on a video game console?
The story of Dragon Sword is interesting for those of us who enjoy fantasy tales. It's not a deep and fully-fledged story like the ones found in Final Fantasy, but it's actually more engaging than expected. The game has some great characters other than Ryu Hayabusa, the hero of the story. He'll set out to save the kidnapped Momiji, a brave and charming gal who's learning the ways of the ninja from him. Along the way he'll interact with numerous townsfolk who are always happy to help with valuable advice, as long as they don't have to brandish a sword in their hands.
It so happens that the once peaceful town of Hayabusa was destroyed by the dark forces of an ancient, evil dark dragon. That dragon is not alive anymore, but it left a dark legacy within the Dark Dragon Blade that only someone with the power of the Dragon Sword could eradicate. Evil beings stole the Dark Dragon Blade, attracted by its immense power.
Ryu is a descendant of the Dragon Lineage (protectors of the Dark Dragon Blade) and carries the Dragon Sword, which holds the power and spirit of ancient good dragons. Six months ago he shattered the Dark Dragon Blade after an intense battle against the evil beings who stole it. Now the evil forces are back for revenge, and Ryu has no option but to go save Momiji and defeat them before they come and destroy the town.
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is innovative in many ways, starting with the unique action controls, completely delegated to the stylus. If you thought this game would be a button-masher, you were wrong. It might be a "hack-n-slasher" but in a whole new way. Team Ninja went for something totally different this time; the player will control Ryu and his sword with the stylus almost exclusively. The only complaint I have is holding the DS like an open book and fighting with the stylus isn't very ergonomic. In fact, it might be the first cause of "DS-elbow" syndrome. As you know, this is widely popular on Nintendo Wii, but not on the DS yet.
By drawing quick lines on the screen you'll obtain different moves and attacks, and by tapping a certain spot and holding the stylus, you'll guide the character towards it, like in Animal Crossing: Wild World or Super Mario 64 DS. In Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, when you draw lines from left to right or vice versa over an enemy, you'll slash it. That's a regular attack. Soon you'll learn you can do other things like sliding the stylus down and then up, which causes a double attack called Izuna Drop. You can also draw an upwards line to make your character jump. You can do double jumps, triple jumps, and sometimes you can even climb certain walls by simply doing the upward motion, which is reminiscent of the Prince of Persia's acrobatic abilities. If you jump and then draw a quick line towards the bottom of the screen, Ryu will perform a powerful smash attack that comes in handy especially when there is a group of enemies waiting at ground level. You can also jump and slash enemies, throw shuriken or launch arrows by tapping objects and enemies, etc. You can use any button to guard or push a button and draw a line to evade.
Similar to God of War and Devil May Cry games, there's a combo indicator that shows how many hits and combos you've done consecutively. The better you do it, the more "essence" will come out of the enemies. They usually pump out a lot of Yellow Essence, which is currency you use to purchase items and new combat techniques. There's also Blue and Red Essence (health and magic), but these are much more scarce.