Hey, hey and welcome back to my weekly discussion of my video games past. “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn Part 29” will focus on a series of games many of us are familiar with and that has no doubt led to a number of gamers destroying their controllers: Ninja Gaiden. Those of you who regularly follow my feature (if there are any of you out there who do so) will know that I pretty much stick to PlayStation, therefore I haven’t played the original 2D Ninja Gaiden series for the Nintendo, and I don’t ever plan to either for fear of literally blowing my top out of pure rage. As for the later games, I didn’t play the multiple versions of the first Ninja Gaiden game that were released on Xbox, including Ninja Gaiden Black, which is supposedly “better” than the PS3 release. I also never played Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, which was a Nintendo DS game released between the first and second Ninja Gaiden games. Okay, now that we’ve established the games I haven’t played, let’s discuss the ones I did play through.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3)
Much like the earlier Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, this game beat the ever loving crap out of me in my first playthrough. So pissed off did I get at one point that I clenched myself up in a fit of rage that resulted in me pulling a calf muscle. Not a pleasant experience. Against all odds, I persevered and eventually beat this game. Subsequent playthroughs of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, while still challenging, proved MUCH easier than that first painful playthrough. Anyway, in this game you play as main character Ryu Hayabusa of the Dragon Ninja Clan who heads off on a quest for vengeance to kill the enemies who attacked his village and stole the Dark Dragon Blade. You also play as buxom demon hunter Rachel in a few missions of her own. Ryu proves to be the more versatile warrior since he wields a number of different melee and ranged weapons like katanas, a staff, flails, a two-handed sword, throwing stars, bow and arrows, etc., while Rachel just wields a large warhammer and a whip-like weapon to strike more distant enemies. Both characters also use a number of magic attacks to give them a short reprieve during intense battles and damage multiple enemies at once. The use of Ultimate Techniques, which are basically charged attacks that can decimate many enemies at once when fully charged, brings further variety to the combat.
Enemy variety is impressive with the list including ninjas, samurai, special forces soldiers, cyborgs, and a number of demonic foes known as Fiends. And absolutely every enemy, from the lowliest soldier to the mightiest of Fiends, can tear you a new one if you let yourself slow down for just an instant. Letting yourself relax even for a second in a fight could lead to you staring into the Game Over screen before you know it. The game is mission-based, but the different environments kind of blend together and allow for backtracking to find hidden items and weapons, although I also got lost a couple of times when I forgot where I was supposed to go next. There are also a few puzzles involving some platforming and finding specific items/relics in order to advance, but the main focus of this game was clearly the in-your-face combat. This is further evidenced by the lack of a meaningful narrative, in fact most of the game’s background info is revealed in the manual; and Ryu himself probably has about 10 lines of dialogue in the entire game. Nevertheless, once you figure out how to properly play this game by mastering dodging, blocking, and attacking at the right time, then it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Ninja Gaiden Sigma gets a score of 88%.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (PS3)
This game was somewhat of an improvement over its predecessor in some areas, but also sort of a step back in terms of its challenge level, sort of. Firstly, the story is somewhat more interesting in a more cinematic fashion with more flashy cutscenes involving Ryu jumping off buildings, riding a motorcycle off a huge plane while it crash lands, and other physically impossible stuff. Getting to play as three other female characters in their own missions with their own unique fighting styles was also fun: Momiji wields a naginata with a bow and arrows for ranged combat, Rachel returns with a new warhammer and a big machinegun, and Ayane wields dual daggers along with explosive kunai. Ryu himself controls better than he did in the first game, and his dodge move is quicker and more effective. He also again wields many different weapons like in the first game, along with newer weapons like clawed gloves and boots, tonfas, a big ass scythe, and others. All characters also can perform the usual magic attacks and Ultimate Techniques, so the basics are still there.
