Ninja Gaiden has been a fan favorite ever since the early days of the 8-bit Nintendo. Building on this cult favourite, Tecmo decided to put a modern spin on the original and released Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox last March. The title was widely hailed as a new classic and the best game that could have been made using the franchise. To capitalize on this success, Tecmo has decided to give fans another helping of nostalgia with Ninja Gaiden Black. While the core gameplay remains largely unchanged, there are many new features to keep fans craving even more ninja action.
For those not familiar with the story, Ninja Gaiden Black follows the adventure of Ryu Hayabusa of the Hayabusa clan. Ryu´s clan is a member of the dragon lineage and is responsible for keeping two ancient weapons: the dragon blade and the dark dragon blade. The dragon blade is the sword used to slay dark dragons themselves while the dark dragon blade possesses a terrible and evil power. Ryu is equipped with the dragon blade, which serves as his primary weapon in a quest to reclaim the dark dragon blade from an evil warlord. The story is definitely a lot of fun and has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.
One of the main selling points of Ninja Gaiden Black is all the new unlockables, stages and difficulty levels available. The game offers two separate paths: single player story mode roughly follows the same plot as the last game while mission mode throws you some different enemies to have fun with. Story mode has various difficulty settings to choose from and new ones are unlocked once you beat the game the first time. Mission mode, on the other hand, gives you various challenges to overcome with some great unlockable nuggets to discover.
The graphics in Ninja Gaiden Black are some of the best the Xbox has to offer; much of the same talent used by Team Ninja on the Dead or Alive series worked on this project as well, and their skills are evident in the final product. Everything from the main character to the enemies and stages have a lot of detail. Some of them are truly breathtaking and even though the game is very similar to the old version of Ninja Gaiden they certainly don´t fail to impress. The cutscenes are truly astonishing, and all the more enjoyable once you meet Ryu´s female friends.
In the sound department, Ninja Gaiden does an excellent job of immersing you in the ninja experience. The voiceovers are also well done and if you don´t like the English voice, you can dine authentic and switch to Japanese with English subtitles. The sword sounds and groaning from Ryu are also well done, which helps when you have so many enemies to slash through. The soundtrack is a mix of electronic music with some Japanese tunes from time to time.
For those not familiar with Ninja Gaiden, Ryu is a ninja with a lot of elite skills at his disposal. You can decimate enemies using the standard dragon sword and acquire different weapons while progressing through the game. Each weapon also has several cool-looking combos from the get go, and the fun is only amplified as you gain better and more destructive weapons. As per the classic title, the sword is complimented by a standard array of ranged weapons such as shurikens, bombs and others. And as if that wasn't enough, you also get upgradeable ninja spells that allow you to perform fire attacks, ice attacks, and more.
The gaming environment in Ninja Gaiden is challenging and highly interactive. There are many occasions where you will be required to run up walls, execute different attacks and get through challenges that may seem elusive at first. Even the normal enemies will get progressively harder and many require a true mastery of the combat system to be defeated. The bosses you will encounter are also a real highlight of the game. Expect ones with long tentacles, ones that look like worms with arms, and even flying monster ladies. Without spoiling most of the bosses, you can rest assured that Ninja Gaiden Black still gives most action games out there a run for their money when it comes to great bosses and addictive gameplay.
Ninja Gaiden Black is quite an amazing game. There are a few problems such as weird camera angles during boss fights, and some of the weapons don´t have a lot of incentive to be used but those are really just details in a plethora of good results. Even though it´s a remake of a classic, all the extra content crammed into this new package could very well warrant another purchase. If you already own Ninja Gaiden and really enjoyed the experience, then you might want to pick this one up. And if you've never played Ninja Gaiden before, there has never been a better time to jump in.