It's hard to think that NINJA GAIDEN originally debuted at the arcade considering that most people think that the NES game was the first. Today, when most people reference the series, they speak quite highly of the NES game and its multiple sequels. And while the series is still highly regarded, there hasn't been a game based on NINJA GAIDEN for some time (although our secretive ninja has shown up from time to time). Until now.
Tecmo must be seriously making up for lost time. Before I start with the fleshed out review, I'm going to go ahead and state that NINJA GAIDEN for the Xbox is one of the best action games that I have ever played, and I have played a lot of them. We may be only three months into the year, but this is already one of my top choices for Xbox game of the year (and that is saying a lot with FABLE and HALO 2 coming out this year).
As in the other NINJA GAIDEN games, you assume control of Ryu Hayabusa, ninja extraordinaire. When his village is attacked and the evil Dark Dragon Blade is stolen, the young ninja master takes off after the villains responsible. While the story is told through beautiful cutscenes, you'll be left wondering who these enemies are during most of the game.
Everything about this game is close to perfect. The game's controls are nearly perfect and very effective for this type of game. NINJA GAIDEN is the definition of the game that you can just pick up and play with no past experience required. The controls are highly intuitive and are as responsive as I've seen in any game.
Be forewarned thought: this game is hard. And when I say hard, I really, truly mean it; playing through NINJA GAIDEN was a fun experience, but you really have to endure it. You won't be able to get by on any pattern recognition because enemies never seem to attack in the same way, which means you're going to need really good reflexes and learn how to let Ryu fight multiple enemies at the same time. The game isn't cheap by any means; the game just requires skillful gameplay. Ryu's defense is surprisingly good, even against multiple enemies, but you'll need to learn how to counter moves fairly quickly and know how to get out of a bad situation even quicker.
And while I'm on the subject of Ryu, he has literally become one of the coolest characters ever created. He is bad, pure and simple. And while I stress the difficulty level of this game, if you know how to control Ryu correctly, you can win any battle with shining colors. Seriously, think about everything cool you've ever seen a ninja do in a movie or television show, times that by about 50 and you get Ryu Hayabusa. I am continuously amazed at how many things this character can do.
NINJA GAIDEN is also a really good looking game. If you look hard enough you'll see a few flaws here and there, but overall, this is one of the best looking games ever made. Never before have I seen a character so fluid in his animations, be it backflips off of walls or just slicing off the heads of your enemies. The framerate is near perfect, even with multiple enemies on screen.
The game sounds great too. You have the option for the Japanese track or English track, and both are surprisingly good. Normally the English dub is a little off, but it seems they hit it right on the money. Ryu's war cries during battle make him sound as powerful as he is in the game, and the fighting effects sound "realistic" as well. NINJA GAIDEN also sports a wonderfully composed soundtrack, with unique music for just about every chapter.
NINJA GAIDEN is one of the best, most challenging games ever made. NINJA GAIDEN is as close to perfect as a game can get. The game sports cutting edge graphics, great sound and the best fighting engine that has ever been created. Run to the store and buy this game.