I am reliving my childhood through Ninja Gaiden, 2004's game of the year!
17 hours after beginning, I have finished what is, to me, one of the all-time best next-gen games. I would rate it second to Halo, ahead of Metroid Prime. Those two games are the only next-gen games in recent history that have kept me playing non stop until I finished. I have gone through many a gaming phases, and I find myself giving up on these new age games more and more frequently. I am what some would call an "old school" or "hardcore" gamer. I am a huge fan of the classics and have been somewhat disappointed in the lack of originality, creativity, and final product quality delivered by the big budget games being flooded into the gaming market.
When I saw the first Ninja Gaiden video released last year during the E3 show, I was extremely excited. Ninja Gaiden is, without a doubt, one of my all time favorite old-school games. I remember playing each and every one of the original three, as well as the arcade game, and having a blast. The original Ninja Gaidens rank up their with the elite games of our time, as they can still be played to this day, and I enjoy the hell out of them!
Ninja Gaiden was one of those games that would piss you off to the point that you wanted to break your controller and never play it again. Yet, no matter how many times that damn bat would knock you off after you jumped onto a platform, you learned from your mistakes and kept playing. It ranks up there with Contra as a game that, no matter how many times you died, you strived for that perfect run.
Not in quite some time have I seen that re-enacted in a next-gen game. Games nowadays are too flashy, too "Hollywood-ish." Most of you know what I'm talking about. Gaming has really lost something this last decade, and a lot of us still yearn for it. Ninja Gaiden has delivered on every possible aspect what any gamer could ever want.
The shear mechanics, creativity, and thought process that went into this game are pure genius. In this game you are able to scale any wall, jump off multiple enemies, perform a wide variety of combos amongst numerous weapons, cast spells, upgrade weapons and spells, hunt for treasure, solve puzzles, fight extremely hard bosses and battle the best AI seen in a game since Halo. I'd like to give props on the amazing AI. These enemies are smart, fast, and difficult. Although after time, you can learn patterns to each type of bad guy, they put up quite a challenge every time. I can't tell you how many times I got so unbelievably pissed off at those damn black ninjas. Oh, those bastards!
Having a variety of weapons with a multitude of combos adds a lot of flavor to the game. Although I stuck with the Dragon Sword for about 80% of the game, others were still fun to use. I really enjoyed the flails. Although they were not helpful in a lot of situations due to their weak power, they made areas with numerous enemies fun and easy. All the other weapons were very cool, but were never used. The numchucks were outmatched by the flails. The warhammer and yellow sword (I don't remember the exact name) are way too slow to be helpful. The sword you get from the black knight is not as good as the dragon sword, and it drains your health while in use. The projectile weapons are what really made the weapons shine. Having an unlimited amount of shurikens equals lots of fun! Even if they couldn't damage certain enemies, they were still fun as hell to throw. The incendiary shurikens were a blast, as well. There is nothing better than chucking a knife into an enemy and watching him blow up. My first impression of the bow seen in the E3 video lead me to believe that it was going to be useless. I was also not happy with the lack of a crosshair. Little did I know that the bow is very, very useful in the game, and you feel more skillful shooting down enemies without a crosshair.
Although it took some time to acquire enough essence to upgrade all the weapons, it was well worth it. They each take a new form upon final level, and they do a lot more damage. Yes, even the wooden stick upgrades. Looks like a giant paddle, which is not worth the time, but cool to have nonetheless. Unfortunately I only upgraded my lighting spell to level 3, and fire and ice only made it to Level 2. The lightning spell saved me more than I can remember, upgrade it first. Trust me, it is worth it.
The graphics in this game are amazingly beautiful. They really don't shine until Chapters 15 and 16, which are the last two of the game. The amazing graphics allow for things like running across a bone bridge that rotates as you run across it, or watching the most twisted and trippy tornadoes spin in the background, while running up to a giant castle made of creepy as skulls. Wow. "Simply amazing" is all I can say. Square has always been notorious for displaying the most impressive CG movies, they are quite simply unmatched. Well, it's nice to see that someone else out there knows what their doing. These CG movies are simply incredible. I can't even put into words how sweet they are. I'm just really glad that after you complete the game you get a movie gallery so that you can go back and watch the movies. (15 total, each very cool!)
Many a times did I die in this game. Each time was more frustrating than the last. I knew that I made a stupid mistake, and I knew next time it wouldn't happen again. This element of the game reminds me a lot of Splinter Cell, which is also one of my favorites. You know that if you had another shot, you could do it better. That happens many times in this game. You fight a boss for the first time and use up all of your health potions, only to find out that you can't get anymore for another 20 minutes. Yeah, it was difficult rationing the potions at times, but made it all the more challenging.
Another big thing I'd like to point out is the gameplay. How many games do enjoy just running around? Besides GTA and having cars to drive, this is the most enjoyable game to simply run around. No matter where I went, I was jumping, rolling, jumping onto walls, and jumping on another wall. I couldn't just run. I had way too much fun running from area to area.
The combat in this game is superb. It is unlike anything I've ever seen. I originally thought after seeing another video that this was more or less a Devil May Cry rip-off. Hell no! Devil May Cry was cool, but it is nothing now that Ninja Gaiden has shown us what a real action game is all about. Never has it been so much fun to fight enemies. You can barrel rolling behind an enemy, slash them up into the air, follow it with a round house, and finish with a head chop by dashing through the air. Many possible combos can be performed, all of which are fun as hell, and are pulled off with ease.
There isn't much to say about the sound, except that it was perfect. No complaints coming from me. The Dolby Digital 5.1 was right on.
Overall, I'd just like to say, "THANK YOU, Team Ninja." If I was in a theatre, I would've gotten up and clapped during the end credits. Very rarely does a game come along that completely grabs my attention, allowing me to think of nothing else. I used to be a video game addict during the old-school days, but lack of games like this has given me a bitter taste about the future of our oh-so-beloved past time. This game does everything perfect. I only have very, very minor complaints about the camera. The difficult level was absolutely perfect. It's been so long since a game was truly challenging. As I said before, I had original thought this may be a Devil May Cry or Onimusha rip off. No way. This is this not a hack and slash. This is a skillful ninja game that is unmatched in every way possible. When I was a kid, I would replay my games so many times after I beat them. Ninja Gaiden, MegaMan, Mario, Contra, Dragon Warrior, Wizards and Warriors, Trojan, Blaster Master, Castlevania, Double Dragon, Gauntlet, Final Fantasy, TMNT, and many many others were all games that I have beaten well over a dozen times in my history. I would still go back and beat them once again, because they were that damn good! The new Ninja Gaiden now takes its place among these elite games.
Now, I have to play it again and get all those damn scarabs! Unfortunately I finished with a total of 39, but I know where at least 2 were that I left behind. I hear that after completion of hard you get a plasma saber, as well as unlocking Very Hard mode. If you beat that, you unlock the MK II plasma saber which, to my knowledge, no one has yet to see.
All I have left to say at this point is this: Play the game, don't cheat, and don't give up! Yeah, it may be difficult at times, but trust me, it's completely worth the time and frustration. The game consistently gets better as you go.
I give this game a perfect 10. It's going to be a close one with Halo 2 this year, but I honestly feel that this game deserves game of the year!