Review: Ninja Senki DX (PS4)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Ninja Senki DX
Format: PlayStation Network Download (44 MB)
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: Tribute Games Inc.
Developer: Tribute Games Inc.
Original MSRP: $4.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Ninja Senki DX is also available on PlayStation Vita, PC, and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I’m taken back to the NES days right from the first few seconds of the opening level. It quickly becomes obvious that the folks at Tribute Games are big fans of Ninja Gaiden.

Ninja Senki DX is brilliant in its simplicity as there is no need for a lengthy tutorial and no cumbersome menus to fight through. As was the case with this type of game in the era it pays homage to, the focus is pure gameplay.

Run, jump, and shoot – the classic essentials of video game adventures make up your character’s arsenal. Different enemies each pose a new threat and force players to learn a new pattern of movement to conquer in the interest of moving forward, inch by inch.

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The game is difficult in that sense, as replaying the same area over and over again until you can get through it almost flawlessly seems to be the best approach. Mastering your infinite but basic shuriken and the ever so handy double-jump is about the only advantage you can give yourself on this epic journey.

Different worlds provide backdrops for the ninja shenanigans taking place on screen. The castle-type area, the water levels, the forest, everything you’d expect from a classic game with themed sections makes its way into Ninja Senki DX.

… a nagging uncertainty of my abilities …
The mimicry never feels forced or overabundant as I was often overcome with pleasant nostalgia. Making a game that harkens back to the early days of home console mega-popularity is one thing, but capturing the essence of those games while using modern technology to strip away any of the negatives of yesteryear is the true accomplishment.

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One of the major contributing factors to the classic greatness of games like Ninja Gaiden was the boss fight. During the first encounter, the games always made me believe that I’d never beat the boss. I’d persevere through my pessimism with a nagging uncertainty of my abilities.

How do I look things up with no internet? Should I ask mom to bring this game back to the store? Do I have to wait for my brother to beat it? All of these thoughts would be wiped clean at the adrenaline soaked moment when the boss would fall as my avatar stood there, one hit away from repeating the last half hour of gameplay.

Ninja Senki DX strives to recreate these moments with all the modern amenities. The consequences of death are enough to give it some weight and the game’s ability to make you better at it is masterful.

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Visuals:
Jagged pixelated edges, large characters that seem out of ratio, and impossible platforms are here in spades. Each section has its own themed look and the gameplay adapts to the surroundings.

In the tree/forestry levels for example, the platforming is more intensive because our ninja is hopping from branch to branch while avoiding high-climbing enemies and self-moving saws. Even the classic linearity model is adjusted as there are places to explore if the player chooses to continue climbing rather than constantly moving more to the right.

… a fun throwback and solid overall …
Your HUD is always displayed on the right and left sides of the screen to avoid a widescreen display and remain true to the square screen we would have used for a game in the target generation. Many games of this type employ a fancy but useless border to achieve this effect while Ninja Senki DX uses it to display pertinent information.

The number of total enemies in the level as well as how many you’ve slain is indicated alongside the coins you’ve collected versus that total. These cues give a sense of how complete the level is, and there is some replay value in striving to achieve a completionist run.

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Audio:
The audio is no different from the rest of the game’s features in terms of sticking with the vision of the retro feel. Short looping melodies in the chiptune style support the action on display.

Boss fights feel ominous and brooding while easier, happier levels come complete with a matching soundtrack. The earworm factor is strong in this game and I’ve caught myself subconsciously humming these tunes while trying to look busy at work. In terms of utilizing modern amenities, not much is missed if you mute the music and enjoy your own soundtrack.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
The Indie Movement has resulted in some fantastic games that Triple-A publishers would have never taken a chance on. The barriers to entry in video game development have come crashing down since you no longer need one hundred million dollars and a team of two hundred talented programmers, artists, and businessmen to make a successful game.

The byproduct of this industry evolution is that there are almost too many releases to keep track of and an oversaturation of downloadable titles trying to achieve that “retro” look and feel. The diamonds in the rough will sometimes surface to stardom in the form of games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge.

While Ninja Senki DX is an awesome game with refined gameplay and virtually no fat or waste in any of its operation, I don’t think it will find a place among the masterclass titles mentioned above. It’s a fun throwback and solid overall, but it hasn’t gained comparable traction since its February release.

It lacks the community backing necessary to justify a physical release or an arrival on more platforms. I recommend a download and a playthrough for fans of the source material but don’t expect the pure magic of some of the recent 8-bit era-esque, modern classics.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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