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Alternate Title(s): Red Ninja: Kekka no Mai (Red Ninja: Blood River Dance) (Japan)
Developer: Tranji Studios
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games (Japan and N.A.), Sierra (Europe)
Platforms: Playstation 2, Xbox
Release Dates: March 3rd, 2005 (Japan; PS2 only), March 29th 2005 (N.A.; Xbox), March 30th, 2005 (N.A., PS2), April 1st, 2005 (Europe; PS2 and Xbox)
Cover art for Red Ninja: End of Honor.
What Is This Game?
Red Ninja: End of Honor is a stealth-action ninja game set in 16th century Japan. Red Ninja’s gameplay is somewhat of a hybrid between stealth action gameplay, similar to the Tenchu series, and platforming action reminiscent of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and its successors. The game emphasizes stealth-killing and acrobatics, but the real stars are its beautiful heroine, Kurenai, and her unconventional wire-weapon, the Tetsugen. The story begins as Kurenai’s father, working under Lord Takeda, rival of Nobunaga Oda, gains an advantage for Takeda during the war-torn era through the creation and use of the chain gun; a weapon vastly superior to the swords and arrows of their enemies. However, a dispute about the shameful lack of honor of the powerful weapon leaves them torn over whether to use it and, in the midst of everything, the Black Lizard Clan attacks, stealing the weapon and its blueprints, and in the process, murdering Kurenai’s father, creator of the weapon. Kurenai is hung from a tree by the Tetsugen and left for dead. However, she survives, and is rescued and taken in by a ninja clan serving Takeda, where her new sensei, Chiyome, and fellow ninja, Akemi, become like mother and sister to her. From this point, the game follows Kurenai’s life as a ninja and her quest for vengeance against the Black Lizard Clan, as she carries out missions for Lord Takeda and his son, and adopts the Tetsugen as her weapon of choice, using it to brutally dispatch her enemies as an increasingly tragic and twisted story unfolds around her.
Red Ninja's heroine, Kurenai, presenting her signature weapon, the Tetsugen.
Red Ninja gained at least a bit of infamy prior to its release, mostly due to its two major selling points: its unique and brutally violent weapon, the Tetsugen, and its sexy-but-deadly heroine, Kurenai. Both had an instantly appealing and attention-grabbing quality about them, and while these selling points, admittedly, ran close to the old “selling sex and violence” routine, Kurenai herself and her weapon were also both unique and interesting enough that it put them a bit above the run-of-the-mill sex and violence approach. It was clear that some thought and creativity had gone into both Kurenai herself’s look and personality, and her interesting choice of weapon.
As a fan of stealth-action titles, I had been keeping an eye on Red Ninja since the first images and trailers started popping up in late 2003/early 2004. The game, admittedly, did not have the polished look about it, even in these early glimpses, of a high-profile title, but as a fan of Tenchu and similar stealth action titles, I was interested, both by its similarities to such titles, and its unique look and gameplay elements. I liked the style, I loved the potential for insanely over-the-top violence which its incredibly original weapon offered, and Kurenai herself was sexy, but also stood out as stylish, unique and cool. If nothing else, the game was at least worth keeping an eye on for these appealing and unique qualities, and for my personal love of the stealth-action genre.
Kurenai, with the Tetsugen's mechanisms exposed, and her ninja companion, Akemi (bottom). The unique weapon and likeable cast are two of Red Ninja's strongest points.
When the game released to mixed/negative reviews, I was a bit disheartened, but still just as intrigued; I found myself re-watching the launch trailer, and debating with myself if I should take a chance and pick Red Ninja up. Of course, being who I am, I eventually decided to go with my gut and pick the game up about a month after release.
I had no regrets; going in with knowledge of its flaws, I found myself highly enjoying Red Ninja. While the controls and camera, its main points of (justified) criticism, were twitchy and often frustrating, once I got the hang of them, I was able to move past them to what was a fun and engaging experience. With a unique blend of stealth action and platforming gameplay, a wonderfully brutal weapon at the center of it, a visually appealing, but also very likeable and strong, heroine, and a surprisingly intriguing and well-told story, Red Ninja is, in fact, an interesting and memorable game for those who can overcome its camera and control-related issues.
