Saturday, June 9

Designing To a System: Ninja Gaiden DS

Following up on the other day's Designing To the DS article comes todays post on Team Ninja's masterpiece en route, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword.

I posted on Ninja Gaiden back in march. But much new information has surfaced since then. According to Itagaki, players will be able to fight just as fast and with as wide a set of maneuvers as previous Ninja Gaidens. He has also stated that this is the fastest Ninja Gaiden title yet. And after seeing this gameplay demonstration, I'm convinced it is.

If you aren't able to watch the video then I'll summarize for you. Ninja Gaiden plays almost entirely with the touch screen. Every actual button, face, directional, trigger or otherwise, causes Ryu to block. And thats it. When playing Dragon Sword, the DS system is held book style, ala Meteos: Disney Magic, Hotel Dusk, and Brain Age. Of course the game will allow for left or right handed play, but for the sake of simplicity lets assume we're all right handed. Players hold the main half of DS with their left hand and the stylus with their right. The left screen shows a map of the area along with the requisite indicators such as player location, and the right screen shows all the action. The whole game is played via touch screen implementation and supposedly allows for all the complexity of Ninja Gaiden Black or Sigma. Since I love control schemes so much I've created a convient description for your perusal.

Players move around by tapping and holding any area on the touch screen. Block by pushing any button on the DS. In so far as we know, Ryu is unable to roll. Tapping the screen quickly will cause Ryu to throw a ninja star to that location. Swipe the stylus horizontally across an enemy and Ryu will dash into that enemy and slash horizontally. Same goes for downward vertical swipes. Upward vertical slashes will launch enemies into the air, uppercut style. Double tapping anywhere will make Ryu jump. Double tapping again while in the air will double jump. Swiping across while airborn and Ryu will slash too. Swipe downard while airborn to perform a powerful slam. Tap the screen while in the air and Ryu will throw a ninja star. There are also two special moves. One is the ultimate techinue. To perform this, hold block and scribble the touch screen wildly to charge a strong attack. Continually scribbling will power up more and more. Releasing block will release Ryu's awesome power. The second attack is Ninpo. When enemies fall they drop Ki orbs. Collect them to fill your Ninpo meter. When full, players can tap a "sanskrit" icon in the top right corner of the touch screen to start the attack. A japanese character will appear on screen. Trace the character to unleash the attack. Players can guide the direction of the attack by dragging it across the screen.

Those are the controls. Simple, but effective. And that's really the whole point. A couple of quotations from a Gamespy interview with Itagaki, lead designer at Team Ninja:
The challenge for me is to make the number-one game in the genre. Whether it's fighting or action, I want it to be the best.

First of all when I looked at the DS I wanted to create something where I play while touching the screen, obviously. It could have been anything -- it could have been DOA for that matter. But I decided that it should be Ninja Gaiden.
Itagaki had a couple of goals in mind when creating Dragon Sword: It should be designer for the DS, and it should use the touch screen. The touch screen is a very important part of the DS system. Itagaki is taking advantage of the DS's best and most unique feature. Furthermore, he is not using the touch screen for the sake of using the touch screen. Itagaki is capitalizing on the touch screen's capabilites. He is using the swift input method of the touch screen to create quick-paced, action-heavy gameplay. The various stylus swipes allow for just as much comboing as more traditional controls, and, the control is more intuitive and tactile, always big pluses.

The other thing I should mention is the graphics. Developers have a hard time putting 3D graphics on the DS, I think, ismply because their are very few games that actually do them well. Dragaon Sword is an exception. The way they pulled off the amazing visuals is by making completely 2D backdrops. Not only are the backgrounds great looking, but this allows for more processing to be allocated towards character models and particle effects, which are 3D. And viola, great graphics solved on the DS.

Lastly, a choice quotation. Itagaki:
I’d like to show everybody some of the new stuff that we’ve been working on in the near future. The only problem with that is that when the other developers see what we’re doing, they’re going to lose all of their motivation to create any game in the same genre, because there’s no way they can beat it.
You gotta love the guy.

IGN Preview
1up Preview
Gameinformer Interview
Gamespy Preview
Gamespy Interview

Slash and Dash
Do you think that Dragon Sword would play as well with a button control system on the DS as opposed to a stylus control system?

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