This first taste of combat was simple but exhilarating. From a distance, tapping on the enemy of choice will throw a ninja star at them, and getting closer and dragging the stylus over your target will slash your blade in the direction and angle of your gesture, be it vertical, horizontal or diagonal. You can also double tap to jump and execute mid-air combos. This last form of attack was so fun that we lingered for much too long in one particular area where bat-like enemies kept respawning, just so we could unleash string after string of gravity-defying combos.
Overall, the combat feels very intuitive. Even when totally surrounded, the battles always felt fun and never intimidating. It will be interesting to see how these fighting elements are kept fresh throughout the game, since Itagaki tells us the Dragon Sword you start with is your only weapon throughout the entire game – “Hence the title.” We did notice, however, that because you can slash horizontally, vertically, and so on, there's an added layer of depth that even the full-sized Ninja Gaiden games don't have.
Once inside, things diversified as we were confronted with platforming and puzzle sections. One part of the level had us climbing a vertical corridor by alternately double tapping the left and right walls, almost like Castlevania, but with fewer reanimated dinosaur skulls shooting fireballs at you. The demo being in Japanese, it was a little hard to make sense of the puzzle, but we did realize the need to use our fire magic to light a torch so that a doorway to the boss battle would open up. At the very least, that tells us how Ryu’s magic abilities will play into the battle parts as well as progressing through the environments. As for the mechanics of magic, it was as simple as tapping a symbol onscreen, tracing the spell's trademark rune, and then scribbling like mad to charge up the resulting fireball.
The boss battle was an interesting lesson in the types of strategy you can use. Everyone in the GamesRadar office that got to play it seemed to use a different tactic, whether that was getting aggressive and charging the boss to unleash the aforementioned fire magic, running around him and throwing ninja stars, or some other combination thereof. The result was a collection of varying finishing times, but we all seemed to make it out okay.