Nighshade

Review

posted 2/20/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
I love playing games with female protagonists in the lead because it always opens up the possibility that my girlfriend will become interested and will want to play. It makes it even better when said female protagonist gets to kick tons and tons of ass because it gives me something entertaining to do. This makes for a pretty interesting formula but I’ll admit that it’s a difficult one to execute properly. Aside from the Tomb Raider series I can’t think of one highly marketable female lead in the past five years. Today SEGA throws its hat into this forum with the introduction of Nightshade, essentially the female counterpart to Shinobi.

Anyone who has played the 2002 update of Shinobi should immediately feel at home here. Most of the gameplay elements, including that awesome teleportation ability, have been transferred here and the end result makes for a pretty similar gaming experience. Where Nightshade really differs is in its ability to be more forgiving to gamers and newcomers to the action platforming genre. It’s much easier for gamers to jump in to and is thus more accessible to a wider array of gamers. Although the game is completely void of any Shinobi references (except for the fact that its lead, Hotsuma is an unlockable character) it still shares much in common with its predecessor. This means that players who were turned off by the earlier Shinobi entry will most likely be turned off by this title as well.

Everything that exemplified Shinobi is still here; twitch-based combat, annoying jumping puzzles, impossible bosses and an unforgiving level design. You essentially have to battle through each of the levels on the shoulders of one life. This wouldn’t be so frustrating if the levels were of normal difficulty but the stages here are just an absolutely pain in the rear to deal with. Each level is essentially a death trap filled with precarious ledges and instant death situations for the gamer to stumble into. As if getting through the stages wasn’t bad enough you’ll generally have to deal with some of the hardest bosses in the history of video games. It really depends on how you like to play you’re video games. If you’re the type who likes a real challenge (and I’m stressing the word challenge here) then this could be right in your ballpark. Make sure you know what you’re getting into though because this game could drive a man to do some pretty insane things. After some sessions I even had some mysterious cravings for Arby’s, ugh I shudder at the thought.

Where the game really differs from Shinobi is in its combat system. Although it technically operates the same way heavy emphasis has been placed on the TATE system. This system encourages you to link together kills as a gauge at the top of the screen empties. Doing so will treat you so a small cinematic detailing your destructive nature. It’s not just all for show though as the TATE actually serves a practical gameplay purpose. On some levels you’ll need to utilize it to essentially build yourself a pathway to your next destination. As you kill one enemy you’ll be able to teleport to the next one until you’ve left their destruction in your wake. This makes for an amazing aerial experience that will most likely leave you breathless the first time that you experience it.

But even then there are a few problems with it. I understand that it operates on the premise of skill and quick reflexes but it seems to be based more on luck than any sort of accrued ability. Most of the time when I tried to utilize deliberate button presses I’d find myself falling off of the roofs of skyscrapers en route to my untimely demise. The very opposite was true when I got frustrated and just decided to mash a bunch of buttons at will. Button mashing proved to be the key to success every time and pretty soon thereafter I abandoned the thought of precise and calculating button presses every time.
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