There’s been a lot of talk lately about the recently released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and little of it has little to do with the overall quality of the game itself (Spoilers: It’s pretty great).
No, much of the talk surrounding Sekiro has to do with its difficulty. Much like the Souls series that preceded it, Sekiro is a brutally tough game. Fans of those experiences don’t really mind, though, and go so far as to say that the difficulty of these games is a big part of their appeal and identity.
However, there is another group of gamers who argue that Sekiro should feature an easy mode. These gamers argue that titles like Sekiro are too punishing and often prevent those who would otherwise like to enjoy the rest of the experience from doing so.
It’s a debate that’s gotten so heated that we’ve reached that point where the conversation has largely descended into name calling, personal attacks, and very little in the way of actual discussion. Before the conversation ends, though, both sides should consider that Ninja Gaiden Black solved this particular problem many years ago.
Much like Sekiro, Ninja Gaiden Black was a very challenging action game that’s difficulty lent it a bit of a reputation. However, it did feature an easy mode. The catch was that you couldn’t choose this easy mode from the game’s menu and instead had to “earn” it by dying three times in the games opening chapter. At that point, the player has the option to choose the Ninja Dog mode.
As you may be able to tell from the name, Ninja Dog does mock the player somewhat for playing on it. In fact, the first thing you see after choosing the difficulty is a cutscene in which the player is mocked by a companion for not living up to their reputation. It’s one of many small ways that the game makes fun of its Ninja Dog players.
However, Ninja Dog isn’t all about making fun of those who choose it and allowing them to waltz through the game. Instead, it offers the player some add-ons that buff their abilities, some cheaper items, and a few other (often optional) benefits. Otherwise, the game remains similar to how it plays on normal difficulty.
That is the key to Ninja Dog’s success. If you play Ninja Gaiden Black on its hardest difficulty, you’ll encounter new (and tougher) enemies that even those who play it on the normal (still very hard) difficulty don’t see. The game alters its core experience for all players and encourages everyone to eventually work their way up the difficulty ladder in order to get the complete experience.
Jokes aside, that’s what Ninja Dog really was: a stepping stone. It held the bike steady but only for so long. You still had to navigate a pretty tough game and endure a few comic jabs along the way. It was all designed to encourage those who played it to see the mode as just a stepping stone on a much longer, much more difficult journey.