Ninja Gaiden
By Charlie Goodrich Sunday, 20 Jun 2004

If you own an Xbox and don’t own Ninja Gaiden, I seriously question your gaming sense. This is one of the must own Xbox games. This game offers much more then just kick ass action though, you’ll find puzzles that may take time to figure out, a story that takes a back seat to the rest of the game, some of the nicest graphics to ever grace a videogame, voiceovers and sounds that don’t miss a beat, controls that are perfect, and some great unlockables.

This game features action from start to finish. You start by beating up other ninjas and, by the end, you’re slashing demon limbs off left and right, literally! And this game gives you plenty of weapons to do it with. You can use the classic ninja sword, two pairs of Nunchakus, a giant hammer, a giant sword, a wooden sword that can transform into a powerful oar, and an evil sword that drains your life. But the fun doesn’t stop there, if you’re into killing from a distance there are projectile weapons too. Anything from normal surikens, to explosive ones, a bow with four different types of arrows, a javelin gun for underwater opponents and a windmill shuriken that returns to it’s user like a boomerang. Ryu (the main character) can perform dozens of combos with all of these weapons on the ground, in the air, or underwater. You can jump off walls or walk on walls to gain an advantage over your enemies.

The combat system is nearly perfect in this game. You can kill one enemy, then immediately start working on another. Ryu also has magic he can use. The four spells you can find include, a fire spell that protects you, a spell that shoots a fire ball at an enemy, an ice spell that thrusts a spire of ice at a foe and a lightning spell that damages every enemy on the screen. After an enemy dies, they leave behind a spirit that you can collect and they allow you to purchase healing items, or armlets that improve skills.

The puzzles in Ninja Gaiden range from easy to moderately hard. Some puzzles just make you locate a switch to activate and others require that you find certain items that you have to use to open a door. But the worst puzzle makes you pull levers in a certain order to move platforms you must climb up. Again they are nothing bad if you take your time and think about what you have to do.

The story in Ninja Gaiden isn’t that strong. You begin with your village burning to the ground and a sword with unimaginable power being stolen. Ryu must set off on a quest to recover the sword and stop the person behind the slaughter of the citizens of his village. It does have a nice twist at the end that I didn’t see coming and that they hid very well.

Now let us talk about the graphics. Ninja Gaiden has some of the best looking game play and cinema graphics that I have ever seen in a videogame. The characters are realistic, colorful and every movement flows beautifully. The environments look incredible and the amount of detail put into every nook and cranny is amazing. All of the cinematic are lit perfectly, and the amount of detail again is amazing. The weapon effects and the blood that gushes out of the enemies also look great.

One thing that I think reviewers overlooked was the sound quality. Every footstep, sword swipe, flip, explosion or whatever you are listening to in this game sounds accurate and good. In one level you have to fight a helicopter and a tank, and both of them sound realistic and it helps to immerse you into the gaming experience. The voices for all of the characters is also excellent. In most videogames, if the voices are great there is usually one that sucks, but in Gaiden all of the voices are good. It’s a pleasant surprise that Tecmo took time to make sure everything was as perfect as it could get before shipping this game.

Now for the fun little goodies the makers put into the game. To unlock things one must collect golden beatles. There are fifty in the game and once you reach a certain number you can go to the shop and collect your prize. At first you get special armlets that are not for sale. Then you get spirit gems that increase you life and magic bars. However, when you finally collect all fifty beatles you get the original Ninja Gaiden that came out back on the NES. Then when you go through the game again you can find the second Ninja Gaiden game, and on a third trip through you can get the third installment in the series.

Before this game came out, Tecmo kept pushing the release date back and back. I remember that because at the time I was working at Electronics Boutique, and everyday I would come in and look at the release dates for games I wanted. But Tecmo took their time and made a great game. And I consider Ninja Gaiden as one of the greatest action games of all time. There are four fun games in this one disk and it only adds to the value and replayability this game offers. I had a blast exploring all of the different levels finding all fifty beatles and playing the old classics.


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