History, Release and Reception:
Red Ninja was first officially announced in September 2003 at the Tokyo Game Show. First impressions by most major websites and publications likened Red Ninja to the Tenchu series. Meanwhile, both the developers and publishers, as well as the press, made special note of the game’s unique razor-wire weapon, the Tetsugen, and the various gameplay aspects tied to it both in and outside combat, as well as Red Ninja’s heroine, Kurenai, whom the developers were clearly pushing as an iconic lead character, and an object of sex appeal to draw the eyes of curious gamers. In addition, the game’s story and writing prowess were a key point of focus, with special mention going to Tranji and Vivendi’s hiring of Japanese film writer/director Shinsuke Sato, to write Red Ninja’s script and lend a “cinematic” quality to the game.
Tranji itself was a new studio and first-time developer; a studio formed from Japanese developers “Opus” and “New Corporation” with Red Ninja being both the studio’s first (and what would prove to be, only) project, and primary reason for formation. Information is incredibly scarce on the studio, but it appeared they were formed with the help of Vivendi Universal, and the intention of creating Red Ninja.
Tranji and Vivendi’s decision to emphasize the uniquely violent appeal of the Tetsugen and Kurenai’s sex appeal seemed to pay off a bit, as they managed to draw a decent amount of positive press and attention for their instantly striking, unique and attention-grabbing appeal, and kept the game relatively within the spotlight, at least for a somewhat lower-profile release. Kurenai herself, debatably, became more popular than the game itself, and even today, with Red Ninja all but forgotten, she still manages to pop up and receive the odd mention from time-to-time; if nothing else, Kurenai herself enjoyed a decent amount of attention, popularity and respect for a character from an otherwise overlooked and unpopular game.
Kurenai's unique razor-wire weapon, the Tetsugen, was a key point of interest emphasized by the creators.
Around the time leading up to Red Ninja’s release, in fact, Tranji/Vivendi’s push for Kurenai’s popularity and iconic status was relatively strong; aside from a good amount of positive attention from gaming publications and websites, the character also saw a fair amount of attention elsewhere, putting her, and, as a result, Red Ninja, somewhat into the public eye. In Japan, a maid café called the “Café and Kitchen Cos-Cha” in Tokyo’s Akihabara district went full-on Red Ninja-themed leading up to the game’s release; with waitresses cosplaying Kurenai, and special Red Ninja-themed menus and decorations. Meanwhile, in North America, Playboy Magazine was planning the first of its now-annual “Women of Video Games” features for October of 2004, and Red Ninja’s Kurenai made a somewhat minor, but publicly-announced, appearance in the issue, alongside women from higher-profile releases like Bloodrayne and Leisure Suit Larry; albeit remaining mostly-clothed in the feature. Right around the time of the game’s release, as well, Vivendi began touring a Nissan 240SX with Red Ninja art on the hood, calling it the “Tetsugen S14” and sending it to major car shows and tuner events to promote the game.
Kurenai's sex appeal was also a main focus in previews and promotional art such as this. She even made a small appearance in Playboy's Women of Video Games feature.
Press was relatively positive on the game until its actual release; upon which it met with poor to mediocre reviews from almost all major websites and publications. Japan’s Famitsu magazine were some of the kinder critics of the game; with three out of four editors awarding it a 7 out of 10, and the other giving it a 6 out of 10. Elsewhere, the game didn’t fare as well critically; IGN gave it a 4.0 out of 10, calling it a “comedy of errors, without the humor,” and even the generally forgiving Play Magazine was dissatisfied, citing the control and camera issues as a major problem.
While the game earned a few fans along the way from more forgiving gamers and fans of stealth-action, it sold poorly, and quickly fell off the map after the negative reception. Red Ninja would prove to be Tranji Studio’s last game, as well, and the developer was never heard from again following the title’s poor reception. Red Ninja was quickly forgotten, but as mentioned, its main character, Kurenai, has managed to live on and maintain a sort of cult popularity of her own, mentioned from time to time, even by those unfamiliar with the game in which she starred; amongst other examples, UGO Networks listed Kurenai in 2011 as one of their “25 Hot Ninja Girls,” and just recently, in 2012, men’s magazine FHM listed her among their nine “Sexiest Ninja Babes in Games.” While Red Ninja itself may have been quickly forgotten, it could be said that, in a way, Tranji and Vivendi succeeded, on some level, with their marketing of the game; while the game itself has been, by and large, forgotten, their heavily-marketed heroine, and her iconic image and sex appeal which played such a large role as a selling point, still live on to some extent, despite the game’s obscurity.
