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Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) artwork

Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) review


"The problem with hype and anticipation is that it's pretty much a vicious circle. One creates the other, while the other feeds the one. Round and round this madness goes, building momentum and whipping fan boys up into near fanatical states of delirium. With the street date drawing closer the excitement level inevitably comes to a head as bladders quiver at the merest mention of the object in question. It's unfortunate then that for much of the time, the actual finished product is totally incapa..."



The problem with hype and anticipation is that it's pretty much a vicious circle. One creates the other, while the other feeds the one. Round and round this madness goes, building momentum and whipping fan boys up into near fanatical states of delirium. With the street date drawing closer the excitement level inevitably comes to a head as bladders quiver at the merest mention of the object in question. It's unfortunate then that for much of the time, the actual finished product is totally incapable of meeting the combined expectations generated by one's imagination and the media. It's happened before and sadly enough it's sure as hell going to happen again. Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden is a good example of reality getting in the way of some really good press. Had one believed all the pre-launch hype then it would not have been inconceivable to imagine that this game had been brought to Earth on the wings of angels. Comparisons of Team Ninja head honcho Itagaki to God aside, Ninja Gaiden is just another game. Yes it's spectacular, but if we are going to be honest it's also more than just a little flawed...

* Initializing fanboy rant engine v1.01324 *

BAH GAWD ITS H3R3!!1!!!!11one!!!!1

* Kernal failure in fanboy rant engine v1.01324. Please reboot the system *

And indeed it is. Ninja Gaiden is the hotly anticipated sequel/remake of one of retro gaming's most fondly remembered classics. In grand arcade fashion, the paper thin plot has taken a back seat to the all important super fast gameplay. Say what you will about it, but at least it provides players with adequate reason to justify the coming bloodshed while showcasing some very sweet CGI work. As the last surviving member of the recently slaughtered Dragon Lineage, the job of extracting vengeance and retrieving the mystical ''Dark Dragon'' sword falls to Ryu Hayabusa. For it is this blade that his family and friends died protecting. Forged from the very bones of a black dragon, it has the potential to plunge the world into a dark caverness abyss of pain and suffering. It's with this burden of responsibility that Ryu embarks upon a 16 stage orgy of high intensity violence and blood letting. The crimson rivers of life flow freely as the forces of evil that rallied against our hero begin to fall, ultimately paving the way for an epic confrontation with the ghastly Doku. Yeah, so the story isn't much to write home about, but then again this is a Team Ninja production and we're not here for a Greek tragedy. What we want is super fast ninja action and we want it NOW!

* Reboot complete. Initializing fanboy rant engine v1.01324 *

It's then with a great joy in my heart that I can report that Ninja Gaiden is indeed the fastest moving ninja action game ever to be etched onto poly-carbonated plastic. Everything moves at such a lightening fast pace that at times the whole experience seems somewhat overwhelming... in a good way of course. Enemy soldiers, evil ninja and grotesque hell spawned fiends attack with such intensity that players are literally forced to develop cat-like reflexes lest they become a blood red stain on a wall somewhere. Aiding the player in their quest for revenge are the tight controls that manage to make even the impossible seem possible. Combo attacks are shot off in rapid fire succession as the player circles the room, leaping from wall to wall and dishing out the hurt with all the unbridled fury of a man wronged. These feats of aggressive agility are easily accessible via a series of button press combinations which are reminiscent in style to the ones seen in games such as Dead or Alive 3. Thanks to this incredibly intuitive combat system, Ninja Gaiden is pick up and play simple for anyone new to the genre while packing the technique required to keep veteran players coming back for more. Exquisitely beautiful in all the right places, this is combat so divinely gruesome that even the most carefree of parents will sit up and take notice. Be warned though, this is not a game for the wee ones.

Enforcing this adults only mantra is Ninja Gaiden's obscene difficulty level. With only 2 settings to choose from, normal and uber elite, this is a game that is sure to challenge all comers regardless of any previous genre experience they may have had. So high is the difficulty at times that players may want to take to smothering kittens between continues as an outlet for their frustrations. Much like nipple clamps and butt plugs however, the constant humiliations suffered become almost pleasurable over time thanks to actual traceable improvements in the player's skill. Lean to use the block button grasshopper, it is your friend. As your ninja skills begin to develop, so does your confidence begin to grow. Sure it may not be the easiest game around, but with progress you'll start to realize that perhaps, just maybe, Ninja Gaiden is bettering you as a gamer. In a world where games are lucky to last a single weekend, Ninja Gaiden comes as a refreshing change of pace. It will frustrate and it will challenge, but you will adapt. And when that happens, the euphoria experienced at busting out a 50 hit combo is unparalleled.

