Quality Control, Video games

Quality Control – Ninja Gaiden Shadow

The Box art for Ninja Gaiden Shadow, courtacy of Wikipedia.Ninja Gaiden is one of those series that hold a special place in my heart. It’s a game series, like Castlevania, that is known for it’s steep learning curve, that I can’t beat without using save states, and that I love anyway. Ninja Gaiden Shadow, isn’t exactly in that series. It was originally released in Japan as a port of the NES game Shadow of the Ninja, but Tecmo liked it so much, they bough the game. Well, now it’s time to find out if it was worth their money, and yours.

The Premise

Ryu Hayabusa is a young man. His father is still alive and is still in possession of the Dragon Sword.  As Ryu trains in New York, he learns of a sinister plot by Emperor Garuda to take over the city for his lord, Jaquio. Ryu goes forth to save the city and the world.

The Good

This has some excellent boss fights. Yes, they’re all find-the-pattern-and-exploit it variety – but that’s absolutely fine.  That means that you can theoretically beat the boss without getting hit, which means if only have one or two hits left on your life bar when you reach the boss, you still have a chance of beating the boss. This is significantly better than some other games where the boss semi-regularly gets cheap hits on you that you can’t really avoid. To be honest, if you can’t beat a boss without a full life bar going in – and there’s a possibility that you won’t have that life-bar, then that’s bad game design. This game doesn’t fall into that trap. That is good game design.

Additionally, the extra lives in this game aren’t too hard to get to. If you’ve played any Mega Man game, you know that to get most of the one-ups in these games (aside from the semi-randomly dropped ones) you often had to go through a series of precise jumps, based on rote memorization, using an item from a Robot Master that, if you’re using the recommended order, you would have beaten later in the sequence, all while scratching your nose with your foot. Oh, and did I mention that if you mess up once you die. Yeah, that’s bad game design. Ninja Gaiden Shadow doesn’t do that. Here the 1-ups are accessible through a moderately difficult series of jumps that, if you mess them up, you can try them again. That is good game design.

The Bad

There are problems with enemies taking pot shots at the player when the enemies are off screen. Fortunately the bullets are easy to dodge, but it’s still a nuisance. They also fall back on the crutch of having part of a level be in a really dark area – in that you can’t see platforms, aside from a occasional flashes of light – but that only lasts for a small chunk of a level.

The Ugly

Several things – aside from the Fire Wheel there are no ranged attacks the player can make. Further, with a few exceptions many of the obstacles that can attack you in the levels can’t be destroyed. Plus, your character’s range for his melee attacks aren’t great. This does lead to a few cheap hits. They’re not common, but they’re there.

The Verdict

Frankly, this is the best game in the Ninja Gaiden series that I’ve played. Period. I give this my full recommendation.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Note – yeah, my last few reviews didn’t have scores. Old habits die hard. I’ll see if I’m able to shake that habit and consistently assign scores.