There are a lot of things that made me love Red Ninja, but unfortunately, for many, its most glaring flaws detracted from the game too heavily. Red Ninja’s undoing was largely due to it twitchy camera and controls, and the subsequent gameplay issues these problems give rise to. While I was able to tame the camera and manage the controls after some getting used to, there is no denying that they are heavily flawed, and the game’s biggest detractors.
Red Ninja’s camera is possibly its greatest issue, even above the controls; since some of the problems with the controls can be attributed to the camera misbehaving and generally being hard to manage. The game takes place from a standard third-person perspective, and has a fully rotatable 3D camera. This is all well and good, of course, but controlling the camera and getting it to stay in the right place can be a real problem for a number of reasons.
For one, the camera controls are pretty twitchy in general; Red Ninja implements a standard dual-analog stick control scheme for movement and camera control, where the left stick moves the character, and the right stick is used to rotate the camera. However, fine-tuning or simply adjusting the camera with the right stick can be pretty tough at times because of its high sensitivity; one needs to be easy on the stick, because the camera whips around fast. In a stealth game like this, good control of the camera can be crucial for assessing a situation and finding out the best route to get around or assassinate enemies; and it can be an even bigger problem in platforming sequences, of which Red Ninja has many, where a wrong step or misjudged jump can lead to frustration or death. The sensitive right-stick camera controls can be dealt with after a bit of getting used to, but there are problems beyond that with Red Ninja’s camera that make matters worse.
A big problem with the camera is how easily it gets hung up on, stuck behind, or squished in front of walls, structures and objects in some spots. It becomes especially problematic when in confined areas, but even in bigger, more open areas, with a few objects or buildings scattered about, Red Ninja’s camera still finds itself challenged by objects in the vicinity.
Beyond that, the camera just tends to act up and do strange things at times. Sometimes when moving around or jumping, in certain areas, it stubbornly tries to stick to a strange position or simply freaks out and gets twitchy while trying to stay on Kurenai. Despite the player having full 3D control of the camera, when it gets into a phase like this, it can be very troublesome to deal with and will sometimes all but refuse to behave. Likewise, it enters preset angles at certain times and places and when it does, they often are not helpful, and the transition to them can be unexpected and disorienting. To top it off, when rotating the camera while moving, the camera simply does not want to stay in front of Kurenai if you move it there, and will try to reposition itself behind her if you try to keep it in front of her while moving.
Thankfully, Red Ninja’s camera can be reset to its default position, directly behind Kurenai, with the push of a shoulder button, so if it gets too crazy, the push of a shoulder button can usually remedy the situation, at least until you start moving again. There is also a first person view which can be used for looking around and aiming, so at times when the camera is being especially stubborn, there are still options to correct or at least remedy the problems. Still, they are not an excuse for or solution to the camera problems overall.
Red Ninja's stubborn camera can sometimes make things difficult, especially in acrobatic or platforming sequences.
Moving away from the camera, the controls are Red Ninja’s other big issue. The layout of them on the controller is perfectly fine, but, similarly to, and partially as a result of, the camera, the controls can be very sensitive, twitchy and imprecise.
In particular, the left stick used to move Kurenai is too sensitive and twitchy; similarly to the camera, but, to be clear, not just as a result of it. Kurenai’s movement speed has a large range to it from fast to slow, and without being steady and sensitive on the stick, you’ll seed Kurenai running at a quickly increasing speed. This range of speed is due to, and necessary for, performing the games acrobatic moves, such as wall running, but can simultaneously being problematic in both stealth and platforming sequences when subtlety and precision are required.
Kurenai is an especially speedy character, although sometimes the twitchy controls make her a bit tough to control.
