Ninja Gaiden:Black is hands down not just the best action game for the Xbox but one of the best games for any system!

What is Ninja Gaiden Black you ask? Is it a sequel to one of the best action games ever? No it's not a sequel it is the same NG for the Xbox but with tons of new added features which I will disscuss later in this review for now just know that NG isn't one of the best action games for the Xbox...it's one of the best action games for ANY console.

Story: Well sadly this is one of the very few weak points in all of NGB. You are a ninja in training your name is Ryu Hayabusa and your father has left you in charge of the Dragon Sword and protecting your clan. Ryu starts his training but it ends suddenly when his village comes under attack, he goes back to his village to see his friends murdered and his village burning. He learns that the attacker took the Dark Dragon Blade(sister to the Dragon Sword). The DDB has been sealed away because it was a dark and evil blade and held enormous power. So Ryu sets out to find the DDB and get revenge. There's only one single plot twist in the entire game but, it's pretty obvious right from the 1st Chapter(to me anyways and I'm sure I'm not the only one) so story wise don't go getting excited for a really cool story 'cause it's not there.

Audio: The voice acting in this game is pretty good most of the(few) characters sound really good there are a couple of voices, that don't seem to fit the characters but for the most part, they all fit well. The sound effects are also very well done everything from the clink of a sword to the gush of blood coming out of a foe to gun fire or magic sounds realistic including the sounds that enemies make before they die. The music in the game is a blend of traditional ninja type music and some rock and occasional heavier riffs that are thrown in for good measure. The music always fits the area well and sounds crisp and clear. They did a good job with the all the sounds and music in this game and I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Graphics: Now I'm sure some of you are wondering if the graphics are the same, better or worse and the graphics have actually been updated a little not much mind you but, they are a tad prettier than the original NG which had great graphics to begin with. NGB isn't a Conker or Halo 2 but the graphics still shine and are easy on the eyes. They don't look dated or inferior in any way. Sure the in-game graphics are good but nothing compares to the amazing and high quality CG cutscenes that are in the game. They are some of the best CG you will see this generation. They look clear and crisp and look better than some CG movies even. If you get games based on graphics(shame on you if you do) then NGB is a game you shouldn't pass up.

Gameplay: This is where Gaiden truly shines. It's fun, exciting, fast paced, hard(or harder depending on difficulty), and unique. You start out with the Dragon Sword and an infinte supply of shrukiens which may sound like alot of shrukiens but they don't do alot of damage and don't even damage most of the enemies later in the game. You can get a good number of different melee weapons, projectiles, and magic(which is called Ninpo in the game). In addition to obtaining all sorts of different weapons you can upgrade them by going to either a statue of the sales men(Murumasa) or by going to his shop in Tairon. The only weapons you can't upgrade are the projectile weapons(excluding Ninpo) however, you can get different shrukiens which are more powerfull and you can get different arrows(once you get your bow in Chapter 2) like exsplosive arrows and stuff like that. You also get an upgraded bow later in the game but I won't reveal when and where. I didn't mention it before but you can upgrade Ninpo(magic) and get different types of Ninpo like water, lighting, ect. Now on to the action the A.I. in the game are not stupid they don't wait for you to attack and use their numbers to their advantage. If anyone who has played the original is wondering the A.I. in Black are a bit more advanced. Enemies come in many shapes, sizes, and colors ranging from your average ninja to a huge dragon fiend(a.k.a. a demon). Some enemies have shurikens(like ninjas), some have machine guns and pistols(soldiers), and some have ninpo to use against you(like bosses and fiends). Since you've heard about all these projectiles your enemies get you might be wondering how you make sure you don't take much or any damage, it's simple you block by pulling the L trigger and when you're holding the L trigger tilt the control stick in the direction you want to go and you'll roll out of the way of damage. For the most part bullets and normal shrukiens won't hurt you but, rockets and bigger stronger monsters will hurt you even if you're blocking so, you really should roll for the most part out of the way. Now Gaiden just wouldn't be an action game if their wasn't some platforming to be done. You learn many different moves(not for fighting) to help you traverse the cities and dungeons. Ryu can wall run(like any good ninja should) he can do back flips, and many other moves that you MUST learn to advance in the game. For the most part you don't do a whole lot of platforming but when you do if you don't know the moves well enough you'll be swearing and trying for a good 10 minutes so remember when you learn a new move practice practice it until you have it down well. Now just because you may wall run to complete a puzzle it doesn't mean you shouldn't use these moves while fighting enemies because it really can help to get up higher and then come down with a powerfull combo and kick their ass before they have a chance to get up. As you go through the game you'll see that even though one strategy may work for one group of enemies it doesn't mean that it'll work for another group. One thing to do when you get to a new group of enemies is learn the way they attack and form a strategy from that. Now before I move onto the boss fights there's one more thing I'ld like to say about the normal enemies...they never get old and no fight is the same twice besides that before you even start to get tired of a certain enemy you get new ones and so on and so on Team Ninja made sure that the enemies and fights were always fresh in this game and never got boring and they did a wonderfull job. Now for the dreaded boss fights. Every boss in this game is challenging, unique, and fun to fight(even if you do get the crap kicked out of you). At the end of every Chapter(there's 16 in the game) you get a boss fight(excluding one chapter that has no boss fight and a few who have more than one boss fight) and you must defeat it to go on and start the next chapter. There's not one boss fight that's not different or unique and they always keep you on your toes. Plus just because you've fought this boss before doesn't mean you won't see a completely new move from them or them use a new startegy and that's what really sets these fights apart from most games. You might be wondering "okay I have all these moves and weapons but what about my health?" and the thing is you start out with a small(but fair) health meter and you can upgrade it throughout the game by getting life of the gods(you have to get 9(or maybe it was 10) to upgrade your health) and you can get lives of the thousand gods which upgrades your health bar immediately. You can also get more slots for your Ninpo by getting spirt of the gods. I would like to be able to explain every single little detail about this amazing game but I can't you really should either rent, borrow, or buy this game to truly experience it.

