Now, before I start this review I must say that despite references to controller throw at TVs I neither approve of nor promote the use of violence against innocent TVs.
A little Ninja Gaiden history
A little over 14 years ago in the 8-bit console war between the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System a Japanese developer called Tecmo Released a Ninja game from a development team we have come to know as Team Ninja. The game was Ninja Gaiden. They released it, and a sequel (Ninja Gaiden 2) across multiple platforms. In 1997 Team Ninja revived the star of Ninja Gaiden: Ryu Hayabusa in their Dead or Alive series in the arcades and on the Saturn, PS1, Dreamcast, PS2, and now after almost 10 years he is finally getting his own series back, on Xbox.
"So how does this remake fair in this age of save games and 'advanced' AI?" You might ask? Well, it's a very hard game (at first anyway) and by that I mean even on Normal Mode this will turn even the most hardened gamer to mush, you might even throw the controller at the TV in frustration, but it is worth it. Although I may be understating how hard this game is in saying that. The game starts you off with a short tutorial and you may even die a few times just playing through that.
After The tutorial you get a short piece of FMV where you may notice a familiar face from the Dead or Alive series as Ayane appears for the first time in this game with some disturbing news for Ryu about his village to get the story rolling. The basic story in this game is that an evil Ninja has burnt Ryu Hayabusas' Village to the ground, so you must hunt him down and paint the town red with his blood. It is fairly un-original, but it works.
Hack n' slash Gameplay is alive and slashing
For the most part Gameplay involves slashing, stabbing, and burning your way through tons of Ninjas, Mutants, and other unfriendly enemies. All of whom are going to come at you with everything they have, and I mean everything! There are not really any dumb enemies in this game either with the exception of the bats that will attack even though you can take them out with one Shuriken. Anything with a weapon that wants you dead will attack even bats will try to kill you but you can take care of bats with a few Shurikens. Some of the boss fights seem a bit unbalanced; for example the third boss is a lot easier to beat than the first and second bosses are. This may be because you have had more practice since fighting the first couple of bosses, but upon replaying the first level and trying to beat the first boss again, it was still a little on the hard side of things.
The weapons in this game consist of the usual Swords, Bows, and Shurikens. Along with these weapons Ryu also has some Ninpo Magic attacks such as 'The art of the fire wheels' which he gains after finishing the tutorial mode and beating the first boss. Each time you use a magic attack some KI is used. You can regain KI and health by killing enemies and collecting the little floating balls they drop, it is a good idea to do this rather than using Health potions too as you will need as much of them as you can get to beat the end-of-level bosses. Each level also has different enemies to keep the Gameplay from getting too repetitive while also making the game harder as you progress and gain new attacks or weapons.
This game also keeps score via the 'Karma system' the more efficient your fighting the higher your Karma score becomes, now keeping in mind that the AI in this game is so ruthless they will take advantage of any mistake you make it becomes a matter of having a fairly high Karma score or being dead.
As well as all of the weapons and magic attacks Ryu has on offer he can also do wall runs, jump against walls and do a flip to reach a high place, and swing on. Mastering all of Ryu's combos is a must for anyone wanting to get anywhere in this game.
It seems that with every sword game these days they always have trails, and this game is no exception in this respect. Every weapon from the Swords to Shurikens leaves a trail in the air. There are some clipping issues with the sword nothing too bad though, just being able to swing your sword through a chair without doing any damage looks kind of odd. The Camera can be a problem in fights as sometimes you're fighting an enemy and the camera is looking away from the fight which may cause you to die. Pressing the right trigger will center the camera behind Ryu which helps for performing jumps, and wall runs.
The Sound effects and Music suit the game nicely with some nice background music in every level and the weapons make realistic sounds.
The controls in this game are very responsive, and with the level of difficulty this game is at, they have to be. Pressing Y and B together will perform a magic attack once you have them. X is used for primary attack, pressing X a few times will form a combo move much like pressing punch in the Dead or Alive games, X can also be used with Y in combo moves. Pressing B will use your selected projectile weapon e.g. throwing Shurikens. Running on walls is easy enough to do; just run at the wall, jump on it and keep pushing forward and to the left or right depending on which way you want to run. To display the level maps you just press the black button. Pressing the Clear button will show how much Karma you have. You can press Y in the pause screen to see a list of the combos for the primary weapon you are holding much like in Dead or Alive.
Ninja Gaiden can also be played on Xbox Live via Master Ninja Tournament mode where players can get their ninja on in a multiplayer swordfest.