Ninja Gaiden Black

released on Sep 20, 2005

An expanded game of Ninja Gaiden

In Ninja Gaiden Black you can reprise the role of Ryu Hayabusa, ninja extraordinaire. This sequel to Ninja Gaiden supplies a new story and new missions, plus two more difficulty settings and cinematic cut scenes that provide background about the protagonist. Ninja Gaiden Black also incorporates the additional content from Hurricane Packs 1 and 2 and includes unlockable content such as the original arcade version of Ninja Gaiden.

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with this game i found out i can cum with my hands

I desperately want to be able to love this game, I think the fundamentals of combat are excellent and I deeply respect what it’s doing on that front. There’s a tendency in character action games, even ones I love (thinking of DMC primarily) for enemies to be relegated to being a punching-bag, whether they’re too passive or not really able to keep up with the protagonist's superior mobility. Ryu is one of the most mobile (and well animated) of them all - being able to wall run and flip over the heads of enemies while air-slashing through them, but it's cleverly counterbalanced by enemies having very quick attacks and especially grabs which can go through blocks without it being possible to react, which necessitates the constant use of that mobility to avoid being pinned down. In that sense it has a fighting game feel to it, simultaneously promoting good aggressive and defensive play. Those prone to getting frustrated would call untelegraphed, unblockable attacks “bad game design”, but its constructed in accordance with Ryu’s toolkit and gives the combat incredible stakes, often focused around who lands the first hit, and lends a very distinct thematic character to Ryu as a human at the height of training rather than someone with supernatural power, which is felt because the player has to approach combat in a similarly disciplined way. Other ideas like the essence mechanic, despite being poorly conveyed, are also very good and make charge moves actually useful when even in the best action games they’re mostly useless due to being so slow.
So why don’t I love it? I think as early as chapter 6, the game plummets in the quality of its level and boss ideas and never really climbs back up. Every platforming section feels finicky and frustrating, the