Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

FeatureHistory of Ninja Gaiden

Twenty years of pain and pyjamas.

Ninja Gaiden is the franchise that never was, a famous videogame brand that has clocked up over ten titles without ever adhering to any consistent continuity. These are games that play almost identically, yet often have little in common beyond the name of the lead character and a propensity for fiendish difficulty levels. But still they endure, most recently revived and resuscitated by the mercurial talents of Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja. Today gamers fidget in anticipation to see what the outspoken development wizard has come up with. Two decades ago, however, Ninja Gaiden was just getting started, launching in the arcades and on the NES in a peculiar criss-cross release pattern.

Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword

Button-mashing is a familiar part of the gaming landscape. Who hasn't, at some time or other, fluked their way through a bastard-hard hackandslash battle by jumping around like a Tartrazine freakoid and hammering random attack buttons until something comes off? This kind of combo trickery can be pulled off in a way that - to the untrained eye - looks calculated, skillful and deliberate. But don't be fooled. Even the most hardcore games tend to kneel to the all-conquering might of the persistent, determined button-masher.

In the process of bringing the Ninja Gaiden to the DS, Team Ninja has come up with another brilliantly random gameplay mechanic: screen-scribbling. If the screen is loaded with gurning enemies, your health's going down and your best-laid plans are all going to pot, a quick, concerted scribble winds dear old Ryu Hayabusa up like a clockwork toy. In a flash, he's zipping around the screen slicing people up. It's only one of many of the moves available to you in the course of the 5-6 hour adventure that constitutes Dragon Sword, but it's critical. Indeed, much of the gameplay bears a closer resemblance to getting a spiteful ball point pen to function than skilled, hardcore action-adventuring.

Very typically, the overall idea is to save the world from a deep, dark menace, chasing after bad guys, rescuing hapless maidens; you know, the usual. As ever, you play Hayabusa, chief arse-kicker of the Dragon clan, on a quest to protect the Dragon Sword and ensure the dreaded Spider clan's evil plans to bring darkness to the land don't succeed. Set across 15 relatively brief chapters, you must hunt down the eight dragon stones that give the sword its power, and gradually build up the power required to take the endless supply of increasingly powerful goons down.

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Ninja Gaiden DS demo at GDC

Game due out in US next month.

Anyone dozing off during talks about shader instructions or audio tools at GDC this week can always slip out to the Nintendo booth and entertain themselves by downloading a demo of Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword.

Ninja Gaiden DS in March

Imagine a bad joke here.

Tecmo has said that the Nintendo DS version of Ninja Gaiden will be released in March 2008, assuming you and I aren't killed in a freak news item accident where oh no oh no watch out it's fallifslddsfikdgfgfjldgfjlgfgf. It's okay. We're trapped, but we're alive. We must now form amazing bonds of friendship as the harsh reality of our situation becomes apparent and I have to eat your leg.

Ninja Gaiden DS confirmed

Ninja Gaiden DS confirmed

Stylus-driven book-slashing.

Ryu Hayabusa's unstoppable path-beating will continue away from the beaten path in the near future, with a DS version cunningly-titled Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword now officially unveiled and detailed. There are screenshots and everything.

Holding the DS like a book (think Brain Age), NG DS relies on stylus controls to guide Ryu around his ninjary enviromments, double-tapping to jump, drawing special characters to enact spell attacks, performing slashing motions to whip out his sword and tapping enemies while airborne to fire shurikens. Buttons will be reserved for defensive manoeuvres.

We can also expect a new storyline, although as with many things Tecmo we're not told when to expect it and its mother-game, despite the fact the developer's "very excited" about everything. "The Nintendo DS will allow gamers to control Master Ninja Ryu Hayabusa slash for slash with the use of the DS Stylus in a way never possible in previous iterations of the game," says Tecmo's Yoh Watanbe. "Dragon Sword will be the definitive ninja title for all DS owners to experience."

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