Sunday, December 6, 2009

Do You Have What It Takes to be a Ninja Assassin?

Below I'll be discussing Ninja Assassin and this will include spoilers so if you want not spoilers for this movie, read no further!

Weapons with style: The Kyoketsu shoge is a blade attached to a chain. With it, the main character, Raizo, is essentially, what 4e would call a martial controller with a secondary roll of striker. The weapon gives him range, enables him to target multiple foes at one time, and its most masterful utility is that it looks impressive.

Much like Bruce Lee did with Nunchucks back in his day, Raizo does with the Kyoketsu shoge in this film.

It's about having the characters, both good and bad, have weapons that can quickly identify them to the players and to each other. When they see the soldiers with the broad swords and hilts resembling wings, they know what army they're fighting. When the players see a shadowy figure launch out with the spiked cahin, they know most likely it's their old ally. Keeping things on a visual medium allows a quick connection between material and player.

In terms of motive, at first, it may seem that it's all about revenge, but it is? Raizo endured a hellish training. He endured watching the woman he loves leave him. He endured watching her murdered in front of him. He took his first mission with well, vigor might be best to describe it. It's only when he's put in a situation identical to the one that cost his love her life, that he decides to turn against his 'family'.

This could be seen about being pushed too far and finally, pushing back. And it's not just a murderous streak either. He wants the authorities to take them down, and he wants to save people while doing it. This is a bit more than the loner out only for revenge.

Next up, turning assumptions on their head. During the movie, Raizo is captured by the authorities and warns them of the impending ninja attack. Suffice it to say, it goes down much like the Aliens versus the Marines at first with the soldiers being hindered by a black out and by the narrow space they fight in. Having lots of firepower in an enclosed space against a team highly trained to use melee and short ranged weapons? Not a good combination.

However, it turns the invicible ninja theory on its head when latter on the government forces, who when they stay out in the open, are able to use superior firepower to mow down the enemy.

This also showcases another old problem with many genres and mediums. Alone, a ninja seems invicible. In groups? They die in droves. In Marvel Comics, depending on number, brand, and who they're righting, the X-Men's old foes, the Sentinels are exactly the same one. One may tackle the whole team but as a group? Pitiful. They go down like dominos. In 4e, this can easily be represented by the minion rules. In earlier editions, these weak ones are just different monsters with the same apperance. A little more leg work for say, 3rd edition, but not that hard if you're reskinning things by now.

The enemy organization; In this case, the ninja clan of the black sand uses a sealed envelope of black sand that is sent to the target. They consider themselves one family. The members are rasied by the 'father' and are all orphans. This allows any thing that falls outside what the father wants to be against the family and tends to destroy individualism in these groups. They also, of course, have unique clothing, weapons, and ninja powers, such as the ability to move in shadows and apparently teleport form shadow to shadow.

There is also the use of foreshadowing here. The start of the movie shows a group of, perhaps yakuza thugs, with the leader getting a tattoo. The tattoo artists notes that when the thug opens up a package of black sand, that they will all die, and the he should already be dead, but his heart is on the wrong side. This whacky science comes back at the end of the film when one of the main character's whose been stabbed fatally in the heart... yes, has her heart on the wrong side.

In terms of the main character, he showcases a lot of similiarites to the hero Guts from Berserk in some ways. For one, he's almost more interested in killing his enemy then he is in preserving his own life. In two of his big fights with the clan, he's decimated. These encounters, and his harsh training, have left Raizo a man criss crossed with scars. In addition, when he gets into fights, he's not some untouchable phantom, but rather, is slashed and cut like anyone else, adding more scars to him. The character, especially during the last scenes, exudes a sense of grim determination that is reinforced by his grizzled apperance.

Ninja Assassin is far from an art flick. It's razor thin on plot and story. It is however a stylish film whose action sequences you'll want to incorporate into your own game and curse when a rules heavy engine prevents things from moving as smoothly as they do in the film.