Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword - first look

Today in Tokyo at publisher Tecmo's Nite Out 07, we were allowed to get our first taste of Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, via a demo by outspoken Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki. During the stage presentation, Itagaki played the game live, projected onto a large screen television, using a Nintendo DS development system.

Even displayed much, much larger than it would be on an actual Nintendo DS, the game looked sharp and appealing. The main character is the same as the full sized Ninja Gaiden game from Xbox and PlayStation 3 - Ryu Hayabusa. Ryu is presented in 3D polygon graphics while the backgrounds are static images - similar to how Resident Evil or Final Fantasy looked on the original PlayStation.

To play the game, you hold the DS like a book (think Brain Age.) The right hand screen is the touch screen, while the left hand screen shows a map. Using your stylus, you tap anywhere on screen to have Ryu throw a ninja star towards that location, while you double-tap on Ryu to have him jump (you can double-tap him again to jump once more in midair as well.)

To slash Ryu's sword, you draw a line from top to hottom for a downward slash, bottom to top for an upward slash, and horizontally for a horizontal cut. If you slash the stylus downward while Ryu is in midair, he'll do a downward slash as he lands. Slash across an enemy to have Ryu attack it. You never touch Ryu with the stylus to perform attacks - just the enemies. If you do an upward slash, the enemy is thrown into the air and you can do aerial combo attacks on it. The only button you'll use during the game is to block - and any button the DS will fulfill that function.

The controls, while sounding a bit strange, seemed to work beautifully, judging from the response that Itagaki was getting from Ryu. The character zipped around the screen, fighting enemies with aplomb and attacking rapidly. In fact, the action looked remarkably similar to the lightning-quick moves of the full-sized Ninja Gaiden title. It's really surprising just how good this game looks. Ryu can even dash from enemy to enemy in the air, comboing his kills.