Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ninja Gaiden 2 Thoughts

I'm doing a bit of research on Ninja games for some projects that I am working on. Obviously Ninja Gaiden 2 is a must play game.

I started out on Acolyte (easiest, default difficulty) and was thrown into the fray. I was attacked less than 1 second after the opening cinematic finished and I was on the defensive for the first few minutes of game play.

Some thoughts on the initial experience:

  • The AI was quite aggressive. Failure to block would lead to early death.
  • The on screen help text blocked too much of the screen -- yes, it was noticeable, but it also blocked me from seeing what the enemies were doing.
  • The level design meant that as I got knocked back I ended up in a part of the level where my view was obstructed by a railing, making it even harder to see what my enemies were up to.
  • The compact opening arena meant that I was constantly being attacked from off-screen and needed to manipulate the camera frequently.
  • There were too many enemies on screen at first. I needed to be able to practice the basic moves in safety before getting swarmed.
  • Fights in dark areas and narrow corridors made it hard for me to see my character when he was surrounded by enemies. This was compounded by the fact that my character did not stand out visually from the first round of enemy ninjas.
Some other observations I had:
  • Interactive objects (chests, destructable objects, doors I need to open) were not well lit and obvious.
  • Although there are lots of cool moves to unlock, the differences amongst many of them are too subtle to notice -- some ways that the distinctions could be punched up:
    • Have more noticeable in game differences (shouts, animations, audio/visual feedback) when you use the correct counter/method vs. when you use incorrect or suboptimal tactics.
    • UI call outs when you execute combos and special moves (e.g., first time you try a move; 5th time; times when the special move did maximal damage; times when the special move is ineffective). This feedback could be rolled into the combos/scoring mechanic.
All criticisms aside, the game is pretty fun to play now that I'm diving more deeply into combat systems. As an intellectual exercise it's fun to try and break down what's going on in terms of AI behavior, level design, and character controls and animation.

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