Genre: Action & Adventure
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Local (2 players)
Price: 240 MS Points ($3)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes
Parasitus: Ninja Zero starts off with a literal bang. Set in the far-off future of 20XX, the crash of lightning and a series of explosions in an industrial looking city greet you as things get rolling. The soldiers sent in to respond to the situation are quickly dispatched and you only have a vague sense of some giant alien, possibly aliens, that are the source of this mayhem. Follow all that up with a couple quick shots of meteors crash landing in different time periods, the game’s protagonist slowly fading over some wavy lines, and you’re pretty well set with the premise of what’s going on and what you’re to do.
When it comes time to start taking on the alien menace, you’ll immediately be struck by a visual style that appears very reminiscent of 16-bit-era Castlevania. Rustic villages, towering parapets, a cloudy evening sky – all of this brings to mind a time when the Belmonts were less focused on exploring a vast castle and acquiring new skills, and more keen on killing vampires and other mythical beasts. Appearances are deceiving, however, as the game itself plays far more like the original Ninja Gaiden. The main protagonist starts off with some simple abilities to attack, jump, and block attacks, but gains more as the levels progress. Soon he is able to jump off walls, slice through multiple foes at once, and dodge, which particularly comes in handy as the deceiving appearance of the game doesn’t stop at visuals versus gameplay.
Parasitus delves even further into Ninja Gaiden territory with a difficulty that can, at times, make the single-player experience approach “break the controller” hard. Granted you have a life bar and a couple of lives to use up during the course of a level, but some of the fixed “flood of enemies” points and boss encounters can make short work of those. If you do find yourself using a continue to keep on fighting, you’ll be taken back to the beginning of the level, or, in some cases, the level’s only checkpoint. While there are only five levels total, by the time you reach the third you’ll start to contemplate whether or not you should play through the remaining two levels in just one sitting. The choice is more-or-less made for you as level progress isn’t saved so if you decide to come back later, you’ll have to start all over again.
Playing Parasitus cooperatively helps to alleviate some of the frustrations that come from having to memorize boss patterns after a single encounter, and occasionally unresponsive controls, although that frustration doesn’t exactly go away altogether. Co-op play is limited to local play only via a horizontal splitscreen, though players aren’t forced to stick close to one another. Should one player have a little difficulty traversing one of the few areas that require some more precise jumping, the other player can move ahead and the second player will automatically be teleported to him or her at the next wave of enemies or checkpoint. Each player has his or her own life bar and lives to lose, and once both players are gone you can choose to use a continue to try again. Both players also have access to the same moves and skills, and some of these certainly lend themselves towards co-op as they can leave a player vulnerable to an enemy’s attack unless another player is providing a good distraction.
Overall, Parasitus: Ninja Zero has a lot of elements taken from the “golden” era of gaming for which many gamers go in search: an unforgiving difficulty, graphics that look as if they’re lifted straight from the Genesis or SNES, and fun, yet simple, control scheme. As a single-player experience, you may find yourself doubting any kind of replay once – and if – you finish, but as a co-op game, it’s more easily enjoyed and definitely recommended for those gamers seeking a challenge. If that sees like a bit of a divided opinion, my only response is that that’s how the game tends to leave you feeling. There are moments where playing through the levels and hacking/slashing the enemies is incredibly fun and satisfying, and there are equally moments where you’re grateful there are only five levels to play through. Working with someone to beat a game that feels like it’s intentionally cheating you out of a victory is what made some of the earliest, and even later, co-op games truly great. To that point, Parasitus: Ninja Zero serves as quite the exemplar, and it is also what makes it worth playing.
The Co-Op Experience: Partner with a friend locally as you hack, slash, jump, and curse your way through five levels of mutants, zombie dogs, demons, and other generally bad things out to destroy the planet
Parasitus: Ninja Zero is Geared Towards: Gamers looking for a challenge that they haven't experienced since that bird on level 3-2 in Ninja Gaiden...
I hate that bird...