Ninja Gaiden

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This game was the reason I bought an Xbox.

I’ve played it and re-played it time and again. I no longer have an Xbox, so I replay Sigma+ on the Vita. Same for Sigma 2 +, despite the slowdown for NGS2+. Also played Dragon Sword on the Nintendo DS.

I didn’t play Ninja Gaiden Black because I bought the Hurricane Pack DLC when it came out on the OG Xbox. The Hurricane pack was Black before Black was Black.

The Hurricane pack fixed the camera issue(It was worse than what it is now), and added new modes, new challenges, and new enemies. It is a tour de force.

Ninja Gaiden is a high octane action hack n’ slash. The enemy A.I are incredibly versatile. They will block, they will dodge. They will read you and come at you in full force. What’s that? Want to hold block, grab a pint and wait for it all to blow over? They will go for a grab and do heavy damage.

Want a story? Some evil Darth Vader looking samurai named DOKU tore Ryus’ village asunder looking for the Dark Dragon Blade. Killing a childhood friend in the process. Sounds like it was written by a kid in high school downing Cheetos while listening to Linkin Park? Well, Yeah, but you’re not here for a story. You’re here for the action!

(I love Linkin Park. RIP Chester)

Weapons and Combos:

Each weapon can be upgraded by collecting Ninpo from fallen enemies and various treasure boxes throughout the game. Upon upgrading, you gain new strings of attacks to lay waste to your enemies. Fairly straightforward.

Now, every weapon has its pros and cons for dispatching baddies. For the most part, you can get through the game with just one weapon of your choosing, or mix it up for efficiency.

That is Ninja Gaiden take on the hack n’ slash genre. Efficiency, on top of incredible enemy A.I. Devil May Cry is about style. God of War, brutality.

Level Design:

Other than level 2, the airship, the levels are interconnected. Towards the end of the game, it becomes a mini open world game. To get to that point, you have to play everything straightforward. Go from point A to point B. You are met with minimal puzzle solving and platforming, which at times leaves something to be desired.

Camera:

The camera in Ninja Gaiden Black has been fixed. Before, if you wanted to reposition the camera, you’d have to use the analog stick and only the analog stick. In Black, you press the right trigger and it centers behind Ryu.

You still have to fight with the camera at times to get a good angle, and it will often leave enemies blocking the screen or off screen. The best thing to do for off screen is to throw shuriken.

Once you get a rhythm down, and keep track of enemies(count them), managing it becomes a little less tiresome.

Now the sequel. Does it deliver?

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Story: Pff, what? Big demon in a mountain, Kill it.

The Start:

Ninja Gaiden 2 assumes you’ve played the previous installment. Ninja Gaiden Black had a calm start with you dealing with mild platform jumping, and wall running. With roughly two are three ninjas to dispatch, then gradually working up to five to six on screen.

Not here. Ninja Gaiden 2 starts you off with six to seven baddies at once to get the ball rolling. If this is the game you start playing first, expect to be killed multiple times on the first level.

Combat:

Compared to the first, it is like night and day. Ryu moves like a hot knife through butter. This is where it delivers.

One combo in particular has changed. In Black, once you upgrade your Dragon Sword to the full, Ryu has a forward combo that ends with three or four kicks and has massive cool down. Now with Ninja Gaiden 2, Ryu will slice up to three to four times instead, often de-limbing an enemy.

Another, is when wall running. In Black, if you run straight up a wall, then hit attack, Ryu will come straight down on his enemy. In Ninja Gaiden 2, you can still do that attack. Now, though, if you press the light attack, Ryu will do a variation of the Flying Swallow. He will push himself off the wall and towards an enemy. It is the little additions to the combat that bring it above Black.

Obliteration Techniques:

De-Limbing. You can now slice off more than just heads. You can take out an arm or a leg. Upon doing so, you can go for an Obliteration Technique or instant kill. This will grant you I-frames if you need it.

De-Limbing also slows down your enemy. They will limp towards you, trying to get you off guard and go for a deadly last ditch effort to waste you. Since they are moving slow, you can also use this as a strategy to slow down some deadlier enemies while you waste other lower tier baddies. Adding strategy to crowd control.

Level Design:

Ninja Gaiden 2 goes for a more straightforward approach compared to Black. You are often running down long corridors from point A to Point B, with no interconnected world like the first game.

Platforming and Puzzle solving still leave much to be desired. It still comes across as tacked on. Wall running is primarily used in combat than traversing levels. The levels are built to focus on combat.

You can really see the difference in level design of the two when you play the Sigma games, due to the lack of enemies onscreen. NGS2, has many empty running through corridors.

Is the platforming and puzzle solving needed? I’d say yes, to some degree. In Black, we gained a sense of the world Ryu was fighting in. The stupidly easy switches you had to get to. Dodging swinging blades. It’s part of the adventure.

To further my point. Imagine a scenario, if you will. Ryu Hayabusa flips a switch to open a door that is now slowly closing. You have to wind run (jumping from enemy shoulder to enemy shoulder), then wall run past swinging blades, then flying swallow a dudes head off for that last jump to get to the door before it closes.

That is a great way to put you into Ryu’s shoes and make you feel like a badass ninja. To show how Ryu is efficient at getting to his objective. That is what level design does.

In short

Combat:
Ninja Gaiden Black <Ninja Gaiden 2

Level Design:

Ninja Gaiden Black > Ninja Gaiden 2

In the defense of Ninja Gaiden 2. The more linear level design provides more set pieces. We go from Sky City Tokyo to Venice then the demon world. Ninja Gaiden 2 calls back to the NES classics with its straightforward design. It is seriously what a 3D NES game would play like.

Camera:

Its the same as Black.

What I’d like to see:

Remastered versions and Future Installments

1: Ninja Gaiden Black. I would like a game mode that lets you play it out with the combat of Ninja Gaiden 2.

2: For both games. Separate game modes between the original and Sigma games. Sigma offered less enemies on screen, but with higher damage and instant kills from enemies. This is a different challenge altogether, and I don’t see why it can’t be an option to pick between the two.

3: Future Installment. Level design on par with Prince of Persia. Ryu has a very similar move set for traversing levels to the Persia series, that it would be a sin to waste. Ninja Gaiden is about combat, but I would like some platforming thrown in. A little more than tacked on.

Give the game a go.

No argument here. The Xbox versions are the way to go. However, if all you can play are the Sigma games, by all means play it. The core combat is still there.


Update. As of 2019. You can now play both Xbox versions of Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden 2 on Xbox360, and Xbone. Have fun.

Update. 2021. Ninja Gaiden Sigma titles, and razors edge, are on Nintendo Switch, ps4,xbox one, and PC.

Pick your poison, and be ready for a real challenge.

PS. Depending on how its ported, there should be a setting to turn gore on in the Sigma titles. I had gore turned on the Vita versions. Shame there is no settings to make it play like Itagakis original design, but there you go.

 

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