Ninja Gaiden Hurricane Pack Vol. 1 First Impressions

We check out the extras in Tecmo's download for its excellent Xbox action game.

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Ninja Gaiden (2004)
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It's a risky prospect to tinker with near perfection. When Ninja Gaiden was released earlier this year, Xbox owners bore assorted farm animals when they finally got their hands on Team Ninja's fantastic, born-again, classic, old-school franchise. Aside from gaining the fanatical devotion of Xbox gamers thirsty for their yearly allotment of ninja content, the game garnered a healthy amount of critical praise as well. In the wake of such a successful release, Team Ninja and creator Tomonobu Itagaki have opted to give fans a big, downloadable "thank you" in the form of a content download for the game. Dubbed the Hurricane Pack Vol. 1, the download adds a host of extra content to the game that ranges from gameplay tweaks to new enemies for the already stellar game. We had the chance to go through the Hurricane Pack to find out exactly how Team Ninja thanks its fans.

The Hurricane Pack is full of new moves, costumes, enemies, and other fun ninja stuff. Click "stream" for a larger view.

When you play the game with the Hurricane Pack additions, you will likely have one of two reactions. If you've been both actively playing Ninja Gaiden and competing in the Master Ninja Tournament, which Tecmo kicked off in May and wrapped up in June, you'll likely say, "This is dope." However, if you haven't been keeping up with your ninjitsu since finishing the game or you somehow missed playing one of the best Xbox action games to be released this year, your reaction will probably be more along the lines of "Oh, God! When does the hurting stop?" or "Why does Team Ninja hate me?".

The Hurricane Pack adds a fat chunk of content to the original retail Ninja Gaiden in the form of a new camera system that lets you use the right analog stick to toggle between the normal first-person mode and the new system, which lets you adjust the camera manually as in most third-person action games. While this doesn't help much in combat, it makes searching areas for items a breeze and can help you keep tabs on some enemies. You'll also find new costumes for Ryu Hayabusa as well as some new weapons with which to kill the minions of evil that cross your path.

Speaking of the evil ones you'll be hacking to pieces... The Hurricane Pack features a mix of all-new enemies and re-dressed old ones. The catch is that the enemies in the game have undergone more than just cosmetic changes. You'll find that the already unfriendly foes you squared off against in the first version of the game have gone aggro in a big way. To make matters worse, your foes have also gotten a lot smarter and will mercilessly take advantage of any opening they see. Furthermore, they'll mob you regularly. The end result is a much more challenging experience that will chew you up and spit you out if you get sloppy. Thankfully, Ryu has been tricked-out with some slick new counters that help even the odds and make enemy moves that were once unblockable much more manageable. Well, sort of, anyway. The first time you counter a once-unblockable move, you may find yourself too distracted by the accomplishment to cope with the rest of your foes.

Team Ninja has severely jacked up the difficulty level with the Hurricane Pack. Hopefully you won't mind a few bruises.
Team Ninja has severely jacked up the difficulty level with the Hurricane Pack. Hopefully you won't mind a few bruises.

Your experience in the game will also differ from the original in that item placement has been changed up. While Team Ninja could have just moved things around in a very low-key fashion, you'll find that there's a pretty wicked sense of humor at work behind these changes. Finding a chestful of bats, as opposed to a mission-critical key, is a funny and frightening surprise that has us nervously rethinking how we tackle the game's levels.

All told, Ninja Gaiden: Hurricane Pack Vol. 1 is a slick addition to an already great game. The new content and greater challenge helps keep the experience fresh and should appeal to fans of the series. The pack may be daunting for newcomers to the game, but if you finally feel compelled to pick it up to find out what all the fuss is about, it adds a good chunk of replay value. While you may think that Team Ninja has it out for you personally, know this: The team doesn't hate you. It's just trying to get you to sharpen your skills, and it's using ninjas to teach you--which is never a bad thing. That said, there's an impressive amount of depth to be discovered...still. Expect these early impressions to be followed by a more in-depth look at the game shortly. Ninja Gaiden: Hurricane Pack Vol. 1 is currently slated to be made available for download this August, so look for more on the game soon. For now, check out some hot new movies on Ninja Gaiden's media page.

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