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Ashes Ninjaken
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Moderators: Archanox, Ayame Musashi, Esprite Xavier, fhisch, RobbyRacoon Olmstead, KatanaBlade Anubis, Haruko Fukai
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Solace Obviate
Wed Dec 19 2007, 02:29PM
Registered Member #283
Joined: Tue Nov 06 2007, 01:51PM
Posts: 15
So let me start the inevitable thread about this weapon. I've only used it about 10 times, so these are my initial impressions. Also, I don't use a HUD so I wasn't paying attention to the new damages or stamina costs.

Aesthetically, very nice. The sheath draw anim is very cool and stealthy, but the sound is not pleasant. Guess being shanked by one is unpleasant too. The attachment point on the lumbar region looks odd sometimes with different AO poses. It winds up going through my arms a lot. So i decided to use EDIT and move the sheath up to my back, but with the ninjaken upside-down. Therefore the draw anim still kind of works with the weapon being drawn underhanded from the upper back :)

Attack anims and block is neato. Kinda surprised the kick is a flip-kick. All attacks feel faster, including the kicks. In some instances, I could get 2 slashes in when a katana would only connect with one hit, such as if I tried 2 consecutive W-slashes (not a button-mashing double-slash combo like AW, WD, or AD), and the opponent tries to retreat between the attacks. More often than not, the Ninjaken would connect on the second strike as well. When stunning the opponent, 2 kicks fit into the stun time quite well, but I habitually don't try 3 kicks in a stun so I don't know whether a 3rd could connect before you'd eat katana. The speed advantage is cut down tremendously in lag though. So even though you can react quickly, the lag might prevent you from detecting your opponent's moves to give you enough time to react to avoid a stun.

Esprite was considering increasing the stamina cost to balance the speed of the Ninjaken...not sure if he actually did that. But it sure feels like it. If true, the stam cost is an issue i have to get used to...especially since I don't keep tight track of my stam, sparring HUDless. My second opponent today, TheClint Hayashiba, is very good at tanking and counterstriking. If my timing was off and he capitalized, it was very hard to catch up. I felt like I could not tank as long as he could, given my successful counterstrikes caused less damage, and my blocks appeared to become ineffective quite early. Once my stamina was gone though, I found that i was raising my hands as if to block, but was still getting hit with full sound and blood spray. WIth the other Ashes, I think that once you run out of stamina, your avatar squats and will not even exhibit the blocking gesture at all. So the Ninjaken did not seem to give me this clue that i was critically low on stmaina. I will need to do some dashes and kill my stam to test this directly...had no time today due to the grid shutdown.

So overall...I like the Ninjaken. Looks cool, I really like the draw anim off of my new upper back position. Definitely is a lot faster, which is fun if the advantage holds up under low lag. Personal lesson to myself, the Ninjaken will be for me a tool to balance tanking and moving attacks (run-attacks, jump-attacks). C:SI fighters will probably find that the Ninjaken will not serve them well tanking against fighters with good counterstrike timing. Everyone eventually gets stunned, and I had a really tough time trying to catch up afterward with the Ninjaken. I will continue to use and explore the Ninjaken because it feels so fun, but it's not going to dominate over the kats.

Well so Theoretical Chemistry was kind enough to help me test the Ninjaken a little today. We counted slashes before the blocks failed. Kat vs Kat, we got 12 slashes. Kat slashing Ninjaken, 13 slashes. Ninjaken slashing Kat, 12 slashes. So the stam cost blocking a Ninjaken strike and also blocking a kat strike using a Ninjaken are about the same. Also the Ninjaken does not produce a block anim when stamina is gone, which is the same as the other Ashes weapons. Thus you and your opponent will know when you run out of stamina, as the block anim will fail. However, we did not see the familiar crouch (wherein the avatar kind of balls up) when our staminas were depleted. Also, we did not attempt to determine the damages, but Theo will test it out more (read as spar like a dervish) and fill us in on the forum soon.