Speaking of wall running, the other major issue with the controls is in performing the game’s special, acrobatic moves and, as a result, navigating some of the more complex platforming sequences. Kurenai can perform a number of special or acrobatic moves, including swinging or hanging from the Tetsugen’s wire, running across water, and wall running. Of greatest note out of these is the wall-running, which is tough and inaccurate to control. Unlike in a game like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, which allows specific start and end points for wall running and handles it as an extension of the character’s actual running, Red Ninja’s wall running is fully-controllable by the player, requires the player to speed up and then hit a runnable wall at high speeds; at this point, you continue controlling Kurenai, except sideways, while controls remain the same, and controlling her during a wall run quickly is instantly jarring and quickly becomes confusing. Likewise, controlling platforming sequences in general can, as previously mentioned, be tough and imprecise due to the stubborn camera and twitchy controls. When the acrobatics and platforming are working well, they are actually very exciting and rewarding, but when they are compromised by the camera and controls, they can be extremely frustrating, as well.
Acrobatic maneuvers like wall-running can be very fun when you get them working, but the controls can make some difficult to pull off.
Once, or if, one takes the time to get the hang of Red Ninja’s camera and controls and overcome or look past their issues, it’s easy to find a game that is otherwise very fun, engaging and memorable, with some great ideas and elements. Beyond controls and camera, there are a few minor issues, but they are forgivable and not detrimental to the overall experience in most cases.
Among them are the relatively infrequent checkpoints during stages; Red Ninja’s stages are massive and very long, and are more akin to “sections” or chapters of the overall game than single stages. That said, checkpoints are rare during them, and this may be frustrating to some. I, personally, didn’t mind this on most occasions; I’m not one to complain about a lack of frequent checkpoints, usually, because I often feel that too many detract from the challenge in many games. However, the scarcity of checkpoints did prove frustrating to me on occasion due to some irritating deaths during platforming sequences because of the aforementioned camera and control issues.
Another point of criticism could be the enemy A.I., which is admittedly not the best; even on the hardest difficulty, normal enemies aren’t especially bright. However, they aren’t so foolish that it impacts the experience to much of any degree, and their oblivious nature at times and lack of combat prowess could be attributed to the Tenchu-like stealth gameplay, which tends to require this from the enemy A.I. for the game to work as a whole. Overall, I didn’t find the enemy A.I. to be much of a problem, and it generally functioned as does the A.I. in most similar stealth titles; if occasionally a bit less intelligent.
One more very minor complaint some may have is the lack of a stage select and some missable upgrades and items found in boxes in each stage. This is hardly a big deal, but could be potentially frustrating, especially since a number of these upgrades are important, helpful and fun.
Besides that, the only other noteworthy issue is the lack of replayability. While the main game is of decent length (around 10-12 hours on my first playthrough), there are literally no extras to speak of. Besides playing through on a harder difficulty or trying to better your performance, there are no extras, unlockables or incentives to play through the game a second time. Not an issue with the game itself, per say, but still an issue, as extras and unlockables in a title like this are an important key to the game’s longevity.
Why it’s Worth a Second Look:
Outside of its frustrating camera and control problems, Red Ninja has a lot of things I loved about it, which made it a game that still stands out as memorable and unique to me, despite its problems, and which make it worth checking out and investing the time and effort into playing through.
First and foremost, for those who acclimate themselves to the camera and control issues, the game is actually a lot of fun to play. There are plenty of interesting and unique gameplay elements, and there is a lot of variety and different facets to the gameplay.
Red Ninja features many familiar stealth gameplay mechanics, but also has a surprising amount of variety in its gameplay, and its own unique feel.
Red Ninja is primarily a stealth action title in the vein of the Tenchu series, and fans of these titles will feel right at home creeping around the game’s massive stages, stalking guards who patrol the area in different patterns, and finding the best, and most brutal and creative, ways to execute them without being spotted. It’s just as satisfying as ever, and features a number of interesting and fun mechanics that add to it. One particularly fun and noteworthy stealth mechanic is Kurenai’s ability to “seduce” guards; essentially an ability that lets you peek out from around a corner and draw an enemy over, as Kurenai motions seductively for him and asks for help in a suggestive voice. It’s silly, and is somewhat of a crapshoot, since sometimes enemies don’t fall for it, but it’s one of a number of the ways that Red Ninja mixes up its stealth gameplay. It’s most noteworthy and enjoyable features, however, revolve around the insane violence and acrobatics, largely made possible by Kurenai’s weapon, the Tetsugen.
