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 has only added to its excellence. Now Tecmo has released Ninja Gaiden Black. While this expansion does offer an improved experience over the original, for some, it may not be improved enough 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 evil sword of unimaginable power. Ryu wields the Dragon Sword, which is infused with the power of light, and is the sister sword to the Dark Dragon Blade. People seeking the Dark Dragon Blade have always bombarded the Hayabusa Clan in attempts to steal it, but these attempts have always failed, ending in the perpetrators deaths. That is, until a man named Doku attacks with an army of fiends and burns 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 noticeably different feature is the new ability to actually move the camera around freely by toggling between camera mode/third-person view 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. These add new enemies and bosses to make 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 Ninja Gaiden (as in the one from the 1980s) is also included for some quality nostalgia-laden gameplay. Here?s where things get iffy. These additions 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. A task that they know won?t be easy. Next, the majority of the additional content that makes Black differ from the original can be found in 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 are those who either lack Xbox Live, or just didn?t buy the original Ninja Gaiden the first time around. In fact, since the Hurricane Packs are free, it is a cheaper option for those with Live who have yet to play 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. Not that that is a bad thing, since Ninja Gaiden is one of the best looking Xbox games so far, with detailed character animations and huge, well-made environments. The sound is also 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 that has been released, or even one of the best games of this console generation, it still may not be a must-own for everyone. While the Hurricane Packs and Mission Mode are certainly noteworthy additions, they can be acquired for free. All in all, Ninja Gaiden Black is only a must-have for those who haven?t played Ninja Gaiden, and/or don?t have Xbox Live. People who already own Ninja Gaiden should either pass, or rent. Don?t get me wrong, Ninja Gaiden Black is an incredible game, but there are other, cheaper options that are available to cash-strapped gamers.