Where are the proper ninja games?

Seriously. Ninjas, apart from their natural superiority to pirates, are excellent subjects for computer games. Yet what gets produced are abominations like the Ninja Gaiden series, which are an insult to everything ninjas said and did.

Ninjas were secretive, stealthy assassins-for-hire who had incredible physical abilities, ingenious weapons and extensive knowledge in the ways of death-dealing, and used them in unorthodox, guerrilla-type tactics.

In contrast, Ninja Gaiden 2 is a flashy, high-speed, high-octane hack-and-slash fest featuring a non-Japanese-looking fellow with very shiny bits attached to his no-sleeves costume who charges around fantasy worlds dispatching hordes of monsters. It’s God of War with a mask. Why bother with the mask?

What I want is something approaching Assassin’s Creed, but much, much better. A game where the proper preparation and tools will allow you to scale castle walls, not just pressing the A-button. A game where a successful sword strike wounds or kills, not simply wears away an enemy’s hit points. A game where you can choose to ambush a daimyo with a punji pit, or drug his tea, or sneak into his bedroom at night and slit his throat, or pose as his masseur and break his neck, or hang in a tree and send a blow-dart tipped with poison into his face while he rides on the hunt. A game with meaningful and realistic objectives, not foolishness like AC’s set-piece eavesdropping and pickpocketing and rescuing of civilians. A game with non-robotic enemies and extras who react to a comrade’s death, who can’t be evaded by just walking slowly or hiding in the only hiding spot around for a few seconds, but who can be fooled by disguises or diversions. A game where clan politics and dojo rivalries are as important as mission objectives, where the story is central, but not separate from the action, where choices you make put you on diverse branching paths through the game, where characters’ personalities and motivations are not caricatures….

Do I ask too much? I think not. There’s no reason why this can’t be done. Various games have done fairly well in one area or another. It just needs perfecting and synthesis. Get to it, designers!

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2 Responses to Where are the proper ninja games?

  1. DSlam says:

    The only one I’ve found that comes close is the Tenchu series (Tenchu Z on the XBox 360).

    It gets panned in reviews a lot though because reviewers tend to overlook the fact that while yes, you can just go in all guns (er swords..) blazing, going ninja-style earns more points and is more fun.

    I give it 8.1 shiruken.

  2. admin says:

    Yes, I had Tenchu Z in mind (just couldn’t remember the name) when I said some games did well in some area or another. Apparently the setting is very good in Tenchu Z, and some minor things it does well. I say ‘apparently’, because I was turned off playing the game due to the reviews slamming the repetitiveness, bad sword play, repetitiveness, appalling AI, drab graphics, and repetitiveness.

    That’s quite a high score you’re giving it. What did you see in it that others couldn’t?

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