Kurenai can lure enemies to her via seduction........
....and quickly dispose of them when they get close.
As mentioned before, the Tetsugen is a razor-wire weapon functioning on a mechanism hidden inside Kurenai’s sleeve. The wire has a good amount of length to it and functions based on a “tension meter” which, well, shows the tension on the wire; generally, the higher the tension, the more damaging and brutal the results when you clothesline an enemy with it, or pull on it when it’s wrapped around or attached to them. The Tetsugen can be wrapped around and slung over different objects and structures, or latched on and wrapped around different body parts of your enemies, which makes for plenty of variety both on combat and in stealth. The Tetsugen is capable of all manner of violence; for example, the player can throw it an enemy from above them, then drop off the opposite side with the Tetsugen attached to their foe, and watch as it drags the enemy up, with the tension increasing, leaving them hanging in the air to die. Or, you could, perhaps, sneak up on an enemy, throw the Tetsugen towards their feet, binding them, then jump back and pull the wire, tearing the enemy’s feet off, and leaving him to drag himself along the ground.
The Tetsugen can be used as a creative and deadly tool of stealth.
The weapon also serves to make combat enjoyable and somewhat strategic if you are spotted; groups of enemies can be dealt with at the same time with the Tetsugen, and it makes for some spectacularly over-the-top showcases of violence when you pull things off right in combat. The Tetsugen can be wrapped around any and all structures and attached to an enemy while being used to attack others with the tensed wire. For example, if there were a group of three enemies, you might throw the end of the Tetsugen at one enemy, binding his feet with it, then run around a tree to create tension, and quickly speed past the other two enemies with the tensed wire, cleaving one in half, then jumping, wire still in tow, and decapitating the next, before finally releasing the wire, ripping the original enemy’s feet off. While using the weapon and managing its tension meter definitely takes some getting used to, the ludicrously over-the-top violence and range of possibilities make it worth getting the hang of, and an immensely satisfying and original weapon to use.
The Tetsugen can also make for incredibly chaotic and brutal combat.
The Tetsugen, likewise, has a number of functions and attachments which can be implemented both in and outside of combat for different effects. In the game’s acrobatic aspects and sequences, the Tetsugen works as a kind of sleeker and agile rope; seeing various creative uses similar to the trusty whip of Indiana Jones. Whether you’re swinging across chasms or hanging and lowering yourself down a pit or rising up one to sneak up behind and enemy, the Tetsugen sees plenty of creative usage.
In addition to standard items like throwing knives, bamboo darts and the like, the Tetsugen has a number of attachments and upgrades, as does Kurenai herself. The Tetsugen gains both a hook for latching onto things (for acrobatic use) and a billy-club-like attachment, allowing you to swing the wire around, pummeling enemies with the blunt end of the attachment. Similarly, Kurenai gains a number of interesting abilities throughout; including upgrades which allow her to run on water and jump higher and longer.
There are a few attachments for the Tetsugen, including a billy-club-like one which lets Kurenai pummel enemies surrounding her.
While Kurenai also has a small hand-held blade that can be used both for melee combat and stealth purposes, which is arguably easier to use and perfectly effective, the sheer chaos and creativity of the Tetsugen make it the absolute highlight of her arsenal, and worth using even in situations when it may not be necessary, just because of how fun and satisfying a weapon it is to wield.
On the subject, Red Ninja’s combat (again, once you overcome the twitchy camera and movement controls), is effective and enjoyable, and features more depth than the average stealth game. While this does, in a way, work against the game in that it somewhat discourages stealth, it is still fun and effective, and helps towards the multifaceted feel of the game. A simple lock-on system (usable both in combat and stealth), makes focusing on enemies and switching between them simple and effective, and blocking and attacking works well. Likewise, you’re even given the ability to slow down time for a few seconds when a meter fills up, allowing for more precision and finesse. The speed of Kurenai’s movement lends a fast-pace and feeling of excitement to the game overall, even in the slower stealth scenes, and it also livens up combat when spotted, as Kurenai quickly zips around her enemies, running and jumping past and through them.
