Replay: Ninja Gaiden
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Romantic comedies are the bottom of the barrel stupidity of the movie industry. You could go rent one from the 80s right now, and you could easily guess each and every plot twist. Despite this...people still watch romantic comedies. Why? Because some people don't want to be challenged.
In fact, for some people half the fun is in the comfort that comes from seeing the guy get the girl yet again. Just as for some gamers the fun must lay in saving the girl or blowing up the bad guy with no "GAME OVER" screens or continues. How else could you explain the high sales of cheat devices, and magazines dedicated to cheating?
Isn't one of the big selling points of videogames: the fun factor? I don't recall any magazine ads selling me games as a kid that were "hard, challenging and frustrating." If the games aren't fun enough when you're just running in circles firing your gun at the walls, how are they somehow better if they're challenging?
I ask you this: Is losing fun? No. Is dying fun? No. The quest then, for developers, is to make a game fun enough that the user doesn't mind the negative feedback that losing and dying bring. They can do this by either minimizing the negative feedback by reducing such things as load time, equipment loss, progress loss...or they can simply make it so that negative feedback isn't really negative: ala Soul Reaver. You don't really "die." The game continues, but in a different state.
In any case, the fun-factor has to outweigh the negative feedback that the game distributes to players. For me, Ninja Gaiden, simply didn't do this. If I wasn't being hit with death in all his game over glory, I was missing simple and short jumps because of an unforgiving (and until the Hurricane Pack un-adjustable) camera, or my beautiful sword work would be cut short because someone had run in from off screen and hit me in the back...
It drove me nuts. What's the point of this beautiful combat system when you can't get more than two hits on anything before they rip you a new one? I've watched other people play Ninja Gaiden and I'm not sure that dedicated fans doing anything longer than two or three attacks. Maybe that's the point. Hit and run. Roll and block. Keep moving. Don't stop to ask any questions about the story, or the radical and abrupt change in settings.
All of this was wrapped in what is still one of the most seductively beautiful XBox games there is. But graphics aren't everything, and I couldn't in good faith give the game extra points just because it looked "real nice." However, at the time I didn't have a chance to play it on my parents HDTV. Having now played Ninja Gaiden on a 57-inch high-definition widescreen TV...I might be more tempted to bump up the final score just a smidgen.
Looking back when I reviewed Ninja Gaiden I did something that most videogame reviews don't do: I reviewed the experience I had with the game. Not the features, not the graphics, not the sound, or even the gameplay mechanics. My review tells the reader what I found not to work, what I didn't enjoy and why. If I had it to do all over again I'd still give the game a B minus.
However, if you were to ask me what I would have given it if I was reviewing it based on its features, graphics, sound, and gameplay mechanics? I'd probably tell you that it's easily an A+ game if you're not looking for a great story or cohesive experience. But, we don't play graphics and sound...we play videogames, and Ninja Gaiden wasn't the kind of game experience I'd recommend to my friends back then and it still isn't.