There are times when some of us think that the days of decent games have been left behind. Retro titles such as Nights , Streets of Rage 2 and Gunstar Heroes set the world alight and still warrant a play today (many a time have I dusted off the Mega Drive for another play of what I’ve been missing) whilst newer games such as the classic Devil May Cry seemed to cough up a near-perfect blend of stunning graphics with hey-day gameplay. It’s just that too many games these days seem to give us average looks with average meaty bits, a Blackburn Rovers of the gaming world if you will. However, as with Ninja Gaiden, some developers out there are still proving that they can make the odd gem. And here she is.
Ninja Gaiden is more like Pro Evolution Soccer in the way it shuns backdrops, profiles and history lessons to get on with the game. And here you will find a rather shallow story of, without wishing to spoil the plot, a demon that becomes resurrected and a ninja looking for revenge. But despite the depth being barely knee-deep, there is something there, for which I haven’t figured out yet, that keeps your itching thumbs from hitting the button to skip the FMV. Maybe it’s the lip-licking visual treats that send a ‘drip saliva’ message from your brain to the tongue. Either way, the story surrounding Ninja Gaiden is a brief yet enjoyable experience that will leave you intrigued.
By far one of the best aspects of Tecmo’s new action game is the luscious graphics. Too many times have we seen games trying to do what Ninja Gaiden does so well in the way of character animations. Usually blocky and robotic type movements have been what we’ve had to put up with (excuse Halo from this sentence of course) but here the AI moves seamlessly, looking very natural and keeping your mind fixed in this fantasy world. So fluid are they in fact, that at times you would think that someone is playing with you. But that’s just a little inclusion that will go largely un-noticed once you battle your way to the first boss. You’ll be in awe as the big man makes his entrance and then proceeds to slice and dice away at your health bar. Details on the superbly animated non-player characters are also as good as the main man, Ryu, with a dull sheen on their armor and intricate details on clothing.
Unusually, the music in Ninja Gaiden is suprisingly good, with fast and pacey tunes used in frantic fight scenes and calm, soothing pieces when exploring. Not only does this build up the tension prior to a battle, but also keeps you glued to the TV screen like any good horror film will do. Note to developers across the world- let’s see more of this please!
So whilst looking fantastic, chilling your bones with superbly picked music and wetting your appetite for more, does Ninja Gaiden actually play as good as every other area? Usually the answer would be a sad and regretful ‘no’, but this time round I can safely say yes, it does. And bloody hard is it too. There’s a ton of moves to learn which will aid you in your monster killing spree which are as fluid as Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, including Ryus original wall jumps from his NES outings. Slicing your sword into foes is done with a certain amount of oomph and passion, as are attacks to your character, and you’ll often wince slightly as you see them feel the pain, buckling under the pressure. Never have I seen this replicated in a videogame.
Of course, there are a few worrying points. With the emphasis on action, sometimes you’ll feel overwhelmed with enemies as they flood a room and outgunned which may frighten off the inexperienced gamer. However, hardened pro’s will soon will flipping over obstacles, blocking attacks and pinging off walls, making many heads hit the ground and slaying foe after foe. It’s a matter of practice makes perfect, which again draws up comparisons with Pro Evolution Soccer. Many people won’t touch the title on the premise of it being too hard, such is the mentality of the market today that if you can’t beat a game first time through then it ‘sucks’. This is far from the truth for both games, sadly it is only a matter of time before certain fan boys become aware of the situation and slag the game to hell, which will be a crying shame. Another point is that although the graphics are crisp, the game can slow down at moments when too many characters are on screen. I only experienced this a few times, but it can prove a tad annoying when in the heat of a battle. Also, some ‘baddies’ take cheap shots at you off screen which can lead to your demise, and whilst you will die plenty of times, this was also an issue in the classic Streets of Rage 2 yet didn’t detract from the action too much.
Of course, gamers with an ounce of sense will relish the opportunity to play an old school action title with the technology of today included, with the added bonus of the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy packed away in there somewhere. Yes you read that correctly, the previous three NES titles have been added in all their beauty. If that doesn’t swing it for you, then nothing will.