Ryu Hayabusa is a highly trained ninja whom seeks revenge for the attack on his clan. His village was decimated by an organization called the Vigoor Empire, and an evil sword which was being guarded by his clan called the Dark Dragon Blade was stolen. Ryu soon journeys to their city with his mission being to reclaim the blade, and kill the samurai named Doku who was responsible for the attack. -summary
There was actually a time when I retired from gaming and it had very little to do with the lack of challenge in games or interest. To be more accurate, retiring the controls had everything to do with the amount of time spent in gaming altogether. They can indeed be time consuming, and when you look at the clock you will see more than 8 hours of your life has just passed by. When I made my return to gaming once again, it was Ninja Gaiden in 2004 for the X-Box that grabbed my attention, and later on in 2005 when the reboot or upgrade Ninja Gaiden Black had been released for the same system, well, full time gaming was back in order.
Ninja Gaiden Black isn't exactly a remake, instead, it's Ninja Gaiden all over again except with the DLC added to it. From what I was told, if you owned the original Ninja Gaiden along with X-Box live, then you didn't need this game because you can just download everything. However, if you don't own the game at all, and you played one of the sequels first which in turn piqued your interest to back track, then you can pick up this game because it is an awesome title, but my overall recommendation would be to pick up Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PS3, since I think it's the best of the original "new" Ninja Gaiden games (not making any comparisons to the original trilogy for the NES).
Clocking in at probably around 7-8 hours, Ninja Gaiden Black is an action and adventure game that follows Ryu through 16 chapters as he battles the Vigoor Empire. Along the way he will dispatch many heavily armed soldiers along with vicious monsters called The Fiends. The story begins as a simple revenge tale until you learn it's more than that. Ryu will meet a girl named Rachel with her own mission, and eventually he would battle the samurai Doku, and their feud will later on become even more personal. Throughout the game, the story will be further explored as Ryu finds books that delivers more background on The Fiends.
To be straight on this, Ninja Gaiden, the entire series from 1 - 3 isn't for the casual gamer whom likes to play games only to pass the time, nor is it for the lazy gamers who only want to mash buttons for hours and be rewarded for their cheapness. It's for the hardcore gamer who doesn't have a problem at all mastering a long moves list, and refining his or her skills to build Ryu into an unstoppable killing machine. The enemy AI is very aggressive, admittedly, it's too damn aggressive. They will be on you non stop utilizing the numbers game and lighting you up from a distance with everything from small arms fire to rocket launchers. In addition, they will send helicopters and tanks after you, and the pressure hardly ever lets up. The game will some times seem unfair in its unrelenting aggression and it can be very difficult, but you actually do have a hope in hell. Ryu begins the game with some type of skill, and he will later learn plenty of offensive and defensive capabilities. He's armed with a sword, unlimited shurikens, his basic abilities such as wall running and wall bouncing, along with the ability to chain various combos. Once his weapons and magic have been upgraded, then he will become more than a match for his enemies.
The battle system is very deep consisting of multiple magic attacks such as lighting and fireballs that will damage everything on the screen or close to it anyway, along with projectiles like explosive arrows and incendiary shurikens. His melee weapons from a slow gigantic sword to the rapid bladed Nunchuks enhances the game play and keeps the game highly enjoyable. The bladed Nunchuks which is called the Vigorian Flail is very fun to play. This monster of a weapon can have you racking up more than 300 hits a combo on dozens of assailants should you ever catch your groove. You will be hacking and slashing, and stunning enemies into a stationary stance while you slice their asses repeatedly, plus the swinging blades will nail some idiot trying to creep up on you. Your regular sword called the Dragon Sword is fun as hell too, since you will be able to unlock some killer instant death combos that will send heads flying in the air, long before you're done slicing them up.
