Ninja Gaiden Black is an enhanced remake of the action / adventure game Ninja Gaiden which was originally released on the Xbox in 2004. It is known for its incredibly fluid animations, deep fighting system, and intense difficulty as players guide protagonist Ryu Hayabusa through sixteen chapters worth of brutal combat, environmental exploration, and puzzle solving. In addition to including all of the content and improvements from the free downloadable "Hurricane Packs" released for its predecessor (Except for the Intercept, as it made the game too easy), Black also enjoyed some engine enhancements for improved textures, new in-engine cutscenes to fill out parts of the story, more unlockable costumes, and two additional difficulty levels.
The game is backwards compatible with the Xbox 360 and was released on the system's online storefront on April 7, 2008. On October 24, 2017, it was made backwards compatible with the Xbox One.
Played from a third-person perspective, Ninja Gaiden specializes in fast, visceral 3D combat against multiple opponents including black ninjas wielding explosive throwing stars, armored soldiers with submachine guns and electrified blades, huge dinosaur-like demons which can breathe fire, and many more. These foes are highly aggressive -- unlike many similar games, they will not hesitate to coordinate their attacks to strike from multiple directions at once, executing continuous combos or devastating grapple moves to exploit any opening in the player's defenses. Every enemy in the game is fast, strong, and capable of dealing out lethal amounts of damage to send the player back to the previous save point.
Fortunately, the player-controlled Ryu Hayabusa has a variety of upgradeable weapons at his disposal, superhuman agility which allows him roll safely away from enemy attacks and run several steps straight up most vertical surfaces, and the ability to cast a few different "ninpo" spells which can inflict heavy damage on one or more nearby foes. Fallen enemies also give off yellow essence which can be exchanged at shops for healing items, blue essence to heal up Ryu's wounds, and red essence to recharge his ninpo, and in the thick of battle, nearby essence can be absorbed to unleash immensely powerful "Ultimate Techniques" capable of slaying multiple enemies at a time.
Combat can take place at virtually any point in the game, but between battles, players explore each level to find hidden items and solve puzzles to proceed to the next area. There are many variations on the theme of finding a key to pass through a particular locked door, as well as environmental puzzles where Ryu must use his wall-running ability or ledge-shimmying skills to avoid damage and gain access to a hard-to-reach place. In addition to free hidden healing items, most levels also include Golden Scarab jewels which can be exchanged at shops for unique items which cannot be obtained any other way.
Weapons in the game include the Dragon Sword, a single katana considered the most balanced weapon in the game, nunchucks which sacrifice range for a greater attack speed, a quarterstaff which can easily hit multiple surrounding enemies with every swing, and a couple super-heavy weapons, like the Dabilahro great sword, which are ideal for dishing out heavy damage against some of the slower, more heavily armored opponents. Each weapon can be improved at shops in the game to unlock new and more powerful combos.
Black features several subtle gameplay changes from the original release including the relocation of certain keys, new enemies, and a few brief in-engine cutscenes designed to bridge some of the gaps in the narrative. Players who frequently die will be offered the opportunity to "Abandon the Way of the Ninja", and those who accept will be transfered to Black's new " Ninja Dog" difficulty level which is easier than the normal mode, but brands Ryu with a bright pink ribbon.
Finally, Black also adds a Mission Mode which can be unlocked by completing the game. These fifty levels focus exclusively on the combat, often restricting the player's available weapons and healing items to enhance the difficulty and give veteran players a series of progressively tougher challenges.
Some of the locales in the game include a traditional Japanese village, a futuristic airship, a modern military base, and ancient catacombs stretching deep beneath the evil Vigoor capital, evoking an anachronistic world similar to developer Team Ninja's Dead or Alive fighting game franchise. Enemy types vary in each level, and most chapters end with a particularly challenging boss encounter appropriate to the setting.
Full List of Additions to Black
Ninja Gaiden Black changed many things from the original Ninja Gaiden.
- A Higher Difficulty Setting, Master Ninja, and a Lower Difficulty Setting, Ninja Dog
- Mission Mode, containing 50 Missions, with Eternal Legend being from the Hurricane Pack
- Extra Cutscenes
- The Lunar was added, previously seen in the Hurricane packs.
