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Replay: Ninja Gaiden
By | September 15, 2004

The day I bought Ninja Gaiden I did so with a feverish glee because I was led to believe that I would get the wall-scroll. The really kick ass wall-scroll that is ever so much cooler than a regular poster. But, instead I just got the game and received a free lesson in why you pre-order videogames online if you really want the "freebie."

I also bought Ninja Gaiden because the demo was so amazing.

It still is...sadly the game never quite lived up to the promises of the demo. You see the demo handed you powers and equipment that you never got in the same level in the full version. The demo also failed to show the horrid camera angles that nearly every boss fight used...but the basic gameplay mechanics? They weren't broken...they broke other games.

Until I played Ninja Gaiden I thought that games like Street Fighter Alpha 3 Turbo Third Double Dip Edition were fast. I thought that a fast game was one that made you hit the defend button with split timing. Until Ninja Gaiden I experienced the requirement of fast reflexes and skill only in the context of fighting games. The hungered pursuit of casual gamer money had long since quelled the difficulty level of videogames by the time I really got into gaming with the N64 a scant few months before Zelda: The Ocarina of Time shipped.

But Ninja Gaiden? I wrote in my review that the game was as if someone held a knife to the balls of the programmers and said, "You can do it a little faster." The editor of my college paper called me at 8 a.m. in the morning to ask me what the heck I was talking about. He had visions of some sort of sadist mode..."No," I said. It's just that Ninja Gaiden is fast. Really fast. The game is like a Cheetah-on-crack fast. It's a "ballet of death" and you're the "hell-bent director."

It's also "bam you in the ass" hard. Frustratingly hard. Not challenging hard. Not oh, gee I'll just play a little more until I get it down. No. The game seemed to me to take joy in playing with my emotions. Just when I'd thought I'd finally gotten a handle on the newest enemy type the developers had thrown at me. Just when I'd gotten my slow fat fingers to hit the block button, roll out of the way, and slash the spider ninjas of death...or some other horrid creature at a reasonable rate...Team Ninja would introduce a new enemy who made the last sob look like a decrepit grandmother on Medicare.

So you see, Ninja Gaiden makes for great hyperbole and interesting word usage, but it's not fun for me to play. NOT FUN TO PLAY! That was the key theme in my review. A direction of thought that seemed to go against the hardcore masochist "please just insert that credit directly into my ass cheeks" thought process. A hard, frustratingly challenging game that isn't fun? WTF? The fact that it's hard is what makes it fun!

Maybe to those of you who enjoy getting your ass kicked. Where I come from the bad guys still follow the unwritten "Zorro rule." You don't hit a man in the back while he's slicing up your comrade. Not so in Ninja Gaiden. It felt to me like every time I went to attack a creature one of the others would run up and slash at me in mid-combo. Just as I was starting to have fun slicing up a poor ghoul...or whatever you call creatures with blue flame for a head and big Edward Scissorhands...someone would hit me in the back and ruin my fun.

Was I too hard on Ninja Gaiden? I've been thinking about this ever since my Ninja Gaiden review went up. Some readers questioned if the game was even "difficult." They questioned my right to "mark the game down for being hard" because I found frustration and had problems with the platforming elements. Many used my review to attack my hand-to-joystick performance. I may not be the best gamer in the world, but I'm no slouch.

I personally know gamers who don't think a videogame is very fun unless it challenges you to mortal combat and then kills your dog. My argument is this: people like romantic comedies. Think about it for a moment.

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