Combat is fast-paced and enjoyable, thanks to Kurenai's acrobatic move set and quickness.
This sense of speed is, in fact, something I found very unique and exciting about Red Ninja, and something which sets its gameplay apart in some ways from other stealth titles, giving the game a unique and exciting feel of its own. While Red Ninja does emphasize many of the stealth gameplay aspects familiar to the genre; creeping along walls, hiding bodies, and sneaking around above enemies while observing patrol routes and layouts for the right time to strike; what is unique is the faster pace of the game created by Kurenai’s speed. While simply running up at any enemy will usually result in getting spot, Kurenai is far quicker and more agile in all her actions than the average stealth game protagonist. She makes her way through environments quickly and with acrobatic finesse, and sneaking up on enemies has a faster and more visceral feel because of it. Even traditional stealth kills with Kurenai’s small blade have a quick and intense pace to them; add to that the ability to snag enemies from a distance on the fly with the Tetsugen and quickly dispatch them, and Red Ninja manages to keep up a uniquely fast pace for a stealth action title.
Kurenai's speed lends an exciting pace to the game.
Kurenai’s acrobatics likewise play a role in keeping up her speed, and moves like wall-running, wall-jumping, backflipping, rolling and even, eventually, running on water, keep things fast, exciting and appropriately over-the-top; even if some acrobatics and platforming can be tough to perform at times. While Prince of Persia-esque platforming and acrobatic sequences can be tough at times due to the dodgy controls and camera, they also add to the game’s variety and break things up, and, when things work well, swinging, wall-running and jumping around are very exciting and satisfying.
Red Ninja’s environments and stages, namely the sheer size and length of them, was also surprising and welcome. I was a bit disheartened when I first learned that Red Ninja was just 6 “stages” long; however, that number is quite deceptive. Stages are less like brief missions or levels, and more akin to chapters; some lasting almost a couple of hours. Likewise, I like Red Ninja’s environments; I enjoyed the visual style of them, as well as the variety of areas in a stage; one stage may lead you through multiple large, connected environments, and it lends a sense of scale to the game’s world.
Prince of Persia-like acrobatics play a key role in platforming sections.
I also found Red Ninja’s boss battles to be tough, creative and tense affairs, with far more interesting and cinematic appeal than the “beat the crap out of him until he’s dead” bosses found in the Tenchu series, and would liken them to the unique and creative boss battles found in the Metal Gear Solid series. While some have criticized the sometimes unclear objectives of them, I never personally found this to be much of an issue, and found that each boss fight was unique and interesting to figure out. In particular, without spoiling much, a climatic boss battle reminiscent of the Vulcan Raven fight from Metal Gear Solid, and a battle atop a mountain during a thunderstorm, requiring you to destroy a series of electric “generators,” are two exciting moments that still stand out amongst the many boss battles I have fought.
Outside of its gameplay, special note should be made of the tale Red Ninja tells; its story surprised me, both in its quality and some of its twists. I was not expecting a particularly in-depth or well-written tale out of Red Ninja, and so it is surprising, then, that its story and characters became one of my primary reasons for playing, and wanting to complete, the game. As mentioned earlier, Japanese film writer/director Shinsuke Sato was brought on board to write the story for Red Ninja; and it shows. Red Ninja’s focus on its characters and story was both unexpected and extremely welcome, and served as a driving force for my desire to see the game through to its end. The general premise of a vengeful young person traumatized by the death of a loved one is, of course, nothing particularly new, but as with any good story, it’s not as much the premise that matters, but what is done with it; and the story Red Ninja slowly reveals is surprisingly dark, interesting and well-told.
Red Ninja's story is surprisingly dramatic and well-told.
Conveyed mostly through in-game cutscenes (with a couple of prerendered ones at the beginning and end of the game), the writing, direction and flow of the cutscenes have a strongly cinematic feel to them, which goes a long way in adding weight to the story and characters, and creating a more immersive tale. The cutscenes, and story itself, felt reminiscent to me of classic Japanese cinema set in Feudal Japan, and the voice actors are fitting and do a good job. In addition, characters, especially in their faces and expressions, are surprisingly expressive. I found myself genuinely caring about what was going to happen, and while I won’t spoil it, there are a number of unexpected twists as well as a surprising amount of character drama and development, and it all builds to satisfying and emotional climax. I enjoyed the dark themes and moral ambiguities presented, especially after a few twists around the half way mark of the game, and thought the climax it built to was both emotionally powerful and morally thought-provoking, and the sequence after the final boss, and final scenes, are memorable moments which still stand out to me. The story and cutscenes handle themselves in an effectively somber and serious tone, and the result is a story with a surprising amount of weight, and characters that are genuinely likeable and easy to care about.
