Ninja Gaiden (Preview)

Tecmo’s looking to melt the snow outside this spring when it looks to release the latest installment in its Ninja Gaiden series with an XBOX exclusive. The self-titled action game will feature none other then your favorite ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, slashing, kicking and wall bouncing in his quest for vengeance against the Vigor Empire. So, grab your sword, polish up your shurikens, and prepare to lose sleep this March.

It’s been nearly 15 years since we were introduced to a “true” ninja hero in videogames. In 1989, a warrior by the name of Ryu exploded onto our 8-bit NES system and sliced his way into history as a fan favorite where he was featured in the original Ninja Gaiden. After two years and two sequels, it seems that Ryu took a long vacation, occasionally coming out of hiding to make a few cameos. I waited, as I’m sure you all did, and waited some more; hoping Nintendo had something new and fresh in the works for it’s Super Nintendo system. What wouldn’t be better then to give Ryu a graphics upgrade and make a third sequel for your new system? Disappointment came when all we received was the infamous trilogy on one cart. When Nintendo announced it’s new system, the Gamecube, I got my hopes up again. Nada. Finally, the announcement came from Tecmo Inc. that they were going to produce a new Ninja Gaiden title that would prosper thanks to the graphics power of the Microsoft Xbox.


Ryu is at it again and this time it’s for vengeance. After watching his entire clan wiped out by the evil Vigor Empire, he must set out to find the ancient Ryuken sword and avenge the massacre ordered by Emperor Vigor. Tecmo Inc. has kept all other details hush-hush, adding to the mystery of the game and hoping you will find out for yourself.


Developers, Team Ninja, have done a fantastic job at keeping Ninja Gaiden true to its roots with an exciting blend of action/adventure. At its core, it’s a 3D hack and slash fun-fest with numerous puzzles thrown in the mix. The games levels are as varied as the weaponry and Team Ninja spent many painstaking hours to polish the graphics and add subtle details. The lighting glistens off your blade as you trek through the game’s many levels and the cut-scenes will truly leave you in awe. Ryu and his counterparts look so life like, you’d think they were in your living room. Fans of Dead or Alive 3 will be happy to know that Team Ninja is using the same graphics engine that’s modified specifically for the new Gaiden game. The engine does a fine job at handling the high polygonal count on screen and smoothing out curves so there is no noticeable blockiness to the games characters. Expect to see environmental effects as well such as when walking through water or traversing terrain. According to the developers, Gaiden will support 16:9 widescreen televisions, with the vertical resolution being 480 lines progressive scan.


With its release, Ninja Gaiden will take full advantage of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. You will be able to listen for enemies approaching from behind so you can quickly spin around to vanquish the new threat. Shurikens whistling through the air and the realistic sound of your katana digging into your opposition are one of many sound effects we can expect. The musical score was sparse as with most demos so hopefully Gaiden will come through in that department as well.


The gameplay is also relatively unchanged from the past and makes full use of the Xbox controller. Choosing your sword or a secondary weapon, the fighting is intense, real and requires a lot of button mashing if you wish to survive. Tecmo Inc. didn’t skimp on the bloodshed either and this game just recently received a mature rating. Battles are far from boring, as there are many ways to kill the multiple enemies that keep coming at you. Need for speed? It’s here as you can run up a wall and pelt demons with shurikens. Magic maybe? Ditto.

What’s a good fighting game without combos? You will find those aplenty. With this many options, Tecmo Inc. has succeeded to keep it simple so anyone can pick up a controller and dive into the fray. Save points linger around for you to discover so your hard earned work doesn’t go to waste. This is much needed because one thing I discovered was that Ninja Gaiden was extremely challenging. Not so hard that you’ll want to hurl the controller through the wall but enough that you will die aplenty and have to rethink your strategy for a second go at it. If the demo is any indication of what’s to come, I died multiple times on the first level and I seem to think I’m fairly decent at these type of games.

Your skill doesn’t go unrewarded, though, as treasure chests and items are around for you to add to your arsenal. On top of that, there is also a shop between levels to upgrade equipment and stock up on a secondary weapon. The biggest hoorah in the game goes to the boss fights at the end of the levels. Action titles are so focused on making it through a level alive that a gamer feels relieved when he/she sees an exit that will shelter him/her until he/she enters the next scenario. Ninja Gaiden is the total opposite, as you learn to fear the end. Your palms sweat and you can feel the tension as you suspect you are nearing the conclusion of a stage because you know a boss is waiting for you. If it isn’t enough that the underlings are tough and you always seem to slide by with your head still intact; you can always count on one final go with the head of the household in a classic gaming clich

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