(Sega for PS2)
by Eric Chon
Nightshade is a spiritual sequel to Shinobi (for PS2). It uses the same engine and features a side character, the sexy Hibana (she’s a girl ninja cuz she wears pink and white) with minor tweaks to make it a bit more playable. There’s some story about recovering a sword to save the world – told throughout with poorly-acted cut scenes (typical Sega fare, I must say) – but who cares, really? What we want is hot ninja-on-ninja action!
And we get that in spades. Also giant demon insects. But it works and is fun… but it never really feels finished. The levels are sparse and the action repetitive. You’ll get that “didn’t we just do this?” feeling often. Throw in looping techno and it can certainly sap away enthusiasm through extended play.
Ninjas are awesome and they can enhance almost any gaming experience. Throw down with some ninjas and the only thing to make things better conceptually is if they’re all pirates too. And this is exactly what could’ve made Nightshade a more compelling game. Nightshade has assloads of gameplay potential, and an engine that, while a little homely, can deliver fast and furious action. What it seriously lacks is any sense of creativity. They have such an awesome premise – ninjas fighting robots, demon insects, and using magic – and they’re throwing it away, trying to make something serious (and failing).
But what Nightshade does well, it does with aplomb. Action is fast and loose, giving you plenty of chances to really stylize your slaughter cinematically. For example, if you can dispatch a room of enemies within a certain time limit, they all die at once – blood spraying in Kill Bill proportions – and that’s just freakin’ cool. Visual effects with Hibana’s movement (ghosting images, dashing blurs, her cool-ass scarf) are also very pretty and well thought-out.
If the amount of care given to Hibana’s character design (and the demonic end-bosses as well) were applied to the rest of the game, Nightshade could literally blow you away (lack of pirates notwithstanding). In its current state, it becomes a fun renter or a good budget game for the hardcore. Personally, I’ll be anxiously awaiting a chance to grab onto Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden.