Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword Review

Dragon Sword combines a lot of action with a very satisfying control scheme, the result is one of the best Nintendo DS titles.

If you’re looking for a Nintendo DS action-adventure game that relies heavily on the console’s various capabilities, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is that title. Similarly to Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass the game’s system depends on the stylus, so to perform any moves and attacks you only need to tap, hold, draw or slide. Thanks to this interesting and compelling approach Dragon Sword captures the essence of all the other games of the series, including the ones from the NES era. Though the gameplay isn’t flawless, the development team has done a terrific job translating the complex combo system to the portable system.

First of all, to play the game you need to use the Nintendo DS sideways, as if you were holding a book. The action takes place in the touch screen, while the other screen is mainly used for cutscenes and a very useful minimap. The touch screen is also necessary to perform multiple attacks and combos, so every move Ryu Hayabusa does onscreen is done with the stylus. Additionally, the shoulder buttons or even de D pad can be used to block incoming attacks, this setup is incredibly intuitive and natural to use so chances are you won’t have any problems when trying to jump, attack and so on.

Ryu’s moves are extremely responsive and it probably won’t take you a lot of time to get used to them. So if you want to run you simply slide the stylus, if you want to jump you do it upwards, to attack you swipe through the enemies. The controls are really slick and simple and that’s why the formula used is so great. Everything you were used to do on the PlayStation 3 titles is present here, you can double jump to then slash a foe, you can slice enemies by performing multiple combos and finally you can even throw shurikens and use a bow or other long-range weapons.

In Ryu’s village spiders are really difficult to take down.

Fortunately and even if the controls are really easy to use, these involve developing a clear strategy on your part as you can’t simply attack enemies mindlessly. Basically this means that you need to find out the weaknesses of each type of enemies and exploit that by using a particular weapon, this is really interesting as it prevents the player from using the same weapon or attack over and over. In any way, if you compare this game to any other Ninga Gaiden title in the series, Dragon Sword is probably the easiest one. The series has always been known as one of the hardest, but here there are many save points, easy boss fights and more. If you are a Ninja Gaiden fan don’t expect a huge challenge or you’ll be extremely disappointed.

Nevertheless, the game is extremely fun. Its fast-paced nature, responsive controls, variety of enemies and missions make it a very interesting title. Once you finish any given mission you need to go back to the main town to chat with people that give you further instructions and upgrade your different weapons. Though there can be some puzzles here and there, this game is action-oriented and that’s why combat feels so rewarding and engaging even after hours of playing it.

Something that needs to be mentioned is the magic spells so proper of the series. Magic is present here, but the mechanics have been twitched a little bit to suit the combat and controls of this title. To perform a spell first you need to tap an icon, then you need to “color” the symbol that represents the spell you just activated to be able to use it. If you do it correctly the game un-pauses and you can control where to attack. There are many spells and each one has a unique special effect, so expect many fireballs, lightning strikes, ice shards and more.

“Abyssal Underworld”… seems like a tough neighborhood.

The plot of Dragon Sword isn’t great, but at least the game manages to deliver it really well. A new character is introduced, called Momiji and even though she may not be the most memorable character of the series, she’s well designed and fits the story quite well. The main plot is told through different cutscenes, these are varied and look amazing, though they are probably not the center of the game. It’s really rare to see a game where the gameplay stands out much more than the cutscenes and the music (which is incredible also), and Dragon Sword is one of those games. The fluidity of the animations is superb, the way Ryu moves, jumps and reacts to the enemys’ attacks is great. All the action is smooth and fast-paced and there are no noticeable slowdowns.

Unfortunately, the game is extremely short. It should take you about 8 hours to finish your first playthrough, but if you know where you’re going you can pretty much finish it in 5 hours. There are many unlockables for you to find (like cutscenes or character’s descriptions) and there’s even Wi-Fi support to compare your performance with others, but these details aren’t that great. Still, if you really enjoy the game you can always come back and replay the adventure from scratch on a higher difficulty setting. Even if the game is too easy for veterans of the series the new compelling gameplay adds something completely new to Ninja Gaiden’s combat. Anyone with a Nintendo DS should give this game a try, you’ll not be disappointed.