March 16, 2004 > Ninja Gaiden
by Jeremy Inman, Government Assassin
Ninja games haven't exactly been triumphant on the next generation console systems. The highly anticipated "Shinobi" released with no more than a whimper and the "Tenchu" franchise has continued to offer up the same game play that it did when it came out on the Playstation almost ten years ago. The closest thing to a worthwhile sword fighting game is the underrated "Way of the Samurai," which gets less credit than it deserves for being one of the most entertaining games of its genre. After this series of lackluster releases, it wasn't hard for Tecmo's "Ninja Gaiden" to come out on top of the genre.
In "Ninja Gaiden," players assume control of the powerful ninja Ryu Hayabusa of the Hayabusa clan. When an evil sorcerer clan of Ninjas from the Vigoor Empire murders Ryu's entire clan and burns his village to the ground, it's up to the player to exact revenge. Using the powerful Dragon Sword and a host of acrobatic abilities, players must advance through a futuristic empire, complete with sorcerers, ninjas, and evil creatures called "Fiends" that Ryu must vanquish in order to survive.
The combat system used in "Ninja Gaiden" is one of the most entertaining systems to date. Accessible controls and fluid animations allow for some furious and visually breathtaking battles. Ryu, players can run along walls, use a variety of ninja weapons (both melee and projectile), and perform devastating combos. Other abilities include using magic powers to control the elements, swinging on bars and running along water.
Along with the continuous action, there are many other game play aspects of "Ninja Gaiden". The problem-solving aspect of the game is reminiscent of "Resident Evil", requiring players to occasionally seek out keys, switches or puzzles in order to unlock more areas of the game. The majority of "Ninja Gaiden" takes place within the enemy city of Vigoor, which is filled with secret areas to explore and a seemingly unlimited amount of area to uncover. Like Ubisoft's "Prince of Persia," many of the puzzles in the game are based around Ryu's set of acrobatic abilities. Such situations include running along walls to avoid traps, successfully mastering abilities such as the continuous wall jump to reach higher levels, and navigating perilous enemy traps.
The game also houses an upgrade system that allows players to acquire and upgrade new weapons and abilities. The most skilled and observant ninjas will uncover hidden secrets throughout the game that will aid them in they're quest. This function goes a long way to increase the feeling of satisfaction upon completion of the game's various missions. Furthermore, the game's online function allows players to hook up to Xbox Live and compete in a national Master Ninja Tournament or download new content for the single player game.
All of this coupled with the game's smooth graphical presentation and its nonstop action, "Ninja Gaiden" is by far the most entertaining game of its genre, and well worth the price of purchase. "A"