Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the best ninja game ever.

User Rating: 9.8 | Ninja Gaiden Black XBOX
Ninjas - what’s there not to love? The swift moves of an acrobat, sword techniques known to few, assassins like no others. Imagine that put into a game with incredible action and phenomenal visuals. That’s exactly what Ninja Gaiden Black does. It takes the exact same game from about a year back, which never got old, and adds some nice little goodies for those who played the original. Not much can go wrong when the elements of an action-adventure and fighting game are fused together perfectly. The minds at Team Ninja stayed true to the saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This makes for the one of the best games available for the Xbox.

The story tells of Ryu, a young master ninja whose village, Hayabusa, is attacked. The reason behind it lies in the dark power of the Dark Dragon Blade, which is stolen from the village. With his family’s legendary Dragon Sword, Ryu sets out on a quest to reclaim this blade before it falls in the wrong hands. The story is a good one, mainly because there is a lot of mystery pertaining to the villains behind the village raid. You’ll spend a lot of time building up questions about who the mastermind really was. And just like when reading a book, once you’re hooked, you want to know how everything turns out. It also helps that the plot is moved along with some excellent cut-scenes.

Ninja Gaiden Black has its fair share of adventure elements. You’ll be traveling from place to place, and there’s the occasional puzzle every now and then. They aren’t the most difficult, but are nice fillers that do make you use your head a bit. It’s a nice change of pace from constant fighting at every second. Climbing up walls is always fun, and there will be a lot of that in the game. Because Ryu is so agile, he can perform moves such as vertical leaps up a wall, and then flipping backwards to another ledge. How cool is that? You can even buy items periodically throughout the game. Best of all is that the it sets you on a path without making your journey feel too linear. All of this is fits well into the game, but don’t let it shy you away from what makes this game as good as it is.

You’d be hard pressed to find a game with more adrenaline pumping action than Ninja Gaiden Black. I don’t know what it is, but there’s always that sense of joy when slicing a foe in a single swipe. In spite of such hectic situations as maybe six enemies cornering you, everything has fluidity in it. All of Ryu and his foes’ moves flow smoothly, which is important when there are so many ninjas in the game. I don’t know about others, but I’d want an quick ninja in a game rather than one who moves like a robot. The game shies away from button mashing, which is a very pleasant surprise. Instead, there are all kinds of combos and abilities to learn, which come in handy. With upgrades and new weapons comes even more moves, meaning you’ll have many techniques in your arsenal for use. Fairly simple controls ties everything together, making the gameplay all that it can be.

With each kill you receive yellow orbs, which are basically the currency of the game. With these orbs you can purchase upgrades for your weapons, potions, or other various things. There isn’t a whole lot to see when it comes to the inventory of the shopkeeper, but this isn’t much of a concern. All you really need to do is stock up on potions and make sure you improve upon your weapons. This does make killing your enemies important, because if you run low on yellow orbs, it’ll be a tough task advances through the game.

I once had a friend named Jimmy. He wasn’t the most skilled video game player, but he decided to buy this game. I called him that same night he got the game, and he said there was a bit of a problem. He was pulling out too much of his hair out of frustration. I said it couldn’t be that bad, but the next day I saw that he had no hair. Okay, maybe the story is a bit fabricated. Alright, I made it up, but it could happen. The life of a ninja is hard, at least that’s how the game sees it, because Ninja Gaiden Black is a very difficult game. Right from the get go, your foes are no easy obstacle. The game stays true to that for the entirety of the game. And despite the boss battles being some of the best in any game, they are also some of the hardest. If you die enough times, then there is an easier difficulty setting. Despite this alternative, no one wants to feel as though they’re not good enough for the default setting. Some may see the difficulty as a negative, while other will embrace it. Challenge is always welcome in a game, as is good AI. This is what Ninja Gaiden Black has, and while it may make the game less accessible to general gamers, it’s better than a game that’s too easy.

Ninja Gaiden Black’s visuals are drop dead gorgeous. It’s games like these that make you forget about the next gen of video games. The game is not lacking in variety, in enemies or environments. You’ll find yourself in a burning village at one point, and then in a colorfully vibrant city the next. The frame rate is smooth, making slow-downs non existent. Animations look about as real as possible as well. I could be here all day listing things that look good in the game. The game is so visually arresting that it should be in the conversation for best looking game ever.

Audio wise, Ninja Gaiden Black is great. Yet it’s probably its weakest single aspect of the game. Now that’s saying something. There are both English and Japanese voice-overs. If you want to go for the more authentic feel, then there’s nothing wrong with the Japanese VO. As for the English, it’s good. There is the case of awkward wording here and there, but nothing that stands out. The game boasts a great soundtrack, which varies for each chapter. Even though the music is repeated often in each level, you won’t mind if you like it, and most will. Sound effects are the strongest part of the audio. Ryu’s cry of power as he swings his sword captures his strength, and the strike of flesh is second to none. Once again, there is looping in sound effects just like the music, but this doesn’t take away from Ninja Gaiden Black being a terrific sounding game.

The game is Ninja Gaiden Black, not Ninja Gaiden. This means that there are new additions to the game, and they help expand its life-span considerably. For those that felt the game wasn’t hard enough (all three of you) there are even harder difficulty settings. For those of you with Xbox Live, there are two downloadable Hurricane Packs which feature some enhancements for the game. There are also some new costumes, as well as the mission mode. Mission mode puts you in different scenarios. This is probably the best add-on to the game, as it extends on the best part of the game, the combat. These are purely action oriented sequences, and they prove to be some of the best of the entire game. On top of all of that, why not try out the original arcade Ninja Gaiden to see how far the game has come. Unfortunately, you must beat the game and meet certain specifications to unlock most of this. This will be a big disappointment for many if they cannot beat the game. But for those who do, they will be in store for some much more than adequate unlockables.

Ninjas, check. Magical sword full of evil power, check. High-octane action, check. There are three basic things that certainly help make a game awesome. You don’t need to be the best gamer in the world, but for those looking for a challenge that features some of the most fun you’ll have on your Xbox, this is for you. Players who have or haven’t experienced the original Ninja Gaiden will find redeeming qualities in this game. It offers about 20 hours of crazy and chaotic fighting, along with some respectable adventuring elements, and then some with all of the things to unlock. If you’re looking for the best ninja game ever, it has arrived, and its name is Ninja Gaiden Black.