Through out the game Ryu will earn something called Essence, this becomes available after you kill enemies; some of the essence acts as currency to buy health items and upgrade weapons. Others replenish health and magic, but the cool part, is that they provide the power for Ryu to unleash his ultimate attack with any one of his weapons, which can either be a flurry of vicious strikes or an energy blast that just annihilates most things in its path. As far as the combat goes, the game is very fun.
Ripping ass apart is only some of the fun though; the stage chapters actually provide you with quite a bit to do. Although the settings appear large and you can even back track some areas, it's still fairly linear but it's the trials you must go through that makes the game great. One area will see Ryu running for his life from an over-sized boulder trying to crush him. While he's running, Ryu must avoid beds of spikes by running alongside the wall and leaping over other sections. There are also artifacts Ryu must find to venture to other areas, as well as more health and magic upgrades. These objects are easy to find, but some times they can be a challenge to get to. There's one area that comes to mind, this section forces you to master Ryu's wall running skill, by leaping from one wall to the next via stationary platforms in order to scale higher ground. These type of situations occur twice (the final stage being the second time), but man, you will be breathing a sigh of relief once you complete that short mission after falling to the ground so many times. The good thing about this though, you will not be dying any cheap deaths; you fall to the ground, lose no health, and continue trying again. Well, the final stage you do die if you fall once, but it's nothing absurd like the obstacles found in God of War.
The enemies have a bit of variety in their ranks and they vary on the more difficult settings. The soldiers will fight you to the death. They will combo you into the wall, and grab you to slice your throat. The ninjas later in the game who represent the Black Spider Clan are deadly as hell, and in the first three stages of the game when your health bar is pretty low, they can drain you really quick if you're not even half way efficient in blocking, evading, and counter attacking. The boss battles are even tougher; I remember the first boss named Murai killed me something like 5 or 6 six times. For the first boss if you're a beginner, he can be way too tough, and there are far tougher battles awaiting you. The samurai Doku is a master at blocking and he has some deadly combos along with an ultimate attack. He has one charge attack that can inflict more than 50% damage, on the harder settings it's something like 80%.
Ninja Gaiden Black for the most part remains consistent in the things it does well, but there are moments where it feels like the pacing can be somewhat thrown off. There's a water stage you must swim through, and I never really found this part to be fun, and it actually gets worse on multiple play throughs. It doesn't effect my overall enjoyment that much though. And one problem I do have with the game, is that the final three boss battles, which are basically one after the other with no way of gaining more health items, feels way too easy as oppose to the wars you fought earlier in the game. *The sequel fixes that though.*
The game uses all of the major buttons on the X-Box controller, and the movements are very responsive, in fact, the movements can feel a bit overly sensitive. In any case, combat is in the palm of your hand. Evasion and counterattacking works very well, and if you're having trouble then you just need more practice. Quick and strong attacks have their own buttons, and the combo execution runs smoothly with no over exaggeration in long button presses or directional pad movements. You can also access the combos during the weapons menu which is very easy to navigate. Activating the magic attacks requires two buttons, and I love this approach because only button mashers will accidentally fire off magic, and that's not my style of play so smiley faces for me.
For a game that was released in 2005, I think it can still stack up against plenty of games that came after it. The backgrounds, buildings, and overall settings have a great amount of style and flair to them; from the traditional Japanese wooden village setting, to the more sci-fi look found in the floating aircraft, and later on to the feel of a fantasy adventure in the hot, flaming, volcano like setting. The settings have a grand feel to them, yet at the same time there are moments where it feels dark and atmospheric. The swim settings along with the real closed in caves gives off a claustrophobic feel, and at the same time shows us how brave Ryu really is. I couldn't see myself in that type of environment without the fear of going completely insane. The chapter where Ryu storms the Imperial Palace feels as if he's going off into hell itself. The palace appears to have a menacing identity of its own, but at the same time it feels a little cheesy with the big skull on the front.
The game has some nice cut scenes, with one featuring the first appearance of Doku as he decapitates a ninja and his head rolls on the ground. The fiend hunter Rachel is unbelievably busty, and does a great job as the eye candy. For the most part, I can't think of one cut scene I didn't like. The animation is very good to me, the action is fluid and smooth and I still haven't noticed any slow down. Ryu's moves can be seen really well even at the fastest speeds, and this also goes for the enemies. The blows look bone-crushing painful, especially during one battle against the Fiend named Alma. There are also some cat-like creatures that use Ryu as a scratching post, as they swing 360 around him clawing his face. However, the graphics indeed has its problems. The infamous camera, which would go on to plague even the sequels and reboots in some way can make tough fights even tougher. The focus will follow Ryu in some times strange ways making it unable to tell where the enemies are, and if the pressure is really bad, you probably won't even see Ryu at all and you'll have to force a jump to regain focus. Also, the water stage can be very annoying. The tunnels all look the same, even the entry points, and if you surface for air then go back in the water, there's a chance that you will swim through the area you just came from. I decided to replay this game after a couple of years and this segment got on my nerves.
The sound effects stand out to me quite a bit. There's a difference between pistol and automatic rifle fire, plus the sword clashes during blocks are noticeable. I still enjoy the soundtrack in this game more than the sequels. They fit with most of the settings much better; the orchestrated theme for the Imperial Palace delivers that last battle like feel, while the quick paced theme for some of the boss battles can get you pumped up.
Replay and more Noteworthy stuff:
I haven't played the original Ninja Gaiden in years, as a matter of fact I don't even own it anymore due to sticky fingers, but I do remember the enemies are more aggressive here. Also, if you played the original then there's nothing here until you beat Normal mode to unlock the next mode. Your true enjoyment is going to be on Hard and above. There are different enemies in this game such as the Cat-like creatures I mentioned plus other brutes. And on each mode from Very Hard to Master Ninja, enemies that you had to single out in groups become their own group. Higher difficulty actually means something in this game, as it will heavily test your skills and you will become much better at the game. And believe me, you will need these skills especially if you go off into the sequels, since the core concept remains the same in regards to the combat. Personally, because of the practice in this game, is the main reason why I was able to ace the sequels. Therefore, I didn't experience the same pain inflicted on newbies who where constantly killed by the second boss in Ninja Gaiden II. For people who find the game way too difficult, there's an easier mode called Ninja Dog, but I seriously have no experience with this mode because I refuse to play it. I was told that Ryu is forced to wear a pink ribbon or something.
The game also has 50 missions in a separate mission mode. This part is very interesting and fun as well. You will be able to pick a series of missions that will pit Ryu against a near infinite number of enemies with a very low supply of projectiles, magic, and health. The mission ends when either you're killed or you kill everyone. The missions also have their own difficulty settings that must be beat from Normal to Master Ninja. The enemies will viciously gang up plus fire from a distance with no let up whatsoever. Your fingers will get a work out from hell. It gets worse too, some of the missions will pit you in boss battles, and they will battle with help, or some times you will face two bosses at the same time. If you thought Doku slaughtered you on his own, try to imagine how deep of trouble you're in with Alma backing him up.
Capping Things Off:
Ninja Gaiden Black is one of the more difficult action games out there; the bosses are tough, grunts will ice you, and you must learn your character's strengths and weaknesses. But the game will reward you with an intense gaming experience. This game is not for everyone, and to my experience the ones who have a problem with it just don't really care for tough games. Ninja Gaiden Black isn't difficult due to poor programming, you just have to get better. You can try and "cheap" your way through by relying on magic attacks during boss battles. Unfortunately, you will probably run out of money to buy magic when you really need it, and you'll find yourself grinding for cash which will probably get you killed anyway. In any case, this is among my favorite games ever because of the high challenge. Highly recommended if this sounds like your thing.
Pros: -Deep combat system, moderate to high difficulty, extra mode, Camera problems slightly fixed
Cons: -Camera problems still a small issue, not for casual gamers
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