Ninja Gaiden Black Review
Ninja Gaiden Black fulfills the last bits of untapped potential in what already was a truly extraordinary game and an instant classic.
- Some of the best, most intensely exciting action of any game ever
- Tons of content Even if you played tons of Ninja Gaiden, there's still a lot that's new
- Absolutely first-rate presentation--visuals and audio still second-to-none
- Even better than before--mission mode distills the game down to its purest essentials
- The old Ninja Gaiden arcade game is a hidden unlockable.
- If you've played Ninja Gaiden, you'll have seen many of the game's surprises already.
Remarkably enough, the best just got better with Ninja Gaiden Black, an updated version of last year's absolutely amazing Xbox action game. Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox didn't leave a lot of room for improvement, thanks to its astonishingly good presentation and fantastic action, which combined the depth and precision of a great fighting game with the settings and situations of a first-rate action adventure game. But this new installment seems bent on achieving nothing less than perfection by using last year's game as a starting point and fine-tuning its few issues, while also adding lots of new options and content, such as a lengthy series of stand-alone missions that emphasize the game's unbelievably intense, brutal, lighting-fast combat. The core game is still the same as before, but it's just as exciting today as it was last year.
If you're unfamiliar with Ninja Gaiden, skip to the next page to find out what makes the core game so special. If you have played Ninja Gaiden, though, let's go over what's changed. Ninja Gaiden Black contains the original game in its entirety, including the content of the two downloadable Hurricane Packs that were made available on Xbox Live some months after the game's release. There are multiple new difficulty levels on top of that, plus the new mission mode (featuring dozens of different missions), and even the original arcade Ninja Gaiden game. Multiple difficulty modes are pretty standard in most games, but here the differences are much more substantial and compelling than usual. Enemies and item placements change from one difficulty mode to the next, so the challenge heightens, but there's still an element of excitement and discovery. Don't expect to be able to just dive into all the content from the beginning, though. You need to finish the game's story mode before the missions and the hard difficulty mode are unlocked, and most of the missions are initially locked, too. Tougher difficulty modes are unlocked as you finish the campaign or missions on the previous difficulty settings.
When it was released last year, Ninja Gaiden earned widespread acclaim, though a couple of common criticisms did stick out. Ninja Gaiden Black directly addresses both of these by introducing a new easier difficulty mode, as well as an option for manual control of the camera perspective. The easier difficulty mode seems almost like a begrudging addition, since you can't select it from the get-go. You must instead get killed several times early on, at which point you'll be invited to "abandon the ninja way." If you choose to, then, you'll proceed to play on the easier "ninja dog" difficulty, albeit with less pride. Those who found Ninja Gaiden to be too difficult might not appreciate the condescension, but they'll soon get over their hurt feelings as they get into this outstanding game at their own pace. As for the manual camera control, it was introduced in the first downloadable Hurricane Pack, and it lets you use the right analog stick to rotate your vantage point. Ninja Gaiden's default camera still works very well in most instances, but the option is certainly helpful.
The mission mode is a great new part of Ninja Gaiden Black, since it strips away the game's action adventure elements and focuses on pure combat--truly the best part of the game. The missions tend to be variations on scenes from the story mode but will often pit you against more and different enemies than you're used to. Some of them are obscenely tough just on normal difficulty, but if you can work your way up through "master ninja" difficulty, you'll feel a real sense of accomplishment. (Or if you want bragging rights, you can compare your best scores against others on Xbox Live.) Just wait until you get to the mirror-image matches. Many of Ninja Gaiden's enemies were really nasty already, but having to fight against a doppelgänger (or two!) makes for some of the most frantic and fun battles the game has to offer. One of the great things about the missions is that they arm you with different weapons, inviting you to master all of Ninja Gaiden's arsenal, whereas it's tempting to stick with just the trusty Dragon Sword throughout story mode. Since each weapon has totally different moves, this helps add lots of variety. And if you haven't already seen it in the first Hurricane Pack, you'll notice there's one new weapon in Ninja Gaiden Black, a powerful fighting staff that's got a long reach and plenty of speed. The staff has been added to the game at all difficulty levels.
The presence of the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden is the icing on the cake. Much like the new Ninja Gaiden, it's a classic. It's still plenty of fun to this day, and it retains the arcade version's two-player-simultaneous feature, so you can play it with a friend. The game emulates the arcade original pretty much perfectly, but unlocking it is no easy task. Still, it's a suitable reward for finishing the story mode on hard difficulty. You'll notice that this old arcade beat-'em-up directly influenced the new game. Unfortunately, the old console Ninja Gaiden trilogy, which was present in the original Xbox release, was removed for some reason.
All the new content in Ninja Gaiden Black means this is definitely the version to get. Available at a reduced price, it's a tempting purchase even for those who've played the original and the two Hurricane Packs to death, since there's still a lot that's new, in addition to that stuff. Though this is essentially the same game as before, a laserlike focus on pure, relentless action makes Ninja Gaiden Black a terrific game in its own right. The story and adventure portions of last year's game weren't necessarily its strongest suits, so they take a backseat in Black. The result is that this is perfect for quick hits of fantastic, pulse-pounding gameplay. But of course, there's the full story mode there too. As for the presentation of Ninja Gaiden Black, it remains unchanged from last year's game, notwithstanding the new weapon and enemies. And that's just fine, since this is still easily one of the best-looking, best-sounding games available.
- Player Reviews: 455
- Game Universe:
- Ninja Gaiden (ARC, GG, LYNX, NES, SMS, TG16, GEN),
- Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (NES),
- Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (LYNX, NES),
- Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3, X360),
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (PS3, VITA),
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (PS3, VITA),
- Ninja Gaiden II (X360),
- Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (DS),
- Ninja Gaiden Black (XBOX),
- Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)
- Number of Players: