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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: Third-Person Action
Players: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: March 2, 2004
Written By: Matthew Prunty

March 8, 2005 - We are finally graced with Ninja Gaiden from what seems to be a blur of agonizing delays spanning four months, and now that most of us have experienced what the game has to offer in it's entirety, it was certainly well worth the wait. Strap up with the Super-Ninja Ryu Hayabusa and exact your revenge.

Everything was done with such pristine visual splendor, that it's almost a prerequisite to put the maiming on hold for a few seconds and take everything in. The locales provide such an adventure with their shear size and how they differ from chapter to chapter, they're never stale due to their extensive nature and the details of them and how they vary completely from one another are grandiose, even though they basically revolve around the vicinity of Tairon. Character designs are gorgeous; Ryu couldn't possibly be labeled more of a bad ass in demonstrating his superb acrobatic abilities, martial arts, his leather outfit and his silent and cold demeanor. All the characters have eccentric qualities in detailing that really make them standout graphically, with slight personality that isn't really delved into. Murai is the ever-so-wise behemoth of a man that condescends even the hulk, Ayane who's cute and deadly, Gamov the mysterious nark, Rachel=fan service, The Dark Disciple who has a marvelous design and ominous feel, and lastly, Doku, the extremely deadly and intimidating corporeal Samurai. The CG is probably the best I've ever seen, the CG in Onimusha 3 follows suit.

Although the premise has been done numerous times to fuel the unadulterated combat of games, this story is done quite well, even though it's never really elaborated. It's definitely open to interpretation, not knowing whether Itagaki short-handed the story or if he used simplicity and mystery to sustain an upcoming sequel. For the uninformed (which is hard to believe), Ryu was in the midst of a conversation with our steroid-laden Master Murai when Ayane presents herself with a message while gasping for air, simply detailed 'The Hayabusa Village', Ryu looks out the window of the Ninja Fortress to see smoke rising from the adjacent valley, being his Father's clan's village. Ryu runs like the wind to beat the holy hell from the beings that did this, until we meet Doku who detrimentally injures Ryu. So the legend begins, with hatred and not enough plot/character development, regardless of it being an action game.

From swords clashing, decapitations, to using your Ninpo can all be heard lucidly. The music is also very enjoyable, a few were rather bland, but all of them respectively fit their locations and for the most part, the circumstances. One such example was descending the Ninja Fortress to make haste to the Hayabusa village, the music definitely had a driving point, until you got there, unfortunately, then it settled and drowned. Most of the time however, the music backs up the situations and atmosphere marvelously.

One of the best action titles around. Each mechanic was vigorously worked on and it paid off with the graceful action and slightly RPG-esque gameplay notions that were implemented.

In Ninja Gaiden, Ryu is graced with a good arsenal of techniques; more can be added by leveling them up at your local blacksmith, Muramasa's. By collecting yellow orbs that act as currency. Muramasa sells various items, being of which are, recovery and Ki potions, armlets, supply of secondary weapons, and some technique and Ninpo scrolls.

Weapons differ for the most part, although some share a similar move set (which was lazy), such as the Nunchaku and Flails, to some dismay. There's the legendary Dragon sword that proclaims balance, the Warhammer/Dabilahro for power-mongrels, Nunchaku's/Flails for the Maxi followers, etc. Each level rewards Ryu with unlocking new techniques. X is your standard weak attack that chains, and Y is usually the combo finisher, but can be chained with other Y deviations. You can improvise with your combos, usually though; it comes down to remembering/mastering your combos in order to utilize them in combat with proficiency. These techniques were implemented for a reason, to be used; they aren't there solely for your amusement. The ultimate attacks have one of the highest priorities, by using essence. Essences are the orbs that manifest after defeating your opponents. There are three types of essence. Yellow=currency, Blue=health recovery, and Red=Ki recovery. Holding down the Y button to gather them, and upon hearing the booming effect, which symbolizes that it's time to let go and obliterate your enemy with a long chain of special attacks. They're a blast to watch and there are different variations of them too. Each combo and most viably, the counters all have their own efficiency and recovery times, knowing when to use them and more importantly, who to use them on will grant you your survival.