Cutscenes are well-written and directed, and have a strongly cinematic feel to them.
The cast is surprisingly varied and likeable and Kurenai herself is a well-developed character with a likeable personality, who revealed herself to be more than just the pretty face (among other features) used to drive the game’s marketing. Kurenai is a strong and deadly woman, while still managing to come across as a sympathetic character who, buried under her anger, sadness and lust for revenge, is a good person underneath it all. Seeing her struggle with her multi-faceted relationships to the rest of the cast feels genuine, and her character truly develops throughout the story. For all the physical/sexual aspects of her emphasized by the developers and publishers, beyond the revealing outfit lies a strong, likeable character.
Characters are interesting and likeable.
The voice acting is also well-done for most characters, and the music, while most of it doesn’t particularly stand out, suits the game well, sets the tone properly, and does have a few stand-out tracks. On the aural side of things, Red Ninja works well and sounds pretty good, even if it isn’t particularly outstanding.
Graphically, Red Ninja isn’t a technical marvel, but still looks nice despite its technical shortcomings, and does well with what it has. With good-looking character models for main characters, subtly expressive and emotional facial animations during cutscenes, an attractive color scheme, and a distinctive style to its world, characters and cutscenes, which lies somewhere between cartoon/anime and realism, the look and style and little details of Red Ninja make it a handsome game despite its technical shortcomings. The textures can be muddy and bland at times, the polygon count isn’t particularly high on environments and enemy soldiers, and some in door environments lack detail. However, the overall style, in addition to the nice main character models, expressive faces, lively color scheme, and smooth animations and framerate, make up for some of the technical low points of the game, graphically. Indeed, main characters and environments have some great artistic design to them; I especially like the painting-like colors and look about many environments. Overall, the game has a nice, distinct style to its environments and characters, Kurenai is a distinct, attractive and well-animated character, and the game on the whole looks good and stylish, even if it isn’t a technical marvel.
Character's faces in cutscenes are expressive and well-animated.
Red Ninja is a game with a few serious flaws which, sadly, do hurt the game as a whole to a certain extent. For some, they will make it frustrating, or even a chore to play. Wrestling with its stubborn camera and getting used to the overly-sensitive movement controls may prove too much for a good number of people, and do take an unfortunate toll on what is an otherwise enjoyable game. However, especially for fans of stealth action games, Red Ninja is still a title very much worth a look for its many positive qualities beyond the camera and control issues. The camera and control problems can be overcome with some practice and patience, and once you do overcome them, you will find a lot to love, and a game with a lot of personality. Red Ninja has a surprisingly engaging and well-told story, a likeable, (would-be) iconic main character, a wonderfully unique and incredibly brutal weapon, and a nice mixture of acrobatic platforming elements and stealth action. The gameplay has a fast, visceral feel unique to the stealth action genre, and Kurenai’s quick, acrobatic moves combine well with the ludicrously violent and creative Tetsugen, making it an absolute blast to battle and assassinate your enemies. Add to this a pleasant visual style, nice character designs, and engaging cutscenes, and you have a game with a lot of good things to offer behind its initially all-too-noticeable blemishes. Red Ninja may have its share of issues, but lying beyond them is a fun, interesting and memorable experience, well worth looking past its flaws to discover.
Red Ninja has some issues, but beyond them are a fun game, an interesting story, and a strong heroine.
Who Should Play It?
Any fan of stealth-action games, and gamers with a love for insane weaponry and over-the-top violence. Those with an interest in dark stories involving feudal Japan, ninja, or just revenge and betrayal. Or anybody who’s seen Kurenai’s image around, and is interested in learning who she actually is and what her game was actually like; both the character and the game she stars in have more to them than meets the eye.