Ninja Gaiden Xbox Review
Ninja Gaiden is like no other game you will have played before, believe that much. Sure it is similar in parts to various titles, namely Prince of Persia, crossed with Devil May Cry, but it’s different in essence to all other games launched this generation at least. Never before has a game been so fluid, so graphically accomplished and in many other areas it excels. However, never before has a game in this genre required you to be in, to put it a crude way ‘In The Zone’, that is to require your full attention, blocking out the outside world when you play it, as one distraction will absolutely result in complete failure.
The Story here is completely irrelevant, which is a shame as there are some gorgeous FMV sequences. Not surprisingly it’s a tail of revenge and it’s pretty long winded in my own opinion, not adding anything intensely to the game. It has some confusing sections, mixed with reading text and watching FMV, for example between the 2nd and 3rd level you appear on a Blimp, and unless you read all the text given it was initially confusing to how you actually got onboard this Blimp. But then this game isn’t about a story line, this game is all about its challenge, and this is the make or break factor on which this game should be reviewed in my opinion.
First of all the graphics are tremendous. The environments are gorgeous, with even the polished wood on the floor reflecting everything. This game has to be seen to be believed. It is definitely the best looking title on Xbox available at the moment, pulling out all the tricks and it really does look like those screenshots everybody looked at in disbelief when they first laid eyes on them. Animation of Ryu the main character is superb, easily surpassing animation seen in games like Prince of Persia. The animation of the bosses, especially the 1st boss is revolutionary! There is no popup, no clipping, absolutely nothing wrong that can distract you from the Gameplay. As mentioned above the FMV is of an extremely high quality, the best I personally have witnessed in a game this generation. Sometimes the characters and environments look a little polished with some enemies looking like they were made out of rubber, but that is excusable, especially when moments come like laying eyes upon the sun lit cathedral for the first time and the reflections of the stain glassed windows. Top marks here I am sure everybody would agree.
This title has an awful lot to offer, but nothing more so than the controls. They are fluid with a capital F. Forget Prince of Persia, these controls are perfect. Every button responds as you would ever expect it to, you can do just about anything you want to, run across walls, double jump off walls, dodge, roll, climb, back flip, even run on water, you name it you can do it. And most impressively you do it without thinking about it, I have never had to move my head to look at the controller once, the controls are simple to input, but the game is so clever it seems like it knows what you want Ryu to do and thus you can perform a huge range of moves depending on the situation you find yourself within.
Fighting is also just as smooth, pulling the left trigger will cause you to block, and my god you’re going to need it! With each enemy there is a different tactic, blocking will not always work you find out on the 3rd level when enemy’s slip behind you and slit you throat, constantly requiring you to adjust tactics to face new enemies. The x and y buttons control your main weapon, of which there are a few to choose from for example, sword, axe thingy, and nun chucks which can all be upgraded. This said, I stuck with your default weapon, the sword for the whole game. Pressing the b button will launch your projectile weapon, which are generally limited in supply. These range from arrows to exploding darts and must be used within combos of your main weapon. This all leads to thousands of possible moves and combos, and you can use walls etc to do differing attacks. On top of all this there is magic as well, easily pulled off with a double button press, which is not easily pressed by accident. These magic powers are fairly effective and usually best saved for the boss or sub boss fights.
With all this the camera does have trouble. Its one of the first things you will notice when playing the game. The camera is odd, which isn’t surprising considering the abilities of the main character. Pulling the right trigger allows for the camera to swing behind Ryu, but its not really up to the task during combat and especially the boss battles, where taking the time to adjust the camera can lead to certain death. You do become accustomed to the camera eventually however, noticing how it adjusts very slightly when enemies are close, but at the end of the day you do have to get used to fighting enemies you cannot see on screen.
While the sound does not let the game down in the slightest, its nothing to write home about. This is standard atmospheric music which is very forgettable. It does its task well, mixing traditional atmospheric music, with traditional Japanese mythological sounds, while quite oddly mixing a bit of 80’s rock in for good measure. The music just doesn’t get you that excited, which is a good thing I suppose as really you don’t want an annoying music track to distract you from this game as you need to fully concentrate. Sound effects also do their job fine, lots of “swooshing” noises when your weapon is used (perhaps in a Power Ranger OTT method in parts). The lip sync in the English version at least is dire though, pity really.
As mentioned above it is the difficulty and challenge which sets this game apart from others. After 30 minutes of play most gamers will hit the first boss, and for some players that is where they will give up. This game is ruthless, not accepting any failure especially where the bosses are concerned. The difficulty will split gamers down the middle, those who love a challenge and those who don’t. This however is slightly different, as personally I hate difficult games, but this is so rewarding in the sense of achievement that it can spur you to continue, if you can not get too frustrated with the first boss however. Like Ikaruga on the GameCube it is important to stick with the game. During my time playing the title I had to restart over 4 times, making sure I picked up every single item, and perfectly homed my tactics for each boss. Many players won’t have the time/determination to do this, and that is a shame as the title deserves to be seen, and for those who put in the effort they are rewarded by being able to see this gorgeous game. Its is with the fault of Tecmo, that this game is not more accessible, and as much as I did enjoy the challenge there is reason to believe a easier difficulty level could have allowed this game to be appreciated by a whole lot more people, but then again that could of ruined the rewarding part of game which could be considered its main strong point. This is really a case of personal opinion.
Overall Ninja Gaiden is a flawed masterpiece, mainly due to the camera system. It’s a gorgeous, original title that reeks of quality throughout, in the graphics, sound and design. The combat and control system are among the best ever in a video game, effortlessly allowing you to be absorbed into this game which is necessary for such a hard title. With regards to the difficulty, I enjoyed it, others will not and it is difficult to predict whether or not the inclusion of an easier mode would have made the game more commercial, or simply ruined the great achievement felt when finishing a game. It was a brave move on Tecmo’s behalf, ensuring that this is a gamer’s game. Expect a lot of returned copy’s to Game station however from those who just could not get passed the 1st boss. For those who can cope expect at least 20 hours of great quality gaming.
8.5 out of 10