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Ninja Gaiden Earns a Gold (Ninja) Star

Ninja Gaiden is considered one of the best Xbox games out there by almost anyone who has played it, and the downloadable content through Xbox Live only added to it?s greatness. Now comes Ninja Gaiden Black. While this expansion does offer an improved experience over the original, it may not be enough of an improvement to warrant another purchase.

The story remains the same as it did in the original. Ryu Hayabusa of the Hayabusa Ninja Clan is charged with the lifelong duty of protecting the Dark Dragon Blade, an ancient sword of unimaginably evil power. Ryu wields the Dragon Sword, the sister sword to the Dark Dragon Blade, which is infused with the power of light. People seeking the Dark Dragon Blade have always assaulted the Hayabusa Clan, but none ever succeeded and all ended up dead. All, that is, until a man named Doku attacked them with an army of fiends and burned the clan to the ground. Now, Ryu is on a quest for vengeance so that he may give the dead of his village peace.

The actual gameplay is, for the most part, unchanged. The only real noticeable addition is the ability to actually move the camera freely by toggling between it and first-person view by pressing down on the right control stick. Other than that, the controls and swordplay remain entirely unchanged. The levels remain the same, and the enemies can still kill even the most refined gamer with ease. There are some slick new additions, like the Lunar staff (found in one of the Hurricane packs), some new costumes, as well as some new special techniques. There are two more difficulty levels, being Ninja Dog (?easy? mode, though it is still pretty tough) and Master Ninja (really, really hard). The main additions, however, are found outside the main game. Both Hurricane Packs, which are normally downloaded through Xbox Live, are automatically included in Black, adding the new enemies and bosses, making things even more interesting. There is also a new Mission Mode, which really doesn?t add that much to the game as a whole. The original (as in the one from the 1980s) Ninja Gaiden is also included for some quality nostalgia-driven gaming. Here?s where things get iffy. These all need to be unlocked by beating the main game, so people who have already beaten it, and just don?t care anymore, have to play through Ninja Gaiden again. They know best that it won?t be easy. Next, the majority of the additional content that makes the original and Black differ is the Hurricane packs, which are downloadable for free to anyone with an Xbox Live account. This means that the only people who will be really impressed with Black will be those who either lack Xbox Live, or just didn?t buy the original Ninja Gaiden. In fact, since the Hurricane Packs are free, it is a cheaper option for those with Live who have yet to play Ninja Gaiden to simply buy the original, and just do some downloading. Black doesn?t really offer any major additions past the Hurricane Packs, meaning only the Xbox Live-impaired will be dazzled by the new additions. So unless somebody is really committed to the Ninja Gaiden series, or really wants the additional content, I?d suggest just getting the original.

Graphically, Black remains unchanged from the original Ninja Gaiden. That isn?t necessarily a bad thing, since Ninja Gaiden is one of the best looking Xbox games out there, with detailed character animations and huge, well-made environments. The sound also remains the same, with good music and solid voice acting. There wasn?t anything that really needed to be changed in this department, so Team Ninja isn?t at fault for leaving it alone.

While Ninja Gaiden Black can certainly be called one of the best Xbox games, or even one of the best games of this console generation, it still isn?t a must-own for everyone. While the Hurricane Packs and Mission Mode are certainly noteworthy additions, they can be acquired free. All in all, Ninja Gaiden Black is only a must-have for those who haven?t played Ninja Gaiden, and don?t have Xbox Live. People who already own Ninja Gaiden should either pass, or rent. Once again, Ninja Gaiden Black is an incredible game worthy of the score it has received, but there are other cheaper options that are available to cash-strapped gamers.

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