PS2 REVIEW: RED NINJA: END OF HONOR

Another ninja game? Why don't they just put these ninjas in some wild, wacky race cars and kill two genres with one bomb?

Red Ninja: End of Honor is a hokey take on the ninja warrior action genre in the tradition of the Tenchu series with overtones of Dynasty Warriors - although not nearly as good as either. It takes a more personal approach to combat through stealth, platforming action sequences and weapon utilization. Ultimately the game fails at almost every attempt including faulty gameplay mechanics, poor camera angles and a really boring story. If it were possible for a game to have only one dimension, Red Ninja would be nominated for the award.

In an effort to be unique, the hero of the story is a hot-looking babe that looks like she's wearing nothing but a crimson scarf. Her name is Kurenai and she's trained in the way of the ninja ever since her father was killed by a rival group of ninjas because of his work on a secret weapon. Cutscenes reveal Kurenai's revenge-fuelled quest as we are introduced to new characters and situations which do little more than set up the next series of encounters.

Kureneai's weapon of choice is the tetsugen, a razor sharp wire that is used to snare victims much like a lasso. It's the perfect stealth weapon, almost too perfect since it can be used successfully for most of the game. Once you snare your victim you pull on it and you might be lucky enough to sever a head. The AI is completely out of touch with their surroundings and don't even seem to be mindful of their job descriptions. You can lure them to their death by displaying your feminine wiles, titillating them with lurid gestures. It may be a unique gameplay technique but it's unrealistic. Why wouldn't you just make a noise or throw an item in a specific direction? But if we're going with the seduction theme then why can't we at least see some +!+$?

Other tools of the trade include a blowgun, throwing knives and a dagger for hand-to-hand combat. The throwing knives are not very accurate but as long as you've got the tetsugen you don't really need the other weapons although it breaks up the gameplay to use something different every now and again. One-hit kills can be pulled off with alarming frequency once you get the timing down. Just sneak up behind the unsuspecting guard and push the button. Only the bosses put any real effort into the combat. During these encounters you'll be able to put your list of moves to better use, that is if you can work with the terrible camera angles.

Kurenai is able to jump, swing on poles, climb ledges and run up walls in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fashion although many of the special moves such as the wall runs are just triggered animation sequences that we have little to no control over. It's not like controlling Tony Hawk up a ramp. There is no way to tell how long you can stay up and how far you'll go. It's all trial and error and when mixed with a camera that constantly defaults to a third-person, behind-the-back perspective you've got total chaos.

Kurenai is not a bad looking girl by any stretch but she sure lacks a personality. It's not as though she's too tough for small talk - I could live with that - it's just that the script does nothing to highlight her emotions and the flat voiceacting doesn't add any dimension. Some supposed-actress is just reading the words on a page and not offering any interpretation of the character. What else is new with these Japanese games?

Architecture sure looks period specific to me. The environments are crisp and colorful, even at night. The blood flows and there are enough gruesome scenes to satisfy even the most rabid, potential psychos out there.

There's a lot of competition out there for ninja and samurai games. Although Red Ninja really tries to be different, it fails miserably. It hints at some Splinter Cell elements and if it were able to realize that direction then it would stand out from the pack. As it is I don't recommend even renting this game.

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System: PS2
Dev: Tranj
Pub: VU Games
Released: March 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.0
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
2.0
MUSIC/FX
2.0
VALUE
.5