Real Talk By: Cmack
2012, the supposed year of death and destruction is upon us, and in keeping with that (false) prophecy, the announcement of another chapter in the Ninja Gaiden legacy arrives just in time to sate the bloodlust of gamers until the true apocalypse arrives (which is at a date and time the chosen know). So as a dedicated distributor of Shinobi-Styled Pimp Smacks and a dedicated Ninja Gaiden player, I’d like to introduce y’all to what we at Play Legit believe should be seen in the latest installment of Ryu Hayabusa’s constant regulation.
-Greater Emphasis on Story
Now we all know this is an action game first and foremost. The idea behind this whole franchise is to play through the most arthritis-causing, rage-seizure inducingly difficult gory Ninja battles you can possibly imagine, but sometimes you might be playing story mode and completely lose track of why this is all happening in the first place.
Some of y’all might be thinking that I’m foolish for expecting Shakespeare from a hack and slash about Ninjas, but look at the God of War series (for my money N.G.’s main peer in the hack and slash department): you have a consistent, well-threaded narrative that stretches throughout the entire trilogy, unforgettable characters, and gameplay that doesn’t seem detached from the story, you really understand and feel why you’re playing this sequence and what it means to the character. That’s the kind of development I’d like to see with Ninja Gaiden, because honestly one of the weakest points about the earlier 2 games (not counting the Nintendo entries) is that often, I felt like the game’s levels and sequences could be played in any throwaway order, as if some kid had just suggested a bunch of ideas and locales that seemed cool and then they loosely constructed a story around it.
The Nintendo Ninja Gaiden series is sometimes credited with being the game that invented the cut-scene and put more complex stories into gaming, so it has a legacy to uphold. Although I personally will always put more stock in good gameplay, a more developed or even simplified story could really round out Ninja Gaiden and make it stay true to its legacy. Based on the recent announcements about how 3 shall focus more on Hayabusas character and personality, it sounds like Tecmo and Team Ninja get the idea about this one, let’s just see if they follow it up.
-Online Modes/Co-Op and Multiplayer
Again, we’ve heard talk of online multiplayer and co-op being added to this upcoming N.G. installment, and that couldn’t make us happier, unless the news was served with Crowne Royale and a fine Cuban. But since we haven’t yet heard nor seen how the online elements will play out, I’ll simply detail how the Legit expects things to develop with it. What would be cool to see would be them take online elements all the way, providing co-op missions, deathmatches, as well as the already established leaderboard scores and whatnot. If they fleshed it out instead of making it a throwaway single mode or one-off addition to the main campaign, it could really add to the game’s longevity.
If they work out a solid competitive deathmatch mode, where maybe you play as teams of Ninja doing various types of games such as standard deathmatch, capture the flag, or had maybe an assassination race where there was a target and each team could compete to see who slayed it first, NG3 could break ground. Not many 3rd person action/adventure titles venture as deeply into online competitive play as 1st person shooters do, and the only real precedent right now would be Uncharted 3 and its online. If things like the Assassination Race mode were implemented, we could see 3rd person action games potentially develop in a whole new direction, and since Ninja Gaiden is based around melee combat and limited old school, non-gun projectiles, the style and gameplay of it could be totally unlike anything else out there right now. I strongly hope that Tecmo and Team Ninja develop the online modes to their fullest extent and that the “Shadows of the World” online portion delivers strongly.
Every N.G. has featured tons of weapons to acquire and costumes to unlock, but even in N.G.2, things functioned in a fairly old school, non-interactive way. You’d play through, get your weapons, and for many of them, once you had them, that was mainly it, there wasn’t much unlocking, developing, or powering up of them once you got them. As for costumes, it was either buy online or unlock through gameplay, and despite a wide and cool selection, once you got them, again, that was pretty much it. Now in 1, there were secret weapons you could unlock by collecting scarab-jewel powerups and selling them to the weapons dealer Muramasa you had contact with throughout the game. In 2, this was mostly taken out, and weapons would be found, upgraded in terms of damage, and that was about it. In 3, it would be nice to see the secret weapons such as The Plasma Saber and the Giant Oar/Unlabored Flawlessness (just look it up for those of you that don’t know) make a comeback. Added to improving your weapons damage and appearance, it would be cool if each individual weapon could have different qualities about it that you could improve, attack, defense, speed, combo-ability, magic-integration and so on.
To elaborate, perhaps weapons that had more attack power would of course do more damage on straight attacks, but ones with more defense would have more power on counters and could block and receive more damage. Faster power-ups would allow for greater combos, and perhaps the Ultimate Moves would be stronger for an individual weapon if you increased it’s magic. This way, it would justify the use of different weapons in your arsenal. A smart player could distribute different qualities to different weapons, instead of it being like 2 where you just decide that you get bored of seeing enemies being cut up with a sword and just switch to your staff because you think it looks cool. With a deeper customization process, you could make it so that no two playthroughs with same weapon would be the exact same, you could have a speed based sword and magic based nunchaku one playthrough, and then switch those properties the next. As for costume customization, this speaks for itself, but it would be nice to unlock and find items you could customize individual costumes with, borrowing a book from Tekken’s costume customization. This would especially be useful in online play.
-Stealth Kills/Assassination and Sneaking
In researching the press releases for N.G.3, apparently stealth and from-the-ceiling attacks are going to be a part of the new game, so here’s hoping that it lives up. It’s about time stealth was added into the series, because the long-running saga of Ryu Hayabusa has never once required the infamous Super-Ninja to actually…well, be a Ninja. In all the games, even the NES installments, he simply slashes and charges through waves of enemies, more like a generic martial artist or Samurai. Ninja were known for their stealth, cunning, trickery, and ingenuity in assassination, not their combat skills.
We do realize that this is Ninja Gaiden, not a history lesson, and that the Tenchu series exist for people who want a stealth gameplay experience more in line with what we expect from stealth games. However, for this to be a Ninja title and have never had assassination kills, sneaking segments, or any kind of stealth at all just seems really silly. Again, I stress that I don’t want this series to turn into a low-rent Metal Gear rip-off, but some stealth portions and sneaking would be a very welcome addition. All of the Ninja Gaiden XBOX games have made Hayabusa very agile and slick in negotiating his environment. Snake can’t wall run, Snake can’t do somersaults 18ft into the air and hang one-armed from a thin lip of building and throw shuriken, but we’ve already seen Hayabusa do it in a combat context, so take all those great qualities and spin it in stealth style. With special stealth weapons like poisoned shuriken and kunai, blowdarts, and garotte wire, etc., Ninja Gaiden 3 could break up the excellent hack and slash gameplay with well done stealth and assassination segments that really wouldn’t feel out-of-place at all.
Ninja Gaiden already has a great core set-up and fantastic combo and fighting system that always leaves us wanting more. We’ve specified what that more is, it seems like the developers are getting the message, so let’s just hope that by the time game-day comes, we see something close to what we the players expect from this already great franchise.