SAN FRANCISCO--Last month, we gave you a glimpse at the first three levels from the upcoming Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword, a game that aims to fill the void of intense action titles on Nintendo's popular handheld. Jumping forward to today, we've been able to get an updated look at this promising demo (sans Tomonobu Itagaki guiding us along the way, unfortunately), currently found in the Nintendo booth at this year's GDC.
The good news is that the game is looking just as pretty as ever, as any number of passersby overhead muttering, "Is that on the DS?" can attest. The demo began with Ryu training Momiji in a lush forest setting, with vibrant shades of green surrounding a rippling pond. The level of detail found in these early outdoor environments really stands out, but that artistry is also complemented by neat added effects like the fiery blaze of Ryu's ninpo magic and the ominous beams of light erupting from the ground when new enemies appear.
It wasn't all jungle, though, as we soon made our way into a tight indoor environment to contend with enemies in darkened corridors. Interestingly, the constricting nature of these encounters forced us to change our combat style, which to that point involved a lot of jumping high in the air and coming down hard with downward slashes (executed by swiping up with the stylus, then back down). But instead of that extravagant style, we had to adapt by using more toe-to-toe, blocking-heavy swordplay. It's a testament to the game's surprisingly deep control scheme that you can adapt so well to these dramatically different environments without any frustration setting in.
Though much of the gameplay we experienced in the demo was very combat-oriented, there was one particularly interesting section that added some interesting platforming. Racing up a hill, Ryu had to dodge a stream of large boulders rolling his way. If that weren't enough, there were archers stationed on nearby rooftops raining arrows on top of us. What this meant in terms of control was the need to time the boulders, tap out a path for Ryu to follow, then use brief moments of calm to throw a few shuriken at the archers--all using the stylus.
Unfortunately, the chatter and shuffling of feet at GDC kept us from having a good listen to any updates in Dragon Sword's audio offerings, but there were still plenty of weapon noises and ninja grunts to go around. Thankfully, the rest of the game was promising enough to stand out from these crowds. We'll be sure to keep you updated on the game right up to its release late next month.