Slow though it may be, progress is sure and steady providing players show the right amount of patience and skill at all times. Throughout this arduous journey, Ryu stands to earn a variety of new weapons, some of which give new meaning to the word brutal. From the super fast slice'n'dice motions of the Vigorian Flail to the brute force impact of the over-sized War Hammer, each and every weapon has been charged with the necessary kinetic energy to make its presence felt. With a total of 10 different melee weapons all sporting different attributes, combo strings and ultimate attacks, players of all shapes and sizes are bound to find something that appeals to their inner slasher. Did I mention that they were each fully upgradeable too?! Shurikens and arrows of of both the regular and explosive varieties round out Ryu's arsenal of death. But that's not to say that the fun stops there. As we all know, a ninja isn't really a ninja without a well rounded dose of mystical magic tossed in for good measure. In that Itagaki has provided yet again in the form of 5 magically endowed armlets. Capable of pulling Ryu's arse from the fire at a moment's notice, these armlets, much to the dismay of enemies nearby, shower the screen with some lethally stunning pyrotechnics.

If the hyper stylized violence doesn't get you then Ninja Gaiden's lush graphics probably will. Polished, buffed and then polished again, this is a game that deserves, nay, demands the spotlight. Not a stone has been left unturned in bringing gamers what is perhaps one of the best looking games ever made. Long time Team Ninja enthusiasts will be happy to learn that once more new standards in CGI have been set. Or more specifically the breasts look great! Though each of the main characters has been rendered to perfection, Rachel's breasts tend to stand out (pardon the pun) the most. Massive bosoms abound then as Itagaki & co prove once more why they are held in such reverence with gamers everywhere. No matter where you look however, Team Ninja's obvious love for the project is highly apparent. The detailed high-res textures that line every surface lend Ninja Gaiden an almost gloss-like sheen that is only possible on everyone's favorite box. When viewed in tandem with the smoothly realistic animations it's not hard to be impressed with exactly what have been achieved here. Just wait until you get a load of what is perhaps the best 3d camera ever implemented........... ... .. .

* Corruption in output detected. Please reboot the system *

aaahhhhh God I can't take this any longer!!!! Yes Ninja Gaiden looks good. It's beautiful and sexy one hundred times over, but there's also a little unseen trouble in paradise that you may wish to know about as well. And by ''unseen'' I meant to say that the camera is crap. Not the woeful kind of crap that renders a game unplayable, but crap of the ''where the bloody hell did that ninja just come from'' variety. Incapable of holding a reasonable perspective for longer than 10 seconds, Ninja Gaiden's camera is sure to frustrate more often than not. Players are forced to constantly tap the R button in order to realign the camera behind Ryu. It may not seem like much of a problem at first, but given the fast paced nature of the action it won't be long before being blind sided by opponents becomes tiring. As if things weren't difficult enough, shuriken are often thrown from off screen giving players the merest fraction of a second to react. And just wait until you find yourself fighting a handful of black ninja with exploding shuriken. Trust me, you'll go looking for that kitten in no time!

Sadly enough the disappointments don't stop there. Each and every one of the 16 stages while varied is also stunningly empty. Void of all human life or any evidence to suggest that people may have once lived there, these levels are an incredibly lonely experience for the player. Where are the destructable background objects? Why is everything so sterile? What do I have to do to find a shop around here?! On a completely related note, shops and save points are few and far between. What this effectively means is that 9 times out of 10 if you die facing one of Ninja Gaiden's many bosses, you'll have to cover quite a bit of ground to get back to square one. Now take the time required to do that and multiply that by two as players are often forced to back track in order to purchase additional health power-ups. Yay for artificially induced challenges! Remember when I called this game frustrating? The evidence is right here grasshopper. Now take this stone from my hand and we can all go home...

In the end even with all the hype going for it, Ninja Gaiden comes across as being fairly unoriginal. Everything that's here has essentially been seen countless times before. In Ninja Gaiden's defense however rarely has it ever looked quite as good as this. Whether it's the silky smooth acrobatics of our man in black or his ultra cool move sets, graphically this is a game that's been set to thrill. Even still, the lack of any serious genre innovation puts Ninja Gaiden somewhere circa 2001, well behind the likes of Onimusha3 and to a lesser extent, Otogi2. Each of those games demonstrates exactly how far the genre can be taken when a little extra effort has been put into such trivialities as background elements, level design and a decent camera system. As such, had Ninja Gaiden been released 2 years previously I think I would have felt a little more excited by it than I currently do now. The controls may be great and the action may be spectacular, but these days it's going to take more than that to make a game stand out from the crowd. If you're yet to be spoilt by some of the other, more complete, third person action games of recent months then Ninja Gaiden is just the game for you. Coming hot off the heels of Onimusha3 however... well let's just say that it's not only nice guys that finish last...

Pros
----
* It may not be Shakespeare, but the back ground story does its job to the best of its ability
* Itagaki was right, Ninja Gaiden has lightening fast gameplay with the technique to match
* The controls are perfectly intuitive in a Saturday afternoon at the arcade kind of way
* Ninja Gaiden's difficulty will challenge even the most hardcore of players
* Each of the 10 melee weapons has its own combo strings and ultimate attacks
* The CGI work is as always for Team Ninja, larger than life
* In-game character animations are wonderfully fluid
* Oh my god, the gore! The gore!

Cons
----
* Barren environments make Ryu look lonely
* The camera is pretty unreliable at times
* The difficulty may put off some players
* Shops and save points are few and far between
* All things considered, it's a pretty unoriginal game




Rating: 7.5/10

midwinter's avatar
Community review by midwinter (August 22, 2004)

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