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Xbox 360
Team Ninja
GENRE: Action
June 03, 2008

Ninja Gaiden III

Ninja Gaiden 3

Ninja Gaiden 3

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

More in this Series
 Written by David Taylor  on May 09, 2008

Final Glimpse: More ninjas, babes, and monsters than a night on the Sunset Strip.

When Tecmo's Team Ninja resurrected the Ninja Gaiden series for the Xbox, critics hailed it as arguably the best action game on that system. Like many of Team Ninja's games, it featured state of the art graphics, frenetic game play and a punishing difficulty system. Since its 2004 launch, the original game has been re-released twice with significant improvements each time. Not content to make Ninja Gaiden into the Street Fighter II series (Super Street Fight Turbo Omega Ultra Apocalypse II anyone?), producer Tomonobu Itagaki and his gang at Team Ninja have finally gone back to the drawing board, and with Ninja Gaiden 2, they hope to give players the brand new disemboweling experience they crave.

Itagaki describes this sequel as the ?premier action game.? This sentiment, along with his statements in recent interviews, hint that this sequel allows him to pack more into what he wanted to include into the Xbox original. Outwardly the game seems to be a fair mix of new elements that serve to attract a wider audience with returning features that will keep fans happy. For example, the sequel will feature four difficulty levels. This allows a wide range of players to enjoy the game, from the hardcore ninjitsu masters that conquered the original, to the average guy who wishes to casually decapitate rival ninjas with little fuss.

The game's arsenal of weapons will be immediately recognizable to fans. The Dragon Sword, Falcon Talons, and Lunar Staff all reappear for players' chopping delight. Likewise the bestiary features familiar faces with the inclusion of ghost piranhas, ninja dogs, and of course the endless array of ninjas turned sword fodder for series hero Ryu Hayabusa. The boss battles revealed thus far seem impressive. Of particular note is Volf, a gigantic four-armed werewolf who seems to be the castaway child of Goro and Falkor from The Neverending Story.

The sequel's controls are almost identical to its predecessor. The most notable addition is the ability to switch weapons with the D-Pad instead of pausing the game. Another prominent new feature is the obliteration techniques. These are finishing moves that Ryu can perform on dismembered foes with the tap of the Y button. These gruesome techniques are essential because often an enemy minus a few limbs post-ass kicking will slink/crawl/roll toward Ryu with a suicide attack in mind.

The sequel's other notable new feature is the auto-recovery system. This allows Ryu to auto-heal while away from enemies. However the auto-heal system only works once Ryu has defeated all the enemies in a current fight. Additionally the more damage Ryu takes, the less he will automatically heal over time.

Team Ninja has revealed little about the story thus far. From the information that is out there, the plot seems to be much more epic in scope than the original. Ryu will travel to fight evil in many locales, ranging from New York City to Venice to the Netherworld (which I hear is lovely in the summertime). New characters will appear including Ryu's father Joe Hayabusa and CIA agent Sonia, a sidekick character that carries on the tradition of the ?buxom sex object? heroine featured in other Team Ninja games. Look for the erotic fan fiction to start rolling in anytime now.

Itagaki has stated that there will be no multiplayer mode. Team Ninja had been kicking around the idea of a versus mode, but ultimately scrapped it because they felt they could not do it justice without making it a separate game. But fear not Xbox Live dwellers, for if history is any indication then the developers will not shy away from adding new features via online content. Recall that the Hurricane Packs for the original game added new weapons and missions. Perhaps Team Ninja will release some sort of multiplayer option in this way.

Final Thoughts
Ninja Gaiden 2 seems to be following the proud tradition set by the initial Xbox installment. Knowing this and the quality behind Team Ninja's usual work, it is probably safe to say that Ninja Gaiden 2 will be a worthwhile experience. The team's efforts to make the game more accessible will no doubt open up a new audience of casual players and first time Xbox owners who either never had a chance to play the original or shied away from its punishing difficulty. Look for this Xbox 360 exclusive in early June.

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