Alternate Title: Kurenai (Japan)
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Review Date: 6/9/07
Being a ninja is hard work, and one thing I've noticed about all of the ninja games on the market is that they're all ridiculously difficult to play. "Red Ninja" is no exception and is basically a sexed up version of "Tenchu: Stealth Assassin" featuring a young kunoichi named Kurenai. Left for dead after the massacre of her family, she learns the deadly arts of ninjitsu and longs for revenge. Armed with a razor wire and her feminine charms, she slices and seduces her way through the Japanese countryside. Sounds like something right up my alley, but unfortunately the execution and presentation are lacking.
First of all, the tutorial is a complete mess and needlessly difficult. This does not set a good tone for the rest of the game. The controls are awkward and overly sensitive, making precision jumping nearly impossible. While the combat system allows you to target specific body parts and perform numerous stealth kills, in practice the only reliable attack you have is the default one, which gets boring after about fifteen minutes. Like many games, the biggest problem is the camera, and in a stealth game a cooperative camera is crucial to your survival. First of all, the chase camera is overly jerky and induces nausea after about twenty minutes. Secondly, the camera controls are inverted on the horizontal axis, so looking around is an unintuitive and overly complicated task. The game offers an option for inverting the Y-axis, but not the X-axis for some reason. When you get into cramped spaces, the camera becomes completely useless, most often looking straight down on the top of your head. Often times you'll be sneaking around and get attacked by enemies that you're unable to see because the camera won't point in their direction. Inventory management is cumbersome, and you can't actually use an item (like a health potion) unless you assign it to a button and then access it during play. It's a lot of unnecessary work.
Graphically, "Red Ninja" is solidly mediocre. The game tries to make up for this by adding lots of blood and sexual innuendo. Torso splitting is the preferred manner of execution, which is naturally quite messy. Unfortunately, one of the things you're taught to do early on is to hide the bodies of your slain enemies, but this only works if they're in one piece. A unique feature of the game is the ability to seduce guards. Using your feminine wiles and your super short kimono, you can trick your enemies into eagerly dropping their spears and rushing into your waiting arms, only to be met with instant death. Hey, this trick works in the movies all the time, so why not in video games? Kurenai's other tricks aren't so simple, however, and wall jumping, wall running, and rope swinging are far more frustrating than they should be. Basically, with the exception of the seduction angle, everything that "Red Ninja" does is done better in other games. Overall, "Red Ninja" is minimally enjoyable for about thirty minutes before the frustrating controls and unforgiving difficulty force you to give up in a combination of apathy and disdain.