Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) review
"Ninja Gaiden certainly had its share of delays before being released; a lot people were eager to take a stab at this action-adventure game by Team Ninja, and they finally got a chance in March of 2004. Was it all it was cracked up to be? Well, it's definitely not one of the Xbox's greatest titles, but you'll still have fun with NG. Just don't expect anything revolutionary as you take control of Ryu Hayabusa in his conquest to decapitate everything that crosses his path. "
Ninja Gaiden certainly had its share of delays before being released; a lot people were eager to take a stab at this action-adventure game by Team Ninja, and they finally got a chance in March of 2004. Was it all it was cracked up to be? Well, it's definitely not one of the Xbox's greatest titles, but you'll still have fun with NG. Just don't expect anything revolutionary as you take control of Ryu Hayabusa in his conquest to decapitate everything that crosses his path.
To think, it all started because he wasn't around to protect the huge Dark Dragon Blade. Instead, he was probably under some waterfall playing around with his little Dragon Sword. I mean, his father was in the mountains training for ULTIMATE POWER, leaving Ryu, an awesomely strong Dragon Ninja, to look out for the sword. But he ends up having others in the Hayabusa Ninja Clan, the obviously weak bunch, to watch after it instead. Surely, nothing bad would happen, right? Yeah, ok. Now with a village filled with dead people and the Dark Dragon Blade gone, Ryu ventures into the Vigoor Empire to reclaim it before his dad comes back and kicks his ass.
But is he a bad enough ninja to get the job done? Yes, yes he is. Ryu will cut the heads off of Cobra soldier rejects in a luxurious airship, slice through giant, brain-like mosquitoes (which look DISGUSTING) in a hidden passage-way under a monastery, knock off arms of axe-wielding mummies in an ancient tomb, and destroy tanks with a friggin bow and arrow at a Vigoor army base. Yeah, you don't want to piss this guy off. As you go on this rampage, the music does a good job to accommodate each moment. An espionage theme will play as Ryu makes his way around the city of Tairon at night for the first time, and you'll be listening to a nonstop bass-heavy tune while you try to find a way out of the complicated sewer system known as the aquaducts. There are also moments of silence which helps build tension as you travel into the unknown.
As you can tell, the Dragon Ninja will be all over the place when he gets to the Vigoor Empire, exploring every inch of the city of Tairon. This place is just packed with areas filled to the brim with detail: from the festive lights of Pleasure Street and the marbled structure of the monastery, to a forgotten Egyptian-like underground that's filled with a variety of dog statues (or cats, I'm not sure) and an ancient labyrinth with ghost fish just waiting to chomp on every piece of Ryu's body.
Speaking of bodies, some of the character designs look pretty slick. One of the most notable one's has to be Rachel, a Fiend hunter that's decked out in some sort of dominatrix outfit (an......interesting choice to hunt in); she is the most realistic looking person in the game, and when placed in the right lighting, literally looks like a real human. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for some of the other characters. People like the green, trenchcoat-wearing Gamov and the red dragons look ridiculously fake. Their skin comes off looking like plastic, making them look like a bunch of giant-sized action figures.
While Team Ninja did a great job of making the game look and sound good, they really didn't do much in the gameplay area. That's not to say the game plays bad, but there's nothing impressive because what's been done here has basically been done plenty of times in other action-adventure games: you'll look for items, fight some enemies, do a couple of platform segments, solve simple puzzles (flip a switch or insert an object), and so on. Battling foes at the beginning is actually somewhat hard and fun, but after you acquire the counterattack move, the majority of the fights become easy; whenever a group of enemies appear, you just block, wait for them to attack, and counter by slicing off their heads, which becomes a chore to do after awhile. And the platform segments try to be different by using Ryu's wall-running technique, but end up failing because the platforming is too simple-minded (literally hopping from platform to platform). Don't get me wrong, you WILL get a good amount of enjoyment from NG, but there's nothing new or innovative that'll make it stand out from the bunch.
Hell, the only thing this title has going for it is its tough difficulty. Granted, there are some annoying moments during the adventuring aspect, but most of the hard parts stem from the boss fights. Chapter one's fight with Murai looks easy at first, but his impressive nunchuck skills will bruise you within seconds if you just rush him. Instead, the fight will force you to constantly keep your guard up until Murai performs a move that'll have him vulnerable for a few seconds. And then there's the unforgivable fight with Alma, a purple, reptile-ish looking demon, at the end of chapter seven. From the start, she'll tackle you with intense speed, attacking with different kinds of techniques in a matter of seconds, hardly giving you time to respond. It's these kinds of intense fights that'll force you to plan out how you're gonna approach each one instead of just running up to them and mash the buttons.
However, the majority of the boss fights are just plain frustrating at times. The main reason is due to how fatal their attacks can be. Even after you figure out the boss's patterns and weak spots, just getting hit once in most cases will cause your life to be cut in half. So, for most of the fights, you'll end up pausing the game and restoring your health, only to get hit with a damaging attack seconds later and repeat the process over again. Another problem is that the camera gets awkwardly placed in some of the battles. Chapter two's boss fight is the best example: you're stuck on a narrow bridge with a samurai on a horse that's always moving around and a bunch of floating ninjas. Ryu is forced to fight these two types of enemies and the camera is right behind him the whole time. So, if you're fighting one of these foes, you'll have no idea where the other one is because of the camera angle, which results in many cheap hits. It's these two problems that ends up cheapening most of the boss encounters.
It's too bad these flaws prevent Ninja Gaiden from becoming a kickass title, because I really wanted it to be one. Instead, it ends up being a very basic action-adventure game. You'll still have fun playing the game, but you'll get a "been there, done that" feeling after going through a couple of chapters. Let's hope Team Ninja will be able to spice things up (gameplay-wise) when they get around to making their next action-adventure title.
Community review by pickhut (May 05, 2005)
Alternative tagline: Hit the Road, Jack.
If you enjoyed this Ninja Gaiden review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!