Ninja Gaiden Preview, Episodes II-IV
We get our hands on the concluding three chapters of Ninja Gaiden.
Tecmo's remake of its classic NES game has returned Ninja Gaiden to its rightful role as the company's premier franchise, eclipsing even the polygonal titillation provided by its Dead or Alive series, with all its various incarnations. For those nostalgic for Ryu Hayabusa's original adventure, Tecmo's mobile division released a small portion of the original game on Series 60 handsets this past summer. Part I: Destiny left us eagerly anticipating the US release of the rest of the original game, which is available in its entirety in Japan. We recently got our hands on a two-year-old J-Phone (therefore comparable to today's US handsets) and had the good fortune to test-run Episodes II, III, and IV. Like the first installment, these entries are very true to the original game.
For the uninitiated, Ninja Gaiden (which literally means "Ninja Side Story") follows Ryu Hayabusa, the superninja, on his quest to avenge his father's untimely death. This feat is accomplished by jumping from platform to platform while either slicing demons with the Hayabusa clan's legendary Dragon Sword or toasting them with Ryu's ninjitsu magic. Ninja Gaiden plays like the best action titles of the 8-bit era, and, 15 years later, it's still a great game.
Veterans of the classic game will be pleased to learn that Ninja Gaiden's graphics, sound, and level designs for mobile continue to closely match those of its NES predecessor. The game's cutscene text was in Japanese, but we were assured that this would once again be directly culled from the original game, as was the case in Episode I. In fact, the only fundamental difference between the original Ninja Gaiden and its mobile iteration--apart from the latter's split into segments--is that ducking has been removed entirely. Now, when you press your phone's down key, it'll trigger Ryu's ninjitsu magic. However, as we said in our review of Episode I, the inability to duck doesn't seem to hamper the superninja.
In fact, the game's mobile controls are much less limiting than you might expect. While there's a bit of a learning curve involved with adjusting from a control pad to a handset, Ninja Gaiden has always used simple, digital controls and is therefore a good match for mobile. We did encounter some difficulty scaling walls through successive jumps, however.
It's safe to assume that Episodes II through IV will make a safe transition to US shores, maintaining the high level of polish seen in Episode I. The torrid affair between ninjas and video games continues!
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