Enemy variety is great, just as before, with Ryu and his ladies slicing apart a number of different ninjas, robots, and Fiends. The added feature of being able to dismember enemies by cutting off their legs, arms, and even heads does more than just satisfy the more twisted of us gamers who enjoy extreme violence; those enemies who lose limbs are potentially more dangerous since they will try to grab the player and blow themselves up, which will greatly damage or possibly even kill the player. As I mentioned before, this game is not as challenging (or frustrating) as the first Ninja Gaiden. The main thing that makes this game easier is the fact that Ryu and the other characters are simply tougher and can take a lot more damage. Several sword swings to the face could remove about a quarter or maybe half of a character’s health in this game, whereas in the first game they would lose 75% of their health if they stubbed their toes. The enemies themselves are mostly just as tough as they were in the first game, though some of them were strangely easy, including the final boss. Given the improved controls and less frustrating gameplay, this game feels a bit more fun to me than the first one, but at the same time it seems a tad too easy for a Ninja Gaiden game. Still a fun ride though. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 gets a score of 85%.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (PS3)
Overall, this is pretty much my favorite Ninja Gaiden game. Originally, this game was released simply as Ninja Gaiden 3, which made some changes to the Ninja Gaiden formula that fans did not appreciate. For one thing, Ryu could no longer use health potions or items to regain health or magic energy and instead relied on some regeneration mechanic. Quick-time events were added in while slicing through bad guys with the Steel-On-Bone mechanic, and when Ryu went through some set pieces where a curse took hold of him and left him doubled over in pain, you simply had to make him stumble through enemies who for some reason would barely attack him even though he was vulnerable and could be killed with one strike from Ryu’s blade. Ultimate Techniques now had to be charged up by killing enemies before they were available to use. Oh, and Ryu had access to only one main sword weapon throughout the whole game (unless you downloaded two other DLC weapons that were on offer). He also had one solitary magic/ninpo attack where he turns into a dragon and clears out all enemies around him (which I thought was cool, nonetheless). Despite these changes, I didn’t hate Ninja Gaiden 3, in fact I would have given it a score of around 82% because it was still a fun, action-packed game. Don’t agree with me? Tough.
Still, Team Ninja decided to try to appease their pissed off fans by releasing an updated version of this game called Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, which for about a year was exclusive to the Wii U for some reason; thankfully it was released for PS3 and Xbox 360 about a year later (whew!). This far superior update brought back the use of multiple weapons, multiple magic/ninpo attacks, the ability to perform Ultimate Techniques at will again, an improved Steel-On-Bone mechanic that allowed for pretty cool counterattacks, and a more appropriate level of challenge (for the most part). This game is certainly more difficult than the second game, but overall wasn’t quite as difficult as the first one…though it does come very close in a couple of very specific situations, especially the frustrating final boss. The enemies themselves mostly consist of enemy soldiers, ninjas, Fiends, and alchemists, some of which prove to be more challenging than expected. Even those set-pieces where Ryu was affected by the curse that infected him were vastly improved and entailed him fighting scores of enemies while his health was being drained, making them actually feel like dangerous situations for Ryu.
