Ninja Gaiden Black
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox
Publisher
Tecmo
Developer
Team Ninja
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Gore and Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Top notch visuals
• Insanely deep combat system
• Mission mode and arcade Ninja Gaiden unlockable
• Revised and balanced game content makes the game better

The Bad

• Camera can still be placed in odd areas from time to time

 
Grade
A+

How many developers make the effort to release an enhanced version of a game that was considered one of the best of it's genre in the past year? Not many (Kojima's studio comes to mind, but that's about it). So, when Team Ninja stated they were going to re-release Ninja Gaiden complete with the two downloadable Hurricane Packs and some revisions to the game, including an easy mode for those who couldn't survive what the original title threw at them, many were both surprised and pleased.

Ninja Gaiden begins with the story of the Hayabusa clan, who are entrusted with the care of two very powerful swords, the Dark Dragon Blade and the Dragon Sword. With Dragon Sword in hand, Ninja Ryu Hayabusa visits his master, Murai. During their conversation, they are interrupted by Ayane, who tells them that Ryu's home village is burning. He returns to the village to find it infested with enemies. The powerful Dark Dragon Blade is stolen, leading Ryu into conflict in many locations and with enemies of all types.

The core of Ninja Gaiden Black is the extremely deep and rewarding combat system. Ryu gains access to a number of weapons, including the Dragon Sword, nunchaku, shuriken and bow and arrow. Each of the melee weapons comes with a healthy list of combination between the standard attacks (X Button) and strong attacks (Y Button). After some effort, you'll learn how to break out brutal strings of combinations, slaughtering all in your path. But, to get to that point, you'll have to learn how to block (Left trigger) effectively, especially learning how to dodge roll away from attacks. You can jump, run up walls and even cast Ninpo (ninja magic). All of these skills are essential in just surviving even the easiest of enemies.

As you progress through the game, you'll find more than your fair share of items, most of which will be useful in staying alive or building Ryu's strength. On occasion, you'll be required to pick up an item to move along. Team Ninja knows best not to slow down the game by forcing players to waste time item fetching just to move along. The action is paced excellently so that you're rarely given time to breath between fights.

Along with the standard difficulty are unlockable harder difficulties, including hard, super hard and "OMIGOD, someone pull this game case out of my ass!" hard (I am, of course, paraphrasing the names). Of note for those who may have not played the original release is the Ninja Dog difficulty, which makes the game a bit easier for new players. All you have to do is die three times before beating the first boss and the Ninja Dog difficulty is offered to you. What this difficulty offers you is armbands that you can equip to make you more powerful. This doesn't making the enemies any weaker or dumber, but offers you the chance to make fights go by faster with stronger hits. You'll still need to learn how to use the combat system to your benefit to make it through the game.

For those who played the original, you'll find more than a few revisions to the game, including content from the Hurricane Packs that were only available via Xbox Live download. Also, there seems to be some effort onto the team to mix some minor things up and even balance the game even further (the Intercept skill seems to be absent). Enemies and bosses from the packs are available to fight in the game. You can also unlock a deep mission mode and even the original arcade version of Ninja Gaiden.

One of the more noticeable additions to the game is the option to switch from the original in-game camera, which follows you around but can be brought behind you with the use of Right trigger, to a more traditional camera control with the right thumbstick down. To switch between the two, click the right thumbstick down. While the second camera choice was offered to appease fans who thought the camera spent too much time in the wrong spot, I would have to say that neither camera scheme are perfect. Both tends to leads to spots where you just can't see everything, but neither are so bad that it proves to be more than an annoyance from time to time.

Visually, Ninja Gaiden Black is gorgeous. The original game featured some of the nicest visuals available this generation and Black only refines it to the point where I can't imagine anything looking better before the Xbox 360 lands. While there isn't a lot of room for improvement from the original, you can notice minor touches here and there that polish this gem all too well. Character models are finely detailed and exhibit smooth animation. Locations are large and filled with ridiculous levels of real world details. If you want to, you can just stop and look around at how well everything looks. Add that a ton of visual effects that make the whole game glow. It almost makes the intense action pale in comparison. Almost.

The audio portion of Black serves as a wonderful augment to the visuals. Sound effects are meticulously intricate, making the action feel all the more real. Weapons have their specific set of sound effects and Ryu's movements have a real world sound to them. The soundtrack isn't featuring anything catchy, but instead relies on setting a tone that works for the game world. Voice acting is nothing outstanding, but it works well with the few story sequences scattered through the game. I'm not saying it's bad, or even mediocre, but that there's really so little to the story that you never really get an established mood from the characters. But, I'm not saying that's a bad thing.

Ninja Gaiden Black is everything the original was but better. In fact, Ninja Gaiden Black proves to be one of the best action titles of this generation. If you played the original and downloaded the Hurricane Packs, there isn't much here that will make the purchase worth it to you. For those who don't have Xbox Live, you might consider this for the extra content. And for those who found the original game too hard, the new Ninja Dog difficulty a good way to ease into the game.

- - Kinderfeld

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