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Ninja Gaiden Xbox Official Website

Published by Microsoft/Tecmo
Developed by Team Ninja

Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

As you get older most people would tend to think they are in good shape when the truth is that they aren't. Normal day to day life lulls you into a false sense of thinking that you're as fit as a fiddle and it's not until you do something that physically exerts you that you realise you're out of shape. Most people don't realise just how less active they have become as their life changes as they get older. It's been a similar story playing games over the last 20 or so years. Some of those games in the eighties and early nineties were very difficult and yet most people kept plugging away and eventually completed them. Over the last 7 to 8 years games have become easier to attract the casual gamer and longstanding gamers have gradually seen the difficulty lowered and games become a lot easier. However just to remind us how slack we have all become, Ninja Gaiden arrives on Xbox to kick us back into shape. Be prepared for a very challenging game that reminds us just how difficult games used to be.

In Ninja Gaiden you play as Ryu Hayabusa. Ryu is out for revenge after his clan was slaughtered by the evil Vigoor Empire. The road to revenge is going to be a very difficult one but thankfully Ryu will acquire a multitude of special weapons and special powers, known as Ninpo, that will help him in this most difficult of quests. Ninpo powers are very special indeed and Ryu can't use them until he's found a scroll that teaches him how to use a specific power. Ninpo powers include The Art of the Inferno, The Art of the Inazuma and The Art of Ice Storm. To perform Ninpo attacks you'll have to maintain your supply of Ki power by collecting the red essences from your slain enemies (you'll also come across blue essence, which replenishes Ryu's health and yellow essence which acts as currency to purchase items from Muramasa's store). Selecting the correct Ninpo power for the situation is very important to being successful. Ryu is also one heck of a special ninja as he can run along the face of walls and performs wind runs that give many enemies little chance at all of blocking his attack. He can even run on water and do flying bird flips. Being so agile allows Ryu to have an impressive assortment of attacks and fans of the genre can't fail to be impressed with them. Even with all these abilities though, it's still no easy task.

So what makes Ninja Gaiden so difficult then? Well it's not just a simple button bashing beat 'em up and it requires thought and observation. As you would expect the game comprises 'normal' enemies and of course boss fights. Taking on the various enemies in the game is far from 'a walk in the park' though and you'll need to work out the most effective way of dealing with them. When it comes to the boss fights, the difficulty level goes through the roof and it will make even the best games player sweat. Each boss requires a different strategy and simply button bashing and taking the bosses head on will have you slaughtered in no time at all. To it's credit the game has save points before each boss so you don't have to backtrack too much should a boss make mincemeat out of you (and believe me it will occur frequently). It's not all about combat though and you'll find a decent amount of puzzles here to help break up the action a little. Thankfully though there's nothing too taxing in this respect.

Graphically Ninja Gaiden looks very good. Inside the game box you'll find a piece of paper that advises you to set your Xbox to PAL 60 mode (assuming your TV supports it of course). This is actually highly advisable because otherwise (in the default 50Hz mode) you'll notice an awful lot of tearing when you use the right analogue stick to look around. With the Xbox set at PAL 60 mode there is none whatsoever. Once again though Team Ninja have created a Xbox game that is very visually impressive and has to be one of the best ever looking action games on any platform. The game's frame rate never waivers and maintains a rock solid 60fps throughout, which is incredible considering some of the hectic action that occurs. Team Ninja displayed their mastery of developing for the Xbox with Dead or Alive 3 and Ninja Gaiden is further proof, as if it was needed, that they are masters of their craft and know how to get the Xbox performing at it's maximum.

Ninja Gaiden will cause no problems for deaf gamers as it's fully subtitled. It's not subtitled by default though and when you play the game for the first time the introduction will not be subtitled. However if you make sure that first of all you go into the options and enable the subtitles you can then reload the game to see the introduction fully subtitled. The text is large and easy on the eyes, even on a small screen. If I have one criticism though it's with the tutorial tips that appear early in the game. They are all in text so there's no problem there but it's their positioning that's the problem. On many occasions a tutorial tip will inform you about what needs to be done (which is usual) but they are placed in such a position as you will have already needed to have carried out the action so in effect they are useless.

What else is there to say about Ninja Gaiden? It's easily one of the most polished games ever to be created. Yes by today's standards the game is very difficult by it's just so impressive and enjoyable that you won't want to put it down. I've gained more satisfaction from defeating the bosses in Ninja Gaiden than I usually gain from completing a whole game and it's this satisfaction that makes the game feel so rewarding. Of course to some the high difficulty level will be off-putting but I urge you not to let it prevent you from playing what's easily one of the most memorable games in recent times. Ninja Gaiden also supports Xbox Live play in the shape of the Master Ninja Tournament although at the time of writing the service wasn't available but should be in the near future. As a single player game though it's definitely one of the best games on the Xbox to date and if further incentive was needed to buy the game you can also unlock the original Ninja Gaiden I, II, and III, which is excellent.

Overall Game Rating: 9.3/10
Another superb game from Tecmo/Team Ninja that's one of the best action games ever made on any platform. It's difficult (very difficult in fact) but the game is just so impressive that you'll want to try and try again. Excellent stuff.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Subtitles are there to be enabled but they aren't on by default. The positioning of tutorial tips could have been better though.