Genre : Action
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Release Date: Q4 2004
Thanks to my alarming ninja fetish, I’ve been looking forward to Red Ninja: End of Honor for a while now. Any game starring a female ninja will automatically grab my attention, for some strange and undoubtedly psychologically significant reason, and Red Ninja raises the ante in many significant ways.
For one thing, it is extraordinarily and unapologetically violent. The story, written by the Japanese writer/director Shinsuke Sato (Princess Blade; if you ever have the chance, check it out), is another bleak tale of a cycle of revenge, with ruined people doing horrible things in the name of a justified cause. Short version: when you take people’s legs off in Red Ninja, you feel as though they deserve it.
Kurenai, the female ninja in question (note how I am avoiding the use of the word “kunoichi,” because I’m never sure if I’m spelling it correctly) and the star of the game, was left for dead as a child, after an attack by the deadly Black Lizard Clan killed her father. She was found by ninjas and raised as one of them. Now, as an adult and an assassin, she seeks to avenge her father’s death, using the same weapon that nearly killed her: a length of wire.
It doesn’t sound like much, but Kurenai’s Tetsugen wire has a lot of versatility to it. Depending on what’s attached to its end, it can be transformed into many different weapons, from noose to garote to a spinning yo-yo of doom.
You can ensnare distant enemies with the wire, then run around them to clothesline other soldiers in the area before you yank on it, cutting a guy in half or removing his feet with a bright and enormous spray of blood.
At Vivendi’s press event, the producers took a great and perhaps frightening amount of pleasure in showing how an unsuspecting spearman could be strangled from behind, from a distance. Then, as Kurenai, they leapt over a handy ceiling beam and hung the guard up by the neck, who struggled briefly before falling silent. Then, with one final yank, the guard’s head came completely off, which, unfortunately, alerted several of the other guards in the area. Once they were dealt with, Kurenai amused herself by playing a short-lived and macabre game of soccer with the severed head, kicking it about the room.
In addition to the wire, and its various attachments, you’ll have access to a large bag of tricks, including smoke bombs, blowguns, throwing knives, and explosives. The blowgun plays the part of a “sniper rifle” remarkably well, while your kunai serve to distract and annoy distant targets.
Kurenai can disguise herself to avoid enemies, as well as use the powers of ninjitsu to control guardsmen. Her seemingly-gratuitous lack of pants also plays something of a crucial role (aside from flashing her underwear every time she jumps); by flashing her legs and her best come-hither glance, Kurenai can lure unwary guards into dark corners, where they will meet their perhaps-unnecessarily-violent deaths.
Red Ninja, as of right now, plays smoothly and gives you a lot of options. It can be a blood-drenched action game, or a stealth-based, avoid-all-contact ninja game a la Tenchu. Kurenai’s capabilities and arsenal lend themselves equally well to both.
I won’t lie, though; the graphics could probably use another coat of polish before the game’s ready for market, and Kurenai’s underwear should perhaps not play as large a part as it does. (It’s not really a complaint, but I do tend to take my ninja more seriously when they’re wearing pants. Maybe it’s me.)
Those mild concerns aside, Red Ninja looks like a good, versatile take on the suddenly-booming ninja action genre. It’ll be coming out towards the end of this year.
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