previews\ Oct 21, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword - NDS - Preview

E for All 2007 Preview

Not every game at E for All made its consumer debut on the show floor. Some were trapped – almost secretly – within the illusive DS download station.

The biggest download available was a little game by the name of Ninja Gaiden. Known to adults as one of the hardest NES classics, and known to younger generations as that Devil May Cry-crushing action game for Xbox (and other platforms as of late), Ninja Gaiden is one of Tecmo’s most prominent properties. Seeing the game on Xbox 360 won’t surprise anyone – the sequel was practically confirmed before the formal announcement. Seeing it on the Nintendo DS, however, will surprise anyone that picks up a stylus.

Stylus Gaming. With Style.

Ninja Gaiden takes the path set by Phantom Hourglass and other recent DS sequels and does away with expected button executions. You won’t touch the A, B, X, or Y buttons – not during this demo, at least. Attacks are instead controlled with the stylus. Zelda fans will be thrilled, but whether you’re a fan of touch screen gaming or not, this is one to check out.

The D-bad – that age-old device for character movement – is used to block. To move, touch and hold a position on the screen, and drag your stylus to walk or run. Jumps by drawing up on the screen twice – two quick lines are all the game needs to register your actions. Follow that move with a downward scratch to slam your sword through an enemy when you land.

Attacks are intense, beautiful, and easy to execute. Tap the screen to perform a sword swipe or to throw a projectile. The latter occurs when an enemy is far away, on the ground or in the air. Since jumping appears to be a big part of the game, you’ll want to take advantage of the aerial projectiles, which are thrown at any enemy that isn’t taken into the air during an aerial combo.

It takes several hits to kill most enemies, and as many three attacked simultaneously during the demo. Ninja Gaiden gives you a stellar way of dealing with any particular enemy at any time – simply touch the one you want to fight. It even works mid-combo. The game switches over to the next enemy, which allows players to plot their attacks and prevent and assault from occurring.

Should you need to block, you can. But there are times when it’s better to evade, and that’s done by touching the screen (anywhere) while holding any of the directional buttons.

Gameplay is conducted from at least two different gameplay perspectives: Onimusha-style 3D (real-time characters and pre-rendered backgrounds) and full 3D. The immobile, CG backgrounds look wonderful, as do the characters, who are rich with loads of polygons. It’s the kind of game you’d expect to see on PlayStation 2 and GameCube but not a handheld whose graphics processor is akin to Nintendo 64. The full 3D view – reserved for the demo’s ending boss battle – is just as impressive.

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