Features: Well this is the part that people that have played the original Gaiden on the Xbox will really want to read, it disscusses the new features found in Black. One of the biggest reasons to get this game even if you have the original NG is Mission Mode. To unlock it beat the game on any difficulty including Ninja Dog Mode. Basically Mission Mode puts you in a certain stage from the main game gives you certain Ninpo and weapons and then puts tons of different and really hard enemy combos into the level to kick your ass. You initially unlock the first ten missions then after you beat five missions five more unlock and so on. There are different themes for each set of five missions and as you go through them they get harder and harder. Sometimes you have to beat bosses that you fought in the game but this time they have normal enemies that respawn(and each time you kill about 8 they become harder enemies) that help the boss to kill you which, makes the boss fights different and gives it a new experience. For the most part however, the missions will be about you killing tons and tons of powerfull enemies with limited choices of Ninpo and weaponry. Mission Mode is most likely the BEST reason to get Black if you already have Gaiden and believe me you won't be dissapointed. Besides the grueling Mission Mode there are now five costumes that you can unlock by playing through different difficulties which is pretty cool. For those of you that thought NG was too much of a challenge or for those of you who didn't think it was enough of a challenge Team Ninja has added two new difficulty settings. One being Ninja Dog Mode which is basically the "easy mode" of the game but, if you had a hard time going through the first one this one isn't THAT much easier the only difference between it and Normal is that Ayane gives you potions for free and gives you bands(with bright colors to humiliate you) that increase strength, speed, ect. so that you can save your money for upgrading your weapons. For the people that want more challenge there is the new Master Ninja Mode of course you have to beat Normal/Ninja Dog, Hard, and Very Hard before you can even unlock it but, that mode promises to punish you like nothing else. Since some people still don't have Xbox Live(me included) even if you have the first Gaiden you didn't get to download the two Hurricane Packs that added new enemies, bosses, challenges, and a weapon called "Lunar". Well now you can finally have all that because Black also has content from both Hurricane Packs that are strewn throughout the game, some of the content will only be in higher up difficulties like Hard, Very Hard, and Master Ninja but you still get some of it including the Lunar on Normal and Ninja Dog. The Lunar is a staff that packs an amazing punch dishing out huge combos and tons of damage this weapon is truly amazing and something you have to use to believe. The other features are you can still get the original Gaiden for the NES and the Arcade Gaiden as well for some old school fun.

Replay: If you are someone who likes playing through a game more than once or unlocking tons of cool and new things to do then Black is your kind of game. After you beat the game for your first time the adventure is really just begining with all the costumes, missions, and difficulties just waiting to be unlocked Black has some of the best replay value this gen.

Overall: I really could go on and on about how cool and exciting this game is but it's something that you really just need to play for yourself to truly experience all that Ninja Gaiden: Black has to offer. What more could you ask fo a game? It's fun, addicting, hard, exciting, tense, tons of extras, costumes, missions, new enemies, improved graphics, and some of the best action you'll ever play this gen and into next year I'm sure Black is what every action game should be like and should be the new minimum standard for action games. If you are still undecided about buying it then this might change your mind you'ld expect to pay $50 like most games but Team Ninja really made this for the fans and it really shows since it's only $30 now if that didn't change your mind you may want to see a doctor about your problem.

Score: This is one of my favorite Xbox and action games of all time and earns itself not only a GOTY 2005 Nominee but a Ryku's Choice Award also. I give this game a well deserved 9.7/10.