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Score: 8.9 / 10
Ninja Gaiden’s history stretches way back
but the basic premise has remained the same: assume the role of a ninja
and kick some butt. There’s not much sway from that basic premise in
Ninja Gaiden’s latest iteration.
You take the role of Ryu Hayabusa who is quickly tasked with avenging
his slaughtered kin (with events unfolding from there). While the action
is frenetic – too frenetic by some accounts – Ninja Gaiden (NG) throws
in some streamlined role-playing elements such as basic item gathering
and earning experience points. But you’d never mistake NG for a
role-playing game because most role-playing games don’t require the
reflexes of a mongoose.
Blinking was fatal with F-Zero GX (GC) and it can also be fatal with NG.
The action is so frighteningly fast and Ryu’s moves so numerous, half
the time I had no real sense of what I was actually doing. I was
probably mid-way through the story before I had any real feel of how to
perform the more powerful moves. How many
moves does Ryu have? Lots. He can run on
walls, flip off poles, perform all sorts of blade slashes and shoot
arrows, but the most important move is probably blocking. Button mashers
will have a rough time with NG if they can’t get their mind around the
idea that there’s some strategy involved.
Even with a handle on the control, NG is not a game for beginners. This
is old-school tough.
took me two-dozen tries to beat the relatively easy first boss. I say,
“Relatively” because Ryu has to fight some really tough bosses. Even
some of the non-bosses can be incredibly hard to kill. After dispatching
a group of enemies it wasn’t uncommon for Ryu to be half-dead, even
after downing a health elixir. (Again, learn to love the block button!)
I suppose the “problem” is that the enemies tend to be a mixed bunch
with a variety of attack patterns and looks, so recognizing an enemy and
its capabilities can be tough. (Although, if an enemy is on horseback,
you’re probably safer to just keep moving!)
But with all this solid challenge and slick ninja action, there is at
least one downside, which resulted in my untimely (and frustrating)
death at least a dozen times: the camera. For most of the game, the
camera admirably shows off the gorgeous graphics and striking animation
without hindering your view of Ryu decapitating foes. However, that’s
not always the case. Pressing the left shoulder button resets the camera
directly behind Ryu, which can have unpredictable results. In some areas
the camera gets completely obscured by Ryu – meaning you can’t see the
boss character thundering toward you almost guaranteeing that you’ll be
reloading your game very soon.
If you are a master swordsman, you can compare your prowess with other
players through Xbox Live’s rankings. Being without Live I can’t really
speak for this feature. And even if I did have Live you think I’d want
people laughing at my incompetent sword slinging (regardless the fact I
actually finished the game)?
If you like your action challenging, lightening fast, and highlighted
with great graphics, Ninja Gaiden should find a place in permanent
rotation on your play list.