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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
9.5
Visuals
9.5
Audio
9.5
Gameplay
9.5
Features
9.0
Replay
9.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Tecmo
DEVELOPER:
Team Ninja
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
March 02, 2004
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Ninja Gaiden III

Ninja Gaiden 3

Ninja Gaiden 3

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Ninja Gaiden 2

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on March 19, 2004

Second Opinion: Dammit Cartman, stop making up powers!!


I'm not going to run my mouth about the history of Ninja Gaiden. If you're interested, please read my preview, found here. It was written quite some time ago, as Ninja Gaiden for Xbox has suffered numerous delays since its announcement. Was it worth the wait? Oh, yes?.oh yes indeed.

Ninja Gaiden tells the tale of Ryu Hayabusa, and his vendetta against the evil Vigoor Empire, responsible for the destruction of the Hayabusa clan, and the theft of an ancient sword of immeasurable power. These events take you through the first couple of chapters in the game, at which point you attempt to penetrate the heart of the empire, and retrieve your rightful property.

Team Ninja has crafted a masterpiece of action and bloodshed, a game that will be a future benchmark for fast paced action titles. Ryu's moves are incredible, and throughout the adventure, the difficulty ramps up perfectly in step with Ryu's increased abilities. The character controls beautifully, with movement and attack command input mapped to the left thumbstick, and a first person view to the right. The left trigger is used to block, and the right centers the camera behind Ryu. The Y button features a strong attack, and the X button a flurry attack. Using both in combination will unlock the true power of the Ninja at your fingertips. The X button is also used to interact with the environment ? everything from opening doors, to finding health and power elixirs. The B button is your projectile weapon, an unlimited supply of throwing stars, or a bow and arrow ? as well as a few other cool surprises. Finally, the A button is used to jump. And jump you will, as Ryu's incredible arsenal of moves allows everything from high flying, ground pounding assaults, to running along walls, or flipping off of a structure to decapitate the nearest foes in a stylishly gory display.

Throughout the game, the enemies (who run the gamut from evil ninjas, to hi-tech military forces -- and a whole bunch of cool, other-worldly monsters) will test your ninja skills every step of the way. Most chapters culminate in an incredible boss fight, and the art design of the characters, as well as the environments, is fantastic. The sheer amount of combos that Ryu has available is mind boggling, and as you play through the game, you'll be able to find more powerful weapons, as well as the occasional merchant shop where you can buy health, Ninpo elixir (Ninja magic ? Ryu is capable of a fire attack, or ice and bio-electrical attacks) and upgrade your weapons. You'll be able to save your progress at specific points throughout, and up to 10 separate save files can be created. Do yourself a favor and save in as many slots as possible. There's nothing worse than realizing you have a huge battle coming up and no health in your inventory, nor any way to get some.

As Ryu downs foes, they release essence ? usually yellow, which translates into actual cash you can use to buy stuff, or occasionally red, which replenishes Ninpo. Enemies also drop blue essence, which refills Ryu's health gauge instantly. You can also perform charged attacks (called ultimate techniques) by using the Y button to pull in nearby essence. Ryu then launches himself at his enemies and does devastating damage.

Visually, NG is simply stunning. The environments are lovingly wrapped in razor sharp textures, particle effects are seen in abundance whenever Ryu clashes with adversaries, and the level of detail in every nook and cranny is astounding. The character models are some of the best I've seen to date, brimming with meticulous detail and realistic weaponry. Each character's animations, from the lowliest ninja footsoldier to the massive bosses, and of course, Ryu himself ? looks absolutely perfect. The really cool thing about the world of Ninja Gaiden is the sheer variety of areas, and the continuous feeling that everything is connected. As you make your way through the Vigoorian streets, you may find yourself realizing that the deep caverns you've been moving through end up coming out into another part of the city, and the enemies you spied in the distance a few hours ago are now in your face and ready to do battle. Very cool stuff.

The sound in NG is just as sweet as the visuals, and the various clanging of heavy metal weapons, the ripping sound of shirukens flying through the air, and the intense blast of Ninpo being summoned work in synergy to fully submerse you into the game world. The music is well suited to the subject matter, and features everything from lilting, Asian themed tunes, to heavy guitar music and epic, sweeping themes.

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