Ninja Gaiden isn’t just the best action game available for the Xbox, it’s one of the best action games ever created.

The original Ninja Gaiden made its debut for the Nintendo entertainment system in 1988. Since then, the Ninja Gaiden franchise has been very quiet over the years until Team Ninja announced that a sequel for Ninja Gaiden would be hitting the Xbox in 2004. For those wondering if Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox is better than the NES version, the answer is resounding YES. In fact, Ninja Gaiden is so impressive in the game play, graphics, and sound department. That if it were released several years from now, it would still be very impressive.

The story of Ninja Gaiden focuses on the ninja extraordinaire Ryu Hayabusa. His family’s village has been annihilated, and since Ryu is the vengeful type, he sets off to get his vengeance on those responsible. Over the course of the game, Ryu will meet many interesting enemies and allies. There’s a blacksmith named Muramusa who can upgrade Ryu’s weaponry. A fiend slayer named Rachel who just so happens to need rescuing from time to time, and Ayane who will offer you advice and directions throughout the course of the game. While the plot of Ninja Gaiden may seem like a simple revenge story, there are actually quite a few twists and turns that keep the story fresh and interesting without ever becoming tedious.

To say that Ninja Gaiden is strictly an action based affair would be wrong since a good portion of the game involves adventure elements. Throughout the course of Ninja Gaiden, you’ll constantly be upgrading your weapons and abilities. Ryu is also an amazing acrobat. He can run on walls, swing from tree tops, run on water, and much more. Each one of his abilities will come into play numerous times in Ninja Gaiden to solve the game’s various puzzles. And while the puzzles may not be very challenging, they do a good job of adding variety to the game.

While the adventure elements of Ninja Gaiden are enjoyable, the meat of the game play revolves around pure unadulterated action. Ryu has a wide variety of moves in which you’ll use to slice and dice enemies with. Each one looks different and visually pleasing to the eye. For instance, the move “Runaway Lightning” has Ryu leaping into the air, back flipping and striking the enemy in the same motion before landing gracefully back on the ground. Ryu is also a master of long range combat. You’ll have shurikens, bows, and spear guns all of which have their own uses, but make no mistake. The main focus here is blade on blade combat and blades there are! Throughout the game, you’ll find many different types of weapons with which to decapitate your enemies with. There’s a Dabilahro, which is a devastating 100 pound weapon capable of giving even the toughest enemy a serious headache, nunchakus which seem as if they’ve been ripped straight from a martial arts film, and many other weapons that all offer a sense of diversity.

While Ryu’s offensive capabilities are very impressive, it’s Ryu’s defensive prowess that will be saving your bacon more often than not. By simply tapping the left shoulder button, Ryu will shift to a defensive stance that will allow him to block almost all incoming attacks. It’s this combination of a balanced offense and defense that makes Ninja Gaiden’s combat so rewarding. That said Ninja Gaiden is far from an easy game. While Ryu is one lean mean killing machine, the enemies that you’ll square off against are fast, brutal, and merciless. Simply mashing buttons will get you nowhere in Ninja Gaiden, you’ll actively have to switch from offense to defense in the blink of an eye. One second too fast or slow will leave you dead. However, Ninja Gaiden never feels impossible. While you’ll constantly be outnumbered, you’ll never feel like the situation is hopeless since your abilities are so well honed.

Graphically, Ninja Gaiden is arguably the greatest looking game ever made. Everything just oozes a sense of polish from the sparks that fly when two blades meet, to the incredibly cool magic effects that will have you reaching for a pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes from the amazing particle effects. You’ll have an average of four to five enemies on screen at once in Ninja Gaiden and no matter how intense the action gets the framerate never drops below 60 FPS. The environments of Ninja Gaiden also look fantastic. The locations you journey to all look fresh and exciting, from military supply stations, to aqueducts, to even the underworld itself. It’s plain to see that an absurd amount of detail went into creating each and every one. Ninja Gaiden also boasts some of the most beautiful cut scenes ever witnessed in a video game. And at times, you’ll almost feel like you’re watching a movie. In fact, the cut scenes are so good that you’ll want to replay certain scenarios over just to view them one more time.

The audio of Ninja Gaiden is also first rate. From the slashing sounds of your sword connecting to an enemy’s torso, to the roar of machine gun fire as it whistles over your head. The soundtrack of Ninja Gaiden is also superb as it offers up a wide variety of distinctive sounds that only make the game play more exciting. If there is one minor complaint that can be leveled at the audio department of Ninja Gaiden, it’s that the voice acting can sound very cheesy in some parts. This is most apparent with Ryu, as his voice sounds the exact opposite of threatening. Thankfully, you can opt to listen to the original Japanese voiceovers with English subtitles.

Ninja Gaiden takes place over the course of 16 chapters, and although most of them contain excellent pacing, there are a few chapters that feel like they drag on longer than they should. The story mode will take around 20 hours to complete, which is above average considering how long most action games take to complete these days. And when you take into account just how sharp the game is, you’ll definitely want to replay it more than a few times. Throw in some neat unlockables such as the original Ninja Gaiden for the NES, alternate costumes, harder difficulty settings, and you’ve got yourself one value packed game that’s available for only $20 dollars.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden is unquestionably one of the greatest action adventure games ever made. Everything is pulled off so smoothly from the fluid gameplay, cutting edge graphics, and hard rocking soundtrack that it’s almost laughable. If you don’t own an Xbox, then Ninja Gaiden will more than justify the purchase.

Now, onto the objectionable stuff.  You\'ll kill a lot of people/monsters in Ninja Gaiden Black. However, all of these encounters involve them attacking you first.  The game is definitely bloody. But that\'s inevitable with a game that contains swords, nunchuks, and war hammers. Thankfully, whenever you dispatch an enemy, they instantly disappear.  The heads of your foes will occasionally go flying. But that\'s it.  There is no foul language whatsoever in the game.

One character in the game, Rachel, wears some very immodest clothing. Thankfully, she doesn\'t show up too often in the game and when she does, you can opt to skip the cut-scene if you like. There are some definite paganistic overtones in the game which was disappointing. But they were brief.  In Ninja Gaiden Black, you can opt to use Ninpo. Which then allows Ryu to hurl fireballs, shoot electricity, etc at his foes. But there\'s nothing objectionable I found about about this portion of the game. You may be wondering why I\'m giving this game bonus points, but I assure you. My reasons are fully justified. Throughout the course of the game, several character make several selfless sacrifices to ensure the safety of others. I won\'t give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say. It was very refreshing to play a game in which the protagonists had a strong sense of morals.

Game Score: 9.8/10
Content Score: 37/50

This game isn\'t perfect, but if you\'re a mature Christian who\'s looking for a fun, challenging action game for their Xbox. Look no further than Ninja Gaiden Black.

Reviewer Note: I am Dutch_Mix from Gamespot. This is, in a sense, my review I posted on Gamespot with the appropriateness factors figured in. Feedback would be awesome. ;)

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