Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

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If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

Disappointing Thoughts On the Let-Down That is Ninja Gaiden DS
Posted by Diggler - 23/4/2008 11:45

Finally, Gaiden hits handhelds. The game has you holding the DS side-on, using the book-style format to craft some pleasing cut-scenes. At least the story telling is a minor upgrade for the series then...
With God of War recently kicking arse on the PSP side of things - not to mention Devil May Cry rocking hard on the consoles - I was hoping Ninja Gaiden would round the trio off in style, providing the DS with its own, unique spin on the beat 'em up genre. As a bit of a Ninja Gaiden masochist - one who never stops trumpeting the original game's sheer brilliance on these here pages (and by original, I mean of course the Xbox title, not the arcade game from the 1700s), Ninja Gaiden DS let me down something fierce I'm afraid. It's a watered-down disappointment that fails to stay true to its balls to the wall heritage.

Something of a tacked-on sequel set between the original Gaiden and the upcoming 360 follow-up, Gaiden DS continues the tale of ninja badass Ryu and his slice 'n' dicing antics wielding the trusty Dragon Sword (DS, geddit?). The game tries - to its credit - something fresh and original in its control scheme this time mind you, in that it's 90% stylus controlled. With the DS held on its side, you move Ryu around by dragging appropriately on the screen, while combat is handled via a bizarre mixture of tapping on enemies, "slicing" through them, and swiping the stylus around in various patterns in order to fire off combos.

Blocking is handled via the archaic means of pressing buttons, but long-gone is the more traditional hammering X and Y in favor of this far more frenetic setup, and I guess the closest comparison you could make would be to playing Phantom Hourglass on speed.

Staying Inside the Lines

The problem is, Zelda was a slow, cutesy, light-hearted romp, while Ninja Gaiden - as a series - is as brutal and precise a mother fucker as games get. This control scheme ain't really on that same wavelength though, far more random and silly than you'd hope for.

A right bunch o' pansies, you'll batter most bosses first time out
To the on-looker, it may seem to work great, with you breezing through wave upon wave of fiends and demons like a Gaiden vet, but if they were to actually study your stylus movements...they'd see that you are, in fact, scribbling around borderline randomly. Hell, you can pretty much watch TV while you play this game, twiddling away in the background with next to no effort. Up to all but the the last level (of its worryingly short five hour campaign), the skill involved is minimal at best.

Even the bosses - Gaiden's badge of infamy, known throughout the land for their ability to stop you dead in your tracks for weeks at a time, locked in epic duels seemingly impossible to the bog-standard human - turn truly limp thanks to this. Scribble, scribble, scribble, and the suckers drop first time. It's all very anti-climactic, and surprisingly dull.

All Ninja Gaiden's depth, nuance and epic learning curve seem long-gone basically, and there's subsequently very little to see and master in their place. If you can play Brain Age, you're in. Scratch that. If you can color in with crayons.

Déjà Vu

Ninja Gaiden's enemies are laaaame by the way. Expect nothing in the way of decapitating psycho ninjas as you'd expect. Here it's all crappy monsters and purple "fiends"
Problems extend beyond the "plays the game for you" controls, and worryingly boring combat though. In terms of level-design, Gaiden uses a rubbish hub-based setup that bizarrely sees you getting teleported off - one by one - to heavily stripped down remakes of all the original game's levels (ain't this a sequel?). These bite-sized chunks of a real game - some of which last as long as a whole 9 minutes - offer little in terms of exploration and complex puzzle solving, instead more akin to a brief collection of rooms and corridors followed by a boss fight.

More often than not, the game regularly avoids that age old staple of the beat 'em genre too - in which you're locked in a room until you clear it out - meaning here you can regularly just charge through to the next without even bothering with the combat at all. Which is certainly appreciated, given how repetitive the battles get after just your first hour.

And that's what Gaiden basically boils down to at the end of the day. Run, scribble, run. Much of the adventure-y stuff is toned down, if not flat out removed, and while there is the odd new new Ninpo attack to learn - Ninja Gaiden's special magic abilities - not to mention the occasional character interaction when back in Ryu's village, there's really very little to see and do beyond travel from A to B as they so order you.

Ninja Gaiden DP

On the polar opposite plus side to all my whinging? Damn this game looks good. A fiendish mixture of 3D characters and flaw-less animation, mixed with pre-rendered 2D backgrounds results in one of the system's absolute jaw-droppers. Long gone are the N64-caliber textures and blocky character models you typically associate with the DS, replaced instead with a detail and lavishness seemingly far exceeding the machine's capabilities. Sure, it's kinda "cheating", but it damn well works, and in spite of the relative flatness of the backgrounds and environments (which are essentially just bitmaps), you completely buy the illusion. The fiend world is particularly gorge, all blue and glowy like, and actually looks as good as some PSP games. Ditto all the above for the sound.

Gaiden DS has understandably ditched every last dollop of blood too. Expect zilch in the way of gore and dismemberment this time out, somewhat being made up for by the upcoming NG2
Graphics seldom make a game though, and this is no exception I'm afraid. The random, joyless combat lacks the finesse and sheer skill you'd expect of this series, and as a bonus, its scribble-heavy nature has the added effect of scratching your DS screen to buggery while you're at it. Which I could live with, if I felt I was being truly tested and pushed to my limits (hell, I'd welcome the odd battle scar - god knows the first game left some) but alas, no.

Finishing the game does unlock a hard mode I should concede - one slightly more in-tune with that game's utter viciousness - but while the added toughness, and need to actually, ya know, pay attention is welcome, it does little to alleviate the silly controls, lack of variation and general boredom of those relentless battles. And boredom is a word I'd never have expected to associate with this series.

It's nice to see a fully-fleshed out 3D action game on the DS for once, as opposed to dog-walking dating sim #501, and the graphics are a stroke of magnificence in particular. This could have been so much more though, had its target audience not been reduced to babies.

(Pictures courtesy of Ninja Gaiden)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

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Matt Robinson, 2011

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