And unlike the first two games, this one had an actual narrative, and Ryu himself displays some character development and forms relationships with other characters. Now, the story doesn’t compare to the likes of the far superior plots in other games like Metal Gear Solid, but it was still a nice change of pace seeing Ryu fighting enemies for more relatable reasons other than retrieving a stolen artifact or seeking revenge. Three extra story missions were added in where you play as the ninja girl Ayane, which were appropriately fun and challenging. Two other characters, Momiji and Kasumi, were also added in but only for the special challenge missions that allow co-op play. So yeah, this game has the challenge and fast paced action expected in a Ninja Gaiden game, and with the inclusion of a better story and a more appropriate level of challenge, it is my favorite game of the series. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge gets a score of 90%.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3)
This game is more of a spin-off than a direct sequel to the above Ninja Gaiden games, and it really shows due to the very different style of gameplay and cel-shaded anime-like graphics. This game doesn’t really compare to the main series and was generally not well received. I didn’t hate this game, but it definitely has its flaws. You play as Yaiba Kamikaze, a jerk of a ninja who hates Ryu Hayabusa and is very much his exact opposite in many ways: He’s crass, obnoxious, juvenile, and a sadistic sociopath. The fact he’s tough as nails makes him even more dangerous, as is evidenced in the opening scene where he battles Ryu and actually gives him a bit of a challenge. However, he was still no match for the famed Dragon Ninja, and both he and his sword are cut in two by Ryu. Recovered and rebuilt into a cyborg by some super rich dude, Yaiba is sent to the Ukraine to deal with a zombie outbreak. Since Ryu is also making efforts to stop the zombie outbreak, Yaiba agrees to undertake this task so he can hunt Ryu down and settle the score between them once and for all. The story does open up slightly after the game’s halfway point, but it’s very basic and not all that interesting or surprising.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z does take itself less seriously than the main Ninja Gaiden series through its use of dark humor with some zombies taking part in Looney Tune-esque slapstick comedy and some cheesy, tongue-in-cheek dialogue through Yaiba’s interactions with other characters, but quite frankly a lot of the “humor” present is very juvenile and not all that clever. There were a couple of parts that made me chuckle and I think I actually laughed out loud once, but I largely was not impressed with the humor on offer. The game plays well enough, sort of. The controls themselves work fine and Yaiba is very responsive, but the combat relies more on button mashing than actually timing your attacks well along with dodging, blocking, and countering. While Yaiba can in fact dodge, block, and counter enemies, these actions don’t really flow all that well at all compared to how they did in the main games when playing as Ryu. Since Yaiba is normally surrounded by all types of zombie enemies and occasionally some large mechs, you have to concentrate a lot on mashing the attack buttons in order to not get overwhelmed.
Yaiba’s main weapons are his broken sword which does moderate damage and his cybernetic arm which can be used to hit enemies with strong but slow punching attacks and also break certain objects, and his cybernetic arm also doubles as an extendable flail that does less damage but can hit multiple surrounding enemies. Killing enough enemies lets Yaiba activate his Bloodlust ability which grants him invulnerability and increased attack power for a very limited time. Yaiba can also dismember certain zombies that possess electric, fire, or other elemental properties and use these zombie parts as makeshift weapons, like using a fire zombie’s head as a gun that shoots fireballs or an electric zombie’s spinal cord as electric nunchucks, among others. These zombie weapons are also required to advance through certain environmental obstacles.
As mentioned before, a lot of the battles consist of Yaiba fighting off waves of different kinds of zombies, and some of these battles can be challenging, although a select few were just frustrating, and not in a fun way. Only the battle against Ryu Hayabusa himself, and to some extent the final boss battle, were challenging in more strategic manners. Combine these features with the game’s very linear and repetitive missions, not to mention some “one way only” platforming challenges that weren’t all that exciting, and you’ve got a game which is not nearly as memorable or special as the series it was born from. It’s not absolutely horrible, but it’s far from great and isn’t even that good….it’s just “meh”. The rather disappointing ending hints at a possible sequel, but given this game’s pretty bad reception, a sequel simply isn’t in the cards, which is likely for the best. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z gets a score of 63%.
This brings an end to my discussion of the Ninja Gaiden series (and its spin-off). I wouldn’t mind if a fourth Ninja Gaiden game was to find itself in my PlayStation 4 someday, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. I personally would like to play as Ryu Hayabusa again in an all new adventure with new enemies and challenges, and I actually wouldn’t mind if they included Yaiba as a sort of “cameo boss fight”; while he didn’t make the best protagonist, I think he’d be a pretty good antagonist for Ryu in a true Ninja Gaiden sequel. Join me next week for Part 30 (holy sh*t, that’s a lot of parts) of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will go over the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series. In the meantime, take a look at more articles on our site below:
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