Ninja Gaiden Xbox Review

May 31, 2010 by Simon Wigham  
Filed under Retro Content, Retro Reviews, Xbox

We can understand Ryu Hayabusa’s -the star of Ninja Gaiden and Dead Or Alive- frustration of having to kill people in such a girly manner. After all, this frequent skulking about in shadows business of the average Ninja must surely get boring every now and again and there’s likely times when one such as he just wants to flip out and destroy everything in his path.

Being a pure action game that has a strong emphasis on stylish combat, Ninja Gaiden plays similarly to Capcom’s Devil May Cry series on PS2, forgoing any true storyline and concentrating instead on the all-important gameplay. Kudos must go to Team Ninja for not only crafting a damn fine action game, but for also keeping it as just that: an action game rather than bolting on hackneyed stealth sections that appear in games all too often these days. Like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden harks back to the games of yesteryear with its high reliance on fast and furious action and with a harder than regular difficultly (even on normal) that could leave any younger/newer gamers bewildered by the sheer hardness of the game, most probably accompanied by broken joypads.

As frustratingly difficult as some sections may be, during our time with the game we never once found ourselves wanting to sheathe our sword and submit to Ninja Gaiden’s brutal but dominantly fair difficulty. It’s certainly in no way a game where you can wave your sword around recklessly and expect results; in doing so you’ll only end up getting yourself quite literally destroyed. The game refreshingly requires lots of evasive and defensive manoeuvres; otherwise you’ll be poked with sharp and unforgiving objects, we’re not just talking about the boss guys here either.

Indeed, everything from the boss conflicts to a fight with a lowly ninja or foul creature will have you blocking and rolling about as if your life depended on it (and guess what, it does) such is the relentless nature of their attacks. It’s rare to see such a challenge these days and it’s nice to know that not everyone makes ludicrously easy titles that are obviously designed with the mass market in mind.

Ryu has loads of moves with which he can punish evil ninjas with, realistically you’re probably going to rely on only a handful of these to see your way through the entire game, though it’s still nice to have plenty of options in combat. All of Hayabusa’s actions are ultra responsive, which is probably a good thing considering how hard things can get. Guarding is an often useless command in games, here it is a necessity and this command in itself is a good example of just how responsive Ryu is.

Defeating enemies will release “essence” into the air, which can then be used as currency to purchase the requisite healing potions and magic amongst other things as well as allowing you to upgrade your weapons. Essence can also be absorbed into Ryu’s weapon, to unleash amazingly powerful attacks, known as ultimate techniques, these can destroy even the mightiest of opponents in an instant and as an additional bonus extra essence is also awarded for foes vanquished with these dazzling attacks.

As well as hacking and slashing, the levels of Ninja Gaiden also encourage exploration and doing so can be extremely rewarding as you find healing and magic top up potions amongst other things that are so crucial to Ryu’s Ninja tools. But best of all has to be the golden scarabs, there’s fifty of these and every ten usually grants you a reward such as items with which you can add to the maximum of Hayabusa’s lifebar with and even some cool weapons. Find all fifty and you’ll get yourself some retro goodness with the original 80’s Ninja Gaiden, the other two games are also hidden away, however these are unlocked significantly different to the original, but are well worth finding.

Ninja Gaiden is stupendously beautiful, which is hardly a surprise, coming from the magnificent Team Ninja who broke new ground, at least visually speaking with their stunningly attractive fighting games: Dead or Alive. Every gorgeous level in Ninja Gaiden is obviously crafted with painstaking attention to detail and every one of Haybusa’s actions are smoothly animated resulting in incredible looking combat, which we never once grew tired of.

The biggest gripe we have with Ninja Gaiden is without doubt its rather erratic camera, which came as quite a surprise after reading positive comments from many publications and websites, far more than it deserves and even better than significantly more feasible cameras receive, which is simply ludicrous. It isn’t terrible by any means, but we’d still go as far to say that it’s one of the worst cameras we have seen in recent years, though to be fair the game is seriously fast paced and still does an adequate job of keeping up with the frenzied action.

Ninja Gaiden is one of the greatest action games we’ve ever had the joy of playing, it’s also the hardest we’ve played since Sega was a giant and games were far less attractive, this is a good thing when the game offers a stiff challenge but is at the same time pretty huge, as all majestically present here. Decapitations may have been removed for us unfortunate Europeans, but who cares when the game is as “stunningly good as this” and this coming from a bunch of people who enjoy seeing the odd head roll too, must be good then.

9/10

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