- The new Plasma Sabre Mark II is included in some Missions, being simply a clone of the True Dragon Sword.
- Text boxes were removed, replaced with simple text on the screen.
- Smoke Bombs were added
- Improved Camera
- The Original Arcade Ninja Gaiden replaces the three NES games included in the previous release.
- Essence no longer required for charging Ultimate Techniques
- Successive Play was removed.
- Extra Costumes were added
- A new boss, and modifications to others.
- A trailer for DOA 4.
Ryu Hyabusa visits Murai, the leader of the " Shadow Clan" of Ninjas, and Ryu's Uncle. The visit is cut short when Ayane brings news that the Hyabusa village has been attacked. Ryu rushes to save his village, and the Dark Dragon Blade kept within it, but is struck down by a mysterious and powerful figure, who steals the cursed Dark Dragon Blade. Murai informs Ryu that the samurai that attacked the village was Doku, a Greater fiend from the Holy Vigoor Empire, and Ryu sets out on a quest for vengeance.
To enter Tairon, the capital of Vigoor, Ryu stows away on an airship, and starts his search for Doku. In Tairon, Ryu travels to Hans Bar, to find out information, and meets Rachel. Rachel is a "fiend hunter" and the two converse. This is all being watched by Gamov and the Dark Disciple, whose identity is unknown, however as the story progresses, it is made clear that these two have been arranging events from behind the scenes.
Ryu reaches a monastery, and after an exploration into the hidden underground, fights with Alma, a Greater Fiend and Rachel's Sister. Ryu is victorious in the battle, but Rachel cannot bring herself to strike the final blow, as she sees a small spark of humanity in Alma. This weakness results in Doku capturing Rachel. The battle in the monastery results in the military being alerted to the situation, and Ryu diverts to disrupt the armies communications, by destroying their tower.
After destroying the communications tower, Ryu proceeds to the palace of Zarkahn, via the aqueduct, and eventually meets with Doku, who has Rachel as a prisoner. Ryu defeats Doku, and Rachel is freed, but no questions are answered and the Dark Dragon is with the Holy Vigoor Emperor. Doku vows he shall not be so easily defeated, and will bring about the Fiendish Awakening. Rachel seems to understand, and leaves before Ryu can stop her.
Muramasa asks to see Ryu, and explains to him that the Dragon Sword has not reached its full potential, and needs a jewel to reach it. As Ryu travels on, through the caverns, and back to the center of Tairon, he realizes he has collected 3 stones that open up a pathway of portals that are activated on stone circles. This allows Ryu to find this jewel, and continue his fight for vengeance.
The spirit of Doku has taken Rachel prisoner again, and uses her in a ritual to increase Almas power. Ryu defeats the Awakened Alma, and rescues Rachel, and leaves to deal with Doku, who has succeeded in bringing about the awakening. Ryu follows Doku to a labyrinth, and succeeds on killing his spirit, but as he dies, Doku passes on a blood curse to Ryu, turning him into a fiend. The sole way to relieve him of the curse and to retrieve the Dark Dragon is to kill the Emperor.
Ryu infiltrates the palace of Zarkahn, and kills Marbus, the third greater fiend, to gain entry to the Emperors realm. Ryu eventually succeeds in killing the Emperor, but the caverns are falling down around him, and he quickly rushes to the Dark Dragon Blade, and is Rescued by Rachel. As they leave, the Dark Dragon Blade falls into the hands of the Dark Disciple, who has been watching all along. The Dark Disciple Murders his assistant, Gamov, and reveals himself to be Murai. Harnessing the evil of the Dark Dragon Blade, Murai is turned into the Devil Incarnate, and fights with Ryu. Ryu is victorious, and destroys the blade with his True Dragon Sword, shattering it. Despite Rachel wanting to stay with him, Ryu transforms into a Falcon and flies back to the Hyabusa Village, victorious.
In a brief Epilogue, Ryu lays the jewel back on Kureha's tombstone that it was found upon, in his village.