Well, Rune Schlag has been kind enough to help me test out the Ninjaken some mroe today. I had my first ninjaken vs ninjaken spar with him :) He enlightened me as to the effects of the special: one cannot be stunned and one has enhanced damage per strike. These effects last 10 seconds, and I didn't keep track of the exact increase in the damage. i think Esprite fondly terms this special the "Berzerker." In the future, I will try to measure the damages of slashes and kicks, in and out of special.

[ Edited Fri Dec 21 2007, 04:04PM ]
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Milena Soderstrom
Wed Dec 19 2007, 02:44PM

Registered Member #34
Joined: Mon Oct 29 2007, 11:24PM
Posts: 2
Is that the new way of C:SI that the blades become different?
And I have to learn how to handle or counter each blade?

The Dynasty was the first with the new special, where the avatar is not moving. And now the ninjaken is the next. This one is faster, with less damage and a new special too.

So I have to look or ask before a duell, what blade my opponent is using.

[ Edited Wed Dec 19 2007, 11:08PM ]
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Solace Obviate
Wed Dec 19 2007, 03:02PM
Registered Member #283
Joined: Tue Nov 06 2007, 01:51PM
Posts: 15
I think that has been the case for quite a while. Certainly, it's worthwhile knowing whether you are sparring against a Nagi- or dual-user. But Milena is right in that the single blade swords are becoming more diverse. Fortunately, the draw anims and draw sounds are becoming characteristic as well. I spar often in cas9 but all I need to know is how the Ashes, Arch, and Musashi draw sounds differ to know what fighting characteristics to expect. But again, the Dynasty Flame and the ninjaken have different sounds...meaning more features to which I have to pay attention.
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Malachi Rothschild
Sat Dec 22 2007, 11:50AM
Registered Member #104
Joined: Tue Oct 30 2007, 07:40PM
Posts: 106
I like the way the strengths and weaknesses of individual blades are diversifying. It make combat more interesting and gives me more weapons to learn. Even though I don't really use specials, I'm glad those are starting to vary more too.

A good katana fight is like a good conversation.

It's deeply engaging, reciprocal
and it flows smoothly.

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Solace Obviate
Tue Jan 01 2008, 12:13PM
Registered Member #283
Joined: Tue Nov 06 2007, 01:51PM
Posts: 15
I've sparred other ninjaken-users some more, and Moxie has posted some very good observations about the special and the anims in his thread. What I heard from Esprite earlier on was that he was afraid the Ninjaken was inherently unbalanced. I've been reviewing this weapon more in terms of a functional standpoint, and I don't think that fear will bear out. I have come to realize that this weapon is the exact opposite of the Naginata. Instead of being slow but heavy on damage, it's fast and slightly lower on damage. The speed of the Ninjaken changes the way in which people spar with it and spar against it, just as the Nagi changed people's tactics. Even recently people were still discussing the pros and cons of the Nagi, but we can't deny it's become established and firmly enrooted in the C:SI community. Just as Mox wished that people he's spoken with would share their opinions in the forum, I wished the people I've talked to who really like the Ninjaken would do the same. I really don't think Esprite has much to worry about in terms of whether he made the right choices regarding the balance of speed and damage. I've met people who say they hate fighting against it, but further in the convos, it often becomes apparent that they repsect the weapon and are still in the process of finding ways to counter it, just like what happened with the Nagi.

Commenting on another unorthadox weapon whose anims look great but functionally is apparently problemmatic. Kasumi recently tried for an entire month to develop strategies for Ayame's Sizuka naru Shi. Her final opinion was that the duals are unbalanced. I tend to agree with her mostly because of an observation Shidji made: you can kick away the dual-user. The implication is this...the duals deliver 2 strikes per AWD keystroke. The first strike delivers about 4 pts damage, while the second strike delivers the rest...maybe about 9. If you deliver a kick to someone who is slashing, you receive 4 pt damage while delivering 9 pts due to your kick on a non-blocking opponent, and removing them from slash range, thus avoiding the second slash.. Along these lines, I saw Mada deal with an inexperienced dual-user's special by kicking. Instead of avoiding the special, she ran up and kicked once, delivering again about 9 pts damage but more importantly clearing the opponent from slash range.

