When Temco released Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball, Ninja Gaiden was in the works. When DoA3 put fighters into the 3-D world, Ninja Gaiden was being made. Even when DoA2 came out, Ninja Gaiden was under development. Four years and three major titles later Temco finally brings us Ninja Gaiden. And it was worth the wait.
Ninja Gaiden kicks off with your average revenge plot. While Ryu Hayabusa is visiting his close friend and trainer, Murai, the Hayabusa village is attacked by an unknown evil. Hearing news of this Ryu high tails it home as fast as possible. When he arrives, the village has been massacred at the hands of Doku, a super natural warrior with amazing powers. Ryu attempts to kill Doku but is knocked unconscious. Next we see him is in a brand new outfit with a brand new thirst for vengeance.
Ninja Gaiden is the first adventure game that feels like a full-fledged fighter. The control scheme does wonders and everything is quick and responsive. The combat system is deeper then any other game of its type. During Ryu’s travels he’ll find more and more weapons to wield, each with a broad set of combos to deal out extra damage. These combos are not only beautiful but also important to learn if you hope to beat the first chapters let alone the entire game. Knowing when to block and evade is also vital. Most weapons can be upgraded by a blacksmith, making it stronger and giving it more combos. In terms of gameplay Ninja Gaiden ranks supreme.
Visuals also take the cake, the game looks absolutely beautiful. Watching a good player control Ryu is simply stunning. Each character has a distinct look. Environments are amazing. From the lit streets leading to Han’s Bar to the grimy, miserable caves of a secret underground passageway, each area of the game has it’s own great feel. There are two types of cut-scenes, one completely computer-generated and one using the in-game graphics. While, obviously, the computer-generated graphics are better, both are pretty fabulous.
Ryu is a man with many tricks up his sleeve. His abilities go beyond wielding different types of weapons. He can run along or up walls, perform acrobatic feats, and has the rather unnecessary but still completely awesome ability to run on water. Ryu also has super natural powers called ninpo. There will be 4 different ninpo attacks available to Ryu as the game progresses, each one different from the other and each one really great looking. Ninpo is very useful in getting out of tough situations as well as defeating bosses. Each ability requires “Ki” power, which is very scarce to perform, so ninpo must be used sparingly.
While an action game doesn’t need to rely on its sound to get by, Ninja Gaiden’s audio-effects could afford to be a bit better. Certain weapons lack a realistic sound when you use them and, while it doesn’t take away from the game, pulling off a killer combination would feel more satisfying with some more powerful sounds. Other then that Ninja Gaiden sounds good. Music does a good job of setting the tempo of the game and the few lines of dialogue are delivered well.
For a game of its kind, Ninja Gaiden is rather long. Depending on how often you die, how much time you devote to raising funds for items, and how fast you get rid of bosses Ninja Gaiden will last anywhere from 20 to 35 hours. As if that weren’t enough, Ninja Gaiden is full of worthwhile unlockables. The classic Ninja Gaiden games, a Very Hard difficulty setting, a costume, and weapons can be unlocked. The Master Ninja Tournament, where players can submit their scores and have a chance at winning prizes, gives you a fairly good reason to replay the game. And if all that doesn’t make this game worth $50 in your eyes, another version of the game is already planned for release in August and is free to any Ninja Gaiden owners with an Xbox Live subscription.
Team Ninja’s goal when making Ninja Gaiden was to craft the greatest action game ever, and it’s very possible they did. With controls that are flawless, Team Ninja’s creation is right up there with Halo as Xbox’s most enjoyable game. The game is challenging but at the same time I never felt stuck at a certain part of the game. And yes the game camera does get funky in several boss fights but isn’t too hard to adjust and get under control. One thing the game needs more of is bosses that have a purpose in the story. Of the many bosses and sub-bosses you’ll fight only a handful are actually characters introduced before the fight or further developed after. The rest just show up and die without ever letting you know why they were there. Still, these are small imperfections that don’t take away from the big picture. Ninja Gaiden is a must-own for Xbox owners.
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