-Team Ninja/Tecmo (2004)
The ninjaís ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, goes on a killing spree in the name of vengeance.
The few games Team Ninja has made for the Xbox have had incredible graphics. Dead or Alive 3 was the best looking title at the systemís launch and still easily rivals the best looking games on the Xbox today. DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball had some voluptuous visuals, to say the least. Ninja Gaiden absolutely destroys all graphically intensive Xbox games before it. The in-game graphics look phenomenal and the CG cut scenes are look simply unbelievable. Seeing this game in action is a thing of beauty. I was in absolute awe of what I was seeing on screen. How does Team Ninja do it? Their games always seem to look better than the other Xbox games on and not on the shelves yet. Itís probably some ancient ninja programming skill.
An appropriate subtitle for Ninja Gaiden could almost be ďThe Real Ninja Simulator.Ē You are Ryu Hayabusa. Pulling off his lethal cornucopia of awesome ninja moves is no sweat thanks to a great control scheme. Bouncing off one fiend, running on the wall then jumping off and decapitating two fiends at the same time gives you an incredible feeling. But, you donít have long to savor it because there are five more fiends charging, ready to slice you to a bloody mess at the first mistake you make. I noticed that Ryu has many of the same acrobatic moves of the Prince from the recent Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The big difference is that the Prince is a tough pretty-boy, while Ryu is a hardcore ass-kicking ninja.
This is one of the most challenging games Iíve ever played. Ninja Gaidenís high difficulty forces you to get better by whipping your ass over and over. If you donít learn various combos and get quick on the controls, the enemies will slaughter you again and again. Even if you do learn everything and are quite skilled at dispatching your foes, there will be times where youíll slip up and be instantly ravaged by normal every-day ninjas. None of the enemies in this game are no weak sword fodder. Some times theyíll attack in groups of three, other times many more. If the game wasnít hard enough the enemies have a tendency to re-spawn when Ryu re-visits locales. At least youíll know there will always be plenty of guys to chop up.
The bosses are as relentlessly tough as they are impressive. Ryu will face off against big time warriors, fiends spawned in the depths of Hell, and a grotesque, yet somehow still sexy demon chick. I fought against some of these bosses countless times before I was able to defeat them with only one health bar, or using minimal health elixirs.
After foes are defeated, Ryu collects their essence, which is very similar to the decent but nowhere near as good Shinobi on the PS2. The essence can heal Ryu or is used to purchase additional items and upgrade weapons. There are quite a few different weapons Ryu can wield, like nunchaku and a huge hammer, but he doesnít really have use them. The weapons seem to be there for adding more variety to the gameplay, if you so choose. The skills gained are similar to the previous games. The infamous fire wheels are readily available along with fireballs, ice storms, and lighting techniques picked up throughout the game. Possessing master ninja skills in finding hidden areas grant Ryu other valuable items.
The story is an excellent tale of blood, destiny, and vengeance. Ryuís entire clan was ruthlessly slaughtered by Doku, not a Sith Lord, but Lord of the Greater Fiends, although Christopher Lee could be considered a Lord of Greater Fiends. Ryu will get his revenge traversing through a forest, on a massive airship, and throughout the Vigoorian Empire. Along the way heíll meet up with Team Ninjaís new silicone injected hottie, Rachel. She is a fiend hunter with a bust size of epic proportions. In a scene reminiscent of a horny Japanese man's wet dream, she gets covered in some wet, slick, and shiny goo at one point. Maybe Rachel will make an appearance in the next DOA game as she clearly has the required attributes. Speaking of DOA, since Ryu is a regular in the series itís only natural that a DOA character appears in his game. Ayane, the purple haired female ninja, makes appearances throughout the game. I also liked the twist near the end of the game. I certainly wasnít expecting it.
There are various puzzles in the game, but most are the find the key-tablet-stone-thing and return to where you were. There are a few that require a bit of arrow skill and quick ninja action to get past, though.
As incredible as this game is, it does have a little problem: the camera. You can control and position it when you need to, but there were times during heated battles that I couldnít really tell what was going on. Iíd perform a bunch of moves and just hope it was hurting my enemies but, for the most part, the camera was pretty good following the fast action.
As a cool bonus youíll get to unlock the previous Ninja Gaiden games from the NES. Completing certain, yet difficult, tasks will open them up allowing any new ninja dogs see the man Ryu was in the glorious era of 8-bit gaming. Other unlockables include various costumes and new weapons.
Ninja Gaiden is easily the best, most ass-kicking ninja game ever. No other ninja game and few other action/adventure games can hope to stand up to Ryu Hayabusa's ninjitsu prowess. Ninja Gaiden has an extra coat of polish many action games seem be missing. And don't even try to compare Sega's Shinobi and Nightshade to Ninja Gaiden. There simply is no comparison.