#601 Ninja Gaiden

Posted: 8th June 2012 by Mulholland in Games
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153rd played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Xbox
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo

People tend to moan about how games have been getting easier when compared to many of the games released in the eighties and early nineties. To be fair this is a fair comment with save points being mostly dismissed for convenient in-games saves. Same goes for the abundance of in game hints that can be seen in games like Zack & Wiki.

There are a number of games that buck the trend, but not as many as you would have thought. Today’s game was one of the benchmarks before the likes of Demon’s Souls… this is Ninja Gaiden.

Our Thoughts

It’s a dual-edged sword when you start a game that you expect to be monumentally hard. After a long week it can be a bit daunting to start a game that you know is going to, eventually, frustrate you in more ways than you could imagine. Then when you start playing it… it is not THAT bad.

Granted we played this on normal difficulty (because we are not masochistic) but for a game which, according to the book, had such a hard first boss that many players quit and never played again it wasn’t too difficult. Maybe it’s because after relishing the challenging games on this list like Viewtiful Joe and Flywrench this did not feel too bad. I mean a good game should challenge the player and if every game allowed us to defeat everything on the first attempt it would be so boring and gaming would have not developed the way it has. There’s certainly an experience element here, with Peter having fairly good beat em up based skills, but I didn’t feel like I was that far behind, managing some fights the first time where Peter needed a few more goes. The game actually felt fairly balanced.

So let’s break it down. As with most games involving a hero it starts with a village being burnt down. We saw this trope in Jeanne D’arc, it’s been mentioned in Xenogears as well as many other games that we have both played and are due to play. It’s a trope I’m already getting slightly annoyed with. Your character is Ryu Hayabusa and as a kick-ass ninja your job is to save the world because (as is the case in many Japanese games) there is a demon sword that needs protecting/destroying/stealing (delete all that don’t apply). To do this you fight your way through demolished villages, temples, airships and even an Aztec pyramid.

As with many good action/adventure games which feature a somewhat linear hack n’ slash dynamic, the key is a good story and a sleeveless leather ninja outfit. To be honest I have never found Hayabusa the most relatable character whether it be in Ninja Gaiden or Dead or Alive so that does colour my feelings somewhat. What does work is that the ending does lead towards the expectation of a sequel… something so cinematic that I have not seen in as many franchises as I would have hoped.

What also helps is the fighting system. The jumps and attacks feel so incredibly fluid that it each battle contains graceful moves with slashing action. The combat itself is part of the Devil May Cry and God of War style apart from the abundance of charge up moves. In many ways this makes the Ninja Gaiden system slightly more difficult to handle but the sight of graceful hack n’ slash combos are so very rewarding. At this point the controls do get in the way sometimes. Yeah, it’s possible to keep up with the attacks and you don’t need them, but the charging, where present, is slightly imprecise and easily broken. There are spells you can use, but I couldn’t always get the combination to do so to work, which undoubtably got in the way in a few more difficult fights.

On a personal level there really is not much to criticise. The sound and graphics have aged remarkably well with them being better than the majority of titles on the Nintendo Wii. The one thing I am going to cry out against is the camera which can be abominable. Whilst having a button to centre the camera makes up for it a little bit there are sections where you fight in such claustrophobic areas that you can die because all the action is happening off screen and it is labour intensive to get the camera just right. This is something rectified in the updated Ninja Gaiden Black but for now I am still slightly frustrated at a battle against two men on horseback where the enemies were so quick that they moved out of frame by the time I was able to centre the camera!

Fast, furious, fun and with magical fire, ice and electrical powers I have to admit that I was shocked at how much fun Ninja Gaiden was. Thankfully it is completely backwards compatible on the 360 so there is no excuse to not pick up a copy of this game… it’s rather cheap!

Final Thoughts

I suppose the remakes and rereleases will have had its effect on what this game would be like, this game holds up incredibly well. Don’t get put off by the comments about the game’s difficulty – yeah, it’s tough, but once you get your first save point, things will get easier to keep up with. You’ll need to redo certain battles once or twice – you need to figure out the attack patterns and work out a strategy – nut it’s not as annoying as many make it out to be.

With that, most of this is a tight game, and in the end its climbing and jumping environment makes for better freerunning than Free Running, so surely you can give this a go?