The Ninjaken has not revealed any such imbalances. In futher testing, who knows? I think like the Nagi, the kick will become incredibly important. The fast attacks have meant that the return to block is faster. A ninjaken user might have a better time faking and stunning an opponent. The kick comes into play because, as Theorectical Chemistry found, you can fit 3 kicks into a stun period. There are a fair number of people using the Ninjaken in Meiji. Perhaps Esprite, you could stop in a bit to take a look, chat a bit about the tactics that have arisen. Try to catch Aimee Congrejo some time; she's used the Ninjaken very effectively for running-attacks and jumping-attacks with single and double strikes only. And she uses the special quite a bit.

[ Edited Tue Jan 01 2008, 01:44PM ]
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JulieAnne Rau
Wed Jan 02 2008, 11:07AM

Registered Member #107
Joined: Tue Oct 30 2007, 08:52PM
Posts: 77
I have to side with Solace on this one, personally I like the direction that C:SI is going. And it’s now truly, all about tactics. I also believe that the Ninja Sword is the opposite of the Nagi and therefore the tactics you use against it has to be different. Consequently, the tactics you use with it, also has to change from how a regular katana is used.

I recall I was sparring a good fighters a couple of nights ago. He loved to tank and he was fast. There was no way to beat him once I we got into that mode. The only way I could win was to hit and run. After a couple of losses, I switched to the Ninja sword. With a faster hit and return to block, his strategy to out tank me was no longer valid. I slowly picked him apart and he could not adapt. In a discussion later on, he suggested that the sword was unbalanced where I suggested that the strategy to spar against the Ninja sword has to change, the same as if you spar against the Nagi. You change your tactics. With only 6 months in C:SI, I am not use to using the same old – same old and perhaps that is why I can embrace this new sword more?

So, with that said, on to the special. I rarely use a special on any weapon. However, I like the direction that the special is going with this new sword. With other specials, a simple jump (if you not caught flat footed) and your safe where as with this special, I notice that most people just want to avoid you for 8-10 sec. It’s a new dimension to the special. I find that most Ninja users like to use this special at the beginning of the spar, where as with the conventional special most use it as a last desperation move. Again, new strategy and I applaud the new direction.

Functional, I think the back-flip kick works and fit the 0.2 sec time frame. Esthetically, it looks funny. Nothing is perfect first time out and perhaps it will be looked at during another time.

From my point of view, 2 thumbs up.


[ Edited Wed Jan 02 2008, 01:05PM ]
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Solace Obviate
Wed Jan 02 2008, 06:49PM
Registered Member #283
Joined: Tue Nov 06 2007, 01:51PM
Posts: 15
Thanks for the input Julie.

I have also been trying to use more kats against the ninjaken. And my conclusion is that the tank is still a valid katana strategy against the ninjaken. Regardless of what I have said about the potential for he ninjaken to be a stun-generator, some factors that I think have helped me to win are these:

1. A katana slash is still more powerful than a ninjaken slash.

2. A ninjaken user will more likely use combos, giving me the opportunity to stun.

3. A ninjaken user will more likely hit and run, giving me the opportunity to slash at the unblocked back.

So really amazing thing to me is simply that the hit-and-run/combo tactic that is arising with the ninjaken is counterable by the good old katana tank. Instead, I assume Julie used the strategy of tanking with the ninjaken against her opponent. In tanking, I think the ninjaken still has the advantage over the katana, which is counter to what Esprite intended for the weapon:

"the strength in this weapon is to do combo attacks not just one hit"

Funny enough, no ninjaken user I have sparred using my katana has stood I one place to tank it out Wuming-style, even though for all the reasons listed above, the ninjaken should be a good tanking weapon too. What is a katana user to do against the ninjaken, which on paper has an advantage in tank AND in combos? I think the answer is never as clear as what's on paper. I think a kat user is left to use what all fighters should be doing anyway...mixing it up, try to not be predictable, and react/adapt accordingly. Do I do that all the time...hell no. But the fun is in the effort.
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Solace Obviate
Sat Jan 05 2008, 06:29PM
Registered Member #283
Joined: Tue Nov 06 2007, 01:51PM
Posts: 15
okay well I've had the chance to spar Julie with her using a Ninjaken and me using a Jin Geom. She was using the Ninjaken to tank as a primary strategy. And I was at first tanking as well. You can imagine what happened. When someone is purposely using the Ninjaken as a tanking device, they are going to be formidable. And Julie knows how to tank. She took advantage of the speed of the Ninjaken perfectly. I'm not talking about the attack, I'm talking about the return-to-block. I got sent to stun hell. And she capitalized by using the rapid kicks to kill my stam while dealing damage. So, what I've been proposing since the first post have come to fruition.

