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XBox Reviews: Ninja Gaiden


Ninja Gaiden Screenshots


The Final Say!


Ninja Gaiden
Reviewed By: Edwin Milheim
 Review Date: June 2004
Review Score: 10/10 
Distributed By: Microsoft

The premise of Ninja Gaiden is very close to what the old original classic was back in 1988. After all what is more motivating than having your village attacked and a special weapon known as the Dark Dragon Blade stolen? Whatís a guy to do? Well you take up your own family blade, the legendary Dragon sword and head off for some slashing, bashing, frying Ninja revenge against the evil villains that have dared to cross the line.

During the game the story unfolds well and keeps interest up by way of some really cool cut scenes. While not a complex story, most revenge stories really donít have to be. Ninja Gaiden is such an incredibly well done quality game that you wonít even miss a deep involved story.

A lot of the game takes place in the Vigoor Empire in western Asia, it is here that the noodles hit the fan as our hero faces enemy ninjas, living dead, and other odd occult beings, and even some pesky commandos seem to want to test your blade. I say bring um on!  Every turn brings such a visually stunning treat that moving onward is almost a chore. I wanted to look at the eye candy. The whole game just looks incredible; frame rate is very smooth even with all the things that are happening on screen at once.

Areas are as expansive as the outback and very very detailed and they sometimes seem to be full of hundreds of enemies to face. Each of the enemy you end up facing has their own way of attack and defense and some times they seem to almost work as a team to kill your character poor old Ryu. The Ninja I faced more than once had a couple attack at close range while another launched ranged attacks with throwing weapons, this is more than enough to keep the action fast and furious. 

Now while there is action galoreÖ(or should I say gore? )This is not just an action game. Over time you acquire new skills and other abilities, you also find scattered about useful artifacts and items to aid in the incredible quest of maximum mayhem. That being said I have to say some parents will want to considered what is ok for their kids depending on age and comfort level. After all there are limbs being hacked off right and left and great explosions of blood and gore. Other than that it just good clean fantasy fun.

The games structure is in the form of chapters, for most of the time you donít even notice because there are not very many pauses at all during game play. The further into the game one gets the more of the world opens up for exploration.

 Thankfully youíre not forced to do too much back tracking like in other games. That was good to find because regardless of what the back tracking is for, I really hate back tracking. The only major cool thing about backtracking in Ninja Gaiden is that sometimes things are a bit different than the last time you passed that way. I wonít ruin it for those who have yet to play, but I will say make sure your fingers are limbered up.

Oh and I cannot get through this without making note of the very cool acrobatic abilities of Ryu. After all the guy is a Ninja. These acrobatic antics are not just to get your jollies though. Oh no, you will want to master them because they are used to get to some area that no normal being could reach. Using flips and wall runs to get to some very tough places. I am happy to point out, while Ryu is in fact a super character type, there are no major weak enemies per say. All of them are very tough, and the ones that are not make that up by shear numbers. While Ryu is a tough guy, the player has to fight with some vicious smarts knowing when to block, jump dodge and attack because more than Ryu is close to deaths door and only one more attack could push Ryu past the threshhold of oblivion. 

The games over all balance of sound, impressive and satisfying sounds of battle that just make you cringe at times from the sounds of steel on steel impact. Sights and game play are pretty tight and may well push the Xbox to the edge of its performance abilities, but boy what a ride! This one is going to find a home on my gaming shelf because sometimes you just have to hack and slash.

By the time the player gets to the end of the game they are going to be feeling pretty darn good about themselves. A true sense of accomplishment washes over you. Then, it is a sad thing because it is all over. Or. Is it?  Team Ninja and Tecmo have included a few surprises, little challenges that are not part of the main story. Sprinkled throughout the game, such areas that are triggered if you head back to an area you have previously cleared, an almost endless parade of enemies comes a calling and it's major hack and slash time. Itís a tough challenge but the rewards are pretty cool too, stick it out and reap the benefits. There are a few other places as well, test it out in various area and see what you get. 

Now it gets even better, Tecmo and Xbox Live announced their plan to expand the Ninja Gaiden playing experience with additional downloadable content which will be available in the beginning of August 2004 via Xbox Live. The evolved version will contain a wide array of additions including new camera and action engines that will improve upon the already superior game engine, new challenging enemies, new costumes, an arsenal of new weapons, and more. The new download was created to go side-by-side with the second round of the online Ninja Gaiden Tournament, named The Master Ninja Tournament, and will also be openly available to anyone with an Xbox Live account and a copy of Ninja Gaiden.  

I used to feel that there was only one Ninja style game that was worth my time, now I have been proven wrong. Take this game for a ride and you may well be hooked too.

Edwin Millheim

Have fun, play games.

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