Makes me die a little every time I hear more about this.
In other nostalgia tinged news: Currently playing Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. This was released on games for gold so easily worth the price of admission (i.e. 0). Not so brief review:
Ninja Gaiden 3 (NG3) was the first (numbered) NG launched without series creator Itagaki at the helm (NG2 Sigma was technically the first, and was a sign of the times to come - blood replaced by wisps of purple smoke, shoehorned bosses, and technical issues plagued that release). NG3 was a dog turd that had been eaten by a turtle, vomited back up, and placed into the shambling corpse of an excellent game series. The amount of pandering done to try and cater to a western market made this one of most horrifying spectacles of video gaming I have ever played. Ryu becomes cocky generic Ninja #1, he has some sort of weird, M15 like group of sidekicks, there were an assload of QTE's because that was fashionable at the time, there's some shit where a little girl needs Ryu's help because feelings. At any moment, I expected vanilla ice to jump out and Ryu to join in to a synchronized, MC Hammer dance routine while singing "Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!" The sword on bone technique was. . . haphazard, useless, and pointless. The games narrative was idiotic, it was a technical mess, de-limbing was gone and. . . no need to go on. It was awful.
NG3:Razor's Edge somehow managed to reach deep into the corpse of the NG3 and deliver just enough juice to jump start things back into the semblance of an actual, living thing, much like Neo did to Trinity in the Matrix part whatever. Like that moment of cinematic forgetableness, it makes no sense whatsoever that it worked, but somehow it did, and after a while you stop to question how. Back are the de-limbed enemies and all the mechanics that accompany them, UT's are now available without bloody rage, the SOB mechanic now works as a risk/reward chain that also has the bonus of increasing health. Gone are the enemies begging for their lives, the kunai climb taking 15 minutes. Basically, it's like someone went through every combat complaint and systematically tweaked or wholesale replaced mechanics to make this a Ninja Gaiden game that actually ... plays like a Ninja Gaiden game?
In the end sum, the framing of the game, and all the negatives associated with that portion are still there. I have 0 idea wtf the plot is, because I have made it as far as 10 seconds into any bit and then skipped (and one has to wonder if this ability was added after the fact to RE because someone knew how awful the plot is). Ryu sometimes makes snarky comments sound like they were dialogue leftover from a foreign remake of the american remake of an imitation of the Expendable. Areas are somewhat generic and lifeless, and there is none of Itagaki's design sensibilities at play (some of which are just rehashes of earlier NG games). However, the combat itself is thoroughly enjoyable and accomplishes the herculean task of lifting this game from one of the greatest missteps in franchise history to something that is, in general, a fun game to play. Minor quibbles with combat remain, with input lag in certain scenarios, and a feel that is a little less "crisp" than OG ninja gaiden games. However, some genuinely interesting new mechanics are introduced: the SOB chaining, management of Ki meter, which can be spent on various things such as healing between battles, teleporting, focused arrow shots at the expense of the buildup towards Ninpo release, revised movesets for some weapons, the dash slide that can stagger opponents. In addition, there are a lot of QOL improvement across the board, such as slightly easier weapon and ninpo switching, and an upgrade tree for skills weapons (some may argue only having this available at shops is more traditional Ninja Gaiden design, but I'd argue this isn't actually a Ninja Gaiden game so there).
This is a game that I'm glad to boot up after a long day of work, after mom and baby have gone to bed, and I have 30 minutes to kill. In a world where I no longer have hours upon hours to throw at a Death Stranding/GTA/etc., it's a comfort to have something that is immediate and visceral, reasonably challenging but not punitive, and that cost absolutely nothing. It is by no means actually a Ninja Gaiden game (I reserve that for OG NG's, and any Itagaki release), but it's a pretty great imitation of one. And as, perhaps, the most important marker of any game: I genuinely am having fun with it.