The Wait Was Worth It
Itagaki is unique in the way that he refuses to put any of his games on anything other than the most powerful graphical console available. He could make alot more money making them multiplatform, but he only accepts the best. And this is the best. DOA3 is still one of the best looking games on the Xbox two years after its release, and DOAXBV has some of the best character models in any game ever...for more than the obvious reasons. Ninja Gaiden completely lives up to Team Ninja's legacy and more. On top of the extremely detailed character models, flashing steel blades, and colorful worlds, Ninja Gaiden features some of the best CG cut scenes you'll ever see...yes that's including anything from Squaresoft. They are a great reward for finishing each Chapter, because this game is hard! Each level is distinctly different from the last. You won't find repeating rooms and hallways here. The game also moves at a lightning fast 60 frames per second. The amount of attention to detail is astounding. It doesn't get better than this.
Backflipping off someone's shoulders and lopping their head off has never been this simple. Seriously though, the gameplay in Ninja Gaiden is simple enough to get you into the action fast, but deep enough that you're constantly learning new maneuvers. You have your basic swift and fierce attacks, your ranged attack, and of course jump. Some of Ryu's signature moves from DOA, including his mid-air spinning piledriver (which causes a small earthquake damaging anyone near you) and the classic Guillotine Throw where Ryu leaps toward an opponent and grabs their head as he flips over them and throws them by the neck over his head taking out anyone and anything in front of him. Each weapon has its own unique combos, much like each fighter would in DOA, plus some devastating charge-up specials. You can also unleash magical attacks (Ninpo) by pressing A+Y. Pretty much anything you've ever seen a ninja do, you can do here. This includes running up/along walls, pausing in mid-air to throw a flurry of shurikens, beheading multiple people in a single move, and of course deflecting machine gun bullets with your sword. The only thing I wish they would've done was allow you to hold down R to keep the camera behind you instead of having to tap it re-orient yourself.
Being a ninja, Ryu is pretty quiet. So the background music is more important, and it's quite good. The music ramps up when you approach blind corners or spot an enemy. It will also morph from ancient Japanese style instruments to techno-style beats when you get swarmed by an ambush of enemies. Each weapon also has its own unique sound, not just one sound for every sword in your arsenal. This goes for you enemies' weapons as well. The dialogue may sound a bit cheesy but I'm not sure why they have it on English by default anyway. All of the DOA games are in Japanese with subtitles, and given the setting and storyline of this game, I rather enjoy the Japanese dialogue. So I suggest you turn that on with the English subtitles.
Okay, this game is fuckin' hard. And that's on Normal. But rather than being frustrating, I find it encouraging. The game is said to take about 20 hours to beat on your first time through, which is great for an action game. But if that's not enough for you...good, because there's a crap-ton more. The game features online tournaments via Xbox Live where you can post scores and times in scheduled events. On top of that, and easily the best bonus of them all, the original Ninja Gaiden games are included...yes, all THREE of them. You have to play through the new adventure to unlock them but they're all on the disc. A twenty-plus hour adventure, three levels of difficulty, unlockable outfits, downloadable content, online tournaments, and a trilogy of vintage games...what more could you possibly ask for?
I'm struggling to find something un-fun about this game. The only thing I can think of is the camera. Every now and then it gets into a position where you can see some of the enemies surrounding you...but you're a ninja pinging off walls and slicing through bodies like butter. It's quite understandable if the camera can't keep up every so often. As for the rest of the game, it's a f'n riot. At first you don't have many variations of attacks, but within two hours you'll have a handful of weapons and some devastating special attacks that allow you to take out a group of enemies with ease. In a world where hardly any game lives up to the hype surrounding it, this game does. If Knights of the Old Republic didn't convince you to get an Xbox, you can't put it off any longer. Ninja Gaiden is the first "must-own" game of the year.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***