I thought about how to counter her and ended up having the most success actually running around and slashing. Specifically about the weapons, the ONLY thing I had going for me was the heavier damage from my katana. So I tried to out-maneuver her to get in slashes. But by the time I got this going, my stam was kaput so Julie diced me. Kudos for her and lots of hurrah in the Kumite today!

I'm going to withhold saying that the Ninjaken might be unbalanced in a tank situation, because other styles do counter it. However, I'm absolutely sure that given enough spars, Julie would have gone to a run-combo strategy too to counter mine. So this is where i will leave it and I hope to catch Julie online more to try out more katana-vs-Ninjaken strategies.
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Solace Obviate
Sun Jan 06 2008, 12:42AM
Registered Member #283
Joined: Tue Nov 06 2007, 01:51PM
Posts: 15
alright, well, I finally got around to testing the kick damages. Wishmaster Fizzle was my partner in crime on this one. We found that the kicks of the Ninjaken are equivalent to those of a katana (Cursed Spirit), blocked and unblocked. Faster kicks of equal strength.
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Fionnaigh McLaglen
Tue Jan 08 2008, 02:59AM

Registered Member #231
Joined: Sun Nov 04 2007, 06:12AM
Posts: 6
The discussion so far on the ninjaken has been interesting and well informed. However it appears to me that those commenting are all very experienced and/or talented fighters. I’d like to comment as something of a beginner with limited talent and experience. To me, the ninjaken is a big issue. Firstly, I have found that when people who are more or less at the same level as me when we are both using katanas (i.e. I win about 50% of the time) completely annihilate me when they are using the ninjaken and I am using a katana. Now I daresay experienced fighters will say that this is simply a temporary issue, requiring me to find new ways of countering this new weapon. But the fact is that if there is a way to beat it with a katana, that is likely to require a high skill level which I am nowhere near achieving yet. It is terribly demoralising to find that much of what my Senseis have been drumming into me over the past couple of months is, in my fumbling hands, effectively useless against the ninjaken. In facing the ninjaken with my beloved katana, I feel a bit like the Polish cavalry attacking German tanks in World War II.

This leads to my second point: that when they come up against this weapon, many beginners are likely to be tempted en masse to use it on the basis of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. But in the hands of a beginner I fear it encourages a button-mashing approach and sloppy technique: I confess I bought one to try it, and found that I was getting away with mistakes for which I would have been severely punished if I had been using a katana (most particularly because of the far faster return to block).

And this leads in turn to what I think may be the most important concern I have. The huge attraction of CSI over most other SL combat systems is that its weapons have always been so well balanced. The nagi was a bit of a departure but appears not to have had a major impact. My impression is that the ninjaken is already having a major impact. Other CSI developers may therefore now feel the need to introduce new weapons designed to counter the ninjaken. So the ninjaken may be the beginning of the sort of creeping “arms race” which has so blighted other systems (for example, the new staff script in Spell Fire which is outrageously out of balance).

Of course all fighting systems need to evolve, and my remarks are very much those of a beginner of limited talent. But evolution needs to preserve balance, else there is a real risk that beginners and intermediates will become disillusioned. And for us at the lower levels, the ninjaken definitely represents a balance issue. I won’t be using the ninjaken, mainly for aesthetic and philosophical reasons: part of the joy of CSI for me is the Way of the Sword aspects, and somehow the ninjaken feels more like an assassin’s blade than a Samurai’s sword. Crucially, learners like me will now be looking in some desperation to our Senseis to teach us how to put up a decent performance against it: that’s assuming that I won’t be the only learner left still using a katana a few months from now!
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