There are only two chapters in the game that do not contain a boss and some that contain more than one. Below is a list of every boss and where they appear in the game along with a description. (some images are from Ninja Gaiden Sigma but the appearance remains the same)
|Murai – The first boss encounter in the game, he was made significantly easier than in the original Ninja Gaiden. His throw damage and instant counters have been reduced and he was made much more vulnerable to ET/UT attacks. On hard he will have 4 sets of white ninjas, on very hard 4 sets of Vigoorian ninjas and on master ninja he has 4 sets of flame ninjas.
|Masakado – An extremely tough samurai horseman. He is the boss for chapter 2 and is always accompanied by mages. On the higher difficulties, he will have to be dismounted from his horse and then fought like a samurai enemy to fully kill him. On lower modes, his default life bar only has to be drained for the kill. He is significantly more powerful when fighting on the ground than a regular samurai.
|Dynamo – The head of the military assault team that boards the airship in chapter 3 in order to find Ryu. He was made harder for Black, the flying swallow technique is no longer as useful as it was in the original Ninja Gaiden. Instead the player must now accurately dodge his attacks and time theirs to damage him. He is the only boss that smoke bombs have an effect on. Dropping a smoke bomb will enable the player to land a successful ultimate technique which will deal massive damage. He is accompanied by white soldiers on hard, a mixture of white and black on very hard, and exclusively black soldiers on master ninja.
|Hydracubus – The first of the great fiends encountered in the game and the final boss in chapter 5. In order to deal damage to it the tentacles must first be removed, the flying swallow is best for this. Once these are gone the player can use any means to damage the main body, however the window of opportunity is limited before the tentacles grow back and must be removed again. On hard it is accompanied by brown imps, pink imps on very hard and crab imps on master ninja.
|Bone Dragon – The boss of chapter 6, this enemy is resurrected once the chalice is returned to its rightful place. This boss can only be damaged by attacking its feet that are holding it in place. A certain amount of health is assigned to each one, the back feet hold roughly 60% of the overall health where the front two feet hold less. The bone dragon will always attack before displaying another foot and the back feet have the most dangerous attacks assigned to them. This is due to them making the boss more vulnerable. This boss has an increasing number of wasp fiends on higher modes.
Alma – The boss of chapter 7 and first of the great fiends encountered in the game and considered by most as one of the toughest bosses in the game. This is another boss that was made slightly easier for Black due to the recovery frames of the flying swallow being reduced. The minions are the same as Hydracubus.
Tanks/Helicopter – These are the primary bosses for chapter 9. The tanks come one at a time and the helicopter is fought upon a bridge. The newly acquired strongbow is used to defeat them, explosive arrows are the best for the tanks as they kill the gunner as well as doing damage to the tank and the APFSDS cores are the best for the helicopter. However, these arrows must be used for the tanks if the player is going for karma.
|Lightning Worm – The first of 3 bosses in chapter 10. This is one of the easier bosses in the game, due to it not having minions on higher modes and very predictable attacks. However, due to this its attacks deal a lot of damage to Ryu and have a wide area of effect.
|Double Lightning Worm – The second boss in chapter 10, again with no minions but it is made much harder by the extra worm. A lot of knowledge of this boss’ patterns is required to handle this efficiently as the double boss can deal massive damage.
|Paz Zuu – The final boss of chapter 10 with the same minion structure as Alma/Hydracubus, the only difference being that one set for this boss is 3 enemies rather than the traditional two. It has very wide attack ranges and does high damage. The player must attack the legs in order to stun the boss, giving the opportunity for massive damage to be dealt.
|Doku – Lord of the great fiends and the boss in chapter 11. He is a very pattern based enemy and attacking him successfully will require perfect timing. He is most vulnerable after his lunge attack and ultimate combo. He is accompanied by increasingly stronger ninjas on higher modes.
|Fire Worm – The first boss of chapter 12. Very similar to the lightning worm in appearance and attacks. The biggest difference is the ring attack which requires the player to jump straight up in order to avoid it. Other than that it is virtually the same fight.
|Yotunfrau – The second boss of chapter 12 with the same minion structure as Alma/Hydracubus. A very slow enemy with large windows for attacking, but like most bosses with this system, his attacks deal huge damage to the player.
|Smaugan – The final boss of chapter 12, he is accompanied by zombie arches on higher modes. His primary attack is a wave of fire which can avoided with a well timed roll. If the player gets close, he will try to bite him, which deals massive damage. If the player can escape this attack, a wall attack can be done at the end to set up for more damage. He can also shoot fireballs at the player which have a wider damage area than they appear to have.
|Awakened Alma – The true from of Alma after defeating her and the boss of chapter 13 with the same minion structure as before. She is a completely different enemy this time, with far more dangerous attacks and she is harder to stun. Level 2 inazuma ninpo will always knock her down and is the only truly reliable way to stun her. The flying swallow is better though due to the shorter recovery frames and the position the player will be in afterwards.
|Spirit Doku – Doku’s form after defeating him and the boss of chapter 14. Inferno ninpo was devastating against him in the original Ninja Gaiden and was toned down for this one. More emphasis is put on evading his attacks (much like the first encounter) and timing retaliations perfectly. He is accompanied by increasing numbers of ghost fish.
|Nicchae – Only found in very hard and master ninja during the Marbus marathon in chapter 15. It is the exact same boss as Alma with two main differences. The first being far higher damage and the second is she is much more close quarters orientated than Alma who relies more on projectiles. She is accompanied by crab imps on master ninja.
|Ishtaros - Only found in very hard and master ninja during the Marbus marathon in chapter 15. She is a very close quarters based enemy and is vulnerable after nearly all her attacks. However, the claw-spin kick attack leaves her more open to attack than any other. She will occasionally use her whip to attack to the chains in the arena where she is fought, during this time an ultimate technique can be charged to damage her as she jumps down to attack.
|Marbus – The personal guard to the vigour emperor and found in chapter 15. He is an air based enemy in the same manner as Alma and can summon minions throughout the fight, topping out 111 enemies. His main weakness is his dive bomb attack, if successfully avoided, he is open to huge damage from the player.
|Vigoor Emperor 1 form – The first encounter of the emperor in chapter 15. Ryu is standing on a floating rock when fighting this boss, inferno ninpo is the most effective way of defeating this boss. However, ultimate techniques with the True Dragon Sword are very effective also. Doing these requires a good knowledge of here attacks in order to dodge them for time to charge.
|Vigoor Emperor 2 form – Fought immediately after the first form. This boss consists of a mass of skulls topped by a larger skull and walks on four hands. He will walk around the outside of the platforms present at the time and will send barrages of skulls at the player. These can be killed to deal damage and when the big skull comes for the player ninpo can be used to deal huge damage. This attack is the most dangerous the boss has.
|Fiend Murai – The final boss of the game and found in chapter16. Flying swallow’ effectiveness was significantly reduced in this game. Instead the focus shifted to timing attacks after his most vulnerable stages. Inferno ninpo is useful and the True Dragon Sword is the most balanced weapon to use.
Throughout the game there are large scale encounters placed in previously conquered areas that will yield a significant item reward for completing them, usually a live of the thousand gods or spirit of the devil. These are commonly dubbed “fiend challenges” due to the high enemy counts present in them. These scale per difficulty, increasing the number of enemies and types of enemies contained within them.
- Dragon Sword (Later Increased to the True Dragon Sword)
- Wooden Sword (Can be upgraded to the Unlaboured Flawlessness)
- Vigoorian Flails
- War Hammee
- Spear Gun (Takes up the position of a melee weapon, but shoots harpoons)
- Dark Dragon Blade (Unlocked by acquiring all 50 scarabs and giving them to Muramasa.)
- Windmill Shuriken
- Incendiary Shuriken
- Smoke Bombs
- Bow (Later replaced with the Strongbow)
- Explosive Arrows
- APFSDS Cores.
The mission mode is unlocked for completing the game on hard. Once unlocked it adds a substantial amount of value to the game.
On April 7, 2008, Ninja Gaiden Black became available on the Xbox 360's Xbox Originals service for 1200 Microsoft Points.