What's disappointing however is that there simply isn't enough combos and counters. Had Team Ninja integrated more, it would of been a better experience. It is true that Ryu does have a good number of attacks, but most are illustrated under the guise of accomplishing a wall run or a running maneuver to make it seem as if Ryu has an extensive arsenal in whatever weapon he has equipped. Truthfully, there are about 5-8 viable techniques per weapon; and seeing how some of the weapons share a similar if not exact move set, it really perpetuates disappointment. Counters as well, more could of been thrown in. It would of been rather easy to map all four face buttons as a counter, instead of using the same counter mapped to both X and Y for whatever ambiguous and lazy reason.

Hayabusa is very well versed in acrobatics, being able to flip, run on and up walls is very simplistic. Simply pushing the analog towards or straight up a wall, and he will do just that. He can gain altitude by running along walls and their corners connecting them to reach higher places and unseen passageways. He can even jump wall to wall when the space is appropriate. This just isn't a means for platforming. These are necessary for combat as well. Running along and up walls to avoid fire and attacking, dramatically lowers the risk of being hit and also dramatically raises the chance for a decapitation or an instant kill to your enemies when attacking from rebounding off a wall.

To supplement Ryu's combat capabilities even more, he has secondary weapons and Ninpo magic attacks. The secondary weapons aid quite well. Shurikens provide follow-ups or interruptions in the opposing forces tactics, the Windmill shuriken acts like a boomerang, the Incendiary Shuriken blows things up, the Bow and Arrow is self-explanatory, but later acquiring eccentric arrows that have different properties, i.e.- armor piercing arrows, explosive, etc. Armlets can be obtained to compliment offensive and defensive strength, recovery, increase of essence and providing more Ki. Ninpo can be found. Obtaining scrolls that contain the Fire Wheel that incinerates anyone or thing that's next to Ryu. The Art of Inferno which lets Ryu throw a Fireball at his opponent. Icestorm that sends out a swirling breeze and crystallizes anything near it. Finally, the Inazuma that sends out a current of electricity that kills just about anything on screen. All of these can be upgraded to maximize their power and be used at the cost of Ki. The lighting effects in the starting animations of these attacks are really nice, hell, they even surpass the spell itself which is kind of sad really, as that's what's really suppose to provide the 'wow' factor. When the actual attack is accomplished, they seem under-hauled. And yet again, there aren't enough of these.

Even having a decent array of techniques, weaponry and offensive magic will not sustain Ryu's health automatically. The enemies in Ninja Gaiden are downright ruthless, and to loosely quote Itagaki- "the enemies and boss's in Ninja Gaiden are not there for you to kill, they are there to kill you." And by all means, this is true to the fullest. They have cunning and very intelligent AI's that all attack en masse and can subdue Ryu rather easily. It may appear ridiculously cheap to overwhelm the player with an onslaught of attacks by a group of about ten enemies that flank from all sides, however, this all comes back to knowing the priorities of Ryu's attacks down to the millisecond of animation in order counter these threats effectively. This is really the crux of it all, how to tactfully engage your opponents, studying them and breaking through their defense.

The only real hindrance to Ninja Gaiden is the camera. Usually it does a good job of keeping all the action within its framework, although it can mess up frequently as well. Regrettably, it can mean all the difference between winning and losing Ryu's confrontations and can enhance the favor of your enemies, meaning it cuts your opposing forces off-screen all the while you're getting punished because of it. Not being able to see where your threats are and what the hell they are doing at any given moment definitely means quick death or instant death, which are basically the same thing, give or take a few seconds...

The trilogy can be unlocked by using two different methods, which definitely is worthwhile to do so. Ninja Gaiden 2 was a blast to play through and very nostalgic. The unlockable costumes and weapons and a harder difficulty don't really increase the replay, they don't alter the pace nor combat. Just playing through this game time and again to brainstorm new strategies, warrants the high replay value. One of the best aspects to note is the longevity of this game for being an action title.

Over All, A very good game. Those who wanted a full on assault Ninja title disregarding the over-used stealth aspects, this is a must buy. The intricate combat, the wonderfully fluid techniques to keep it motivating, the special effects, the difficulty, the graphical nature, the atmosphere and settings and wondrous characters in this fantasy world distinguish this as one of the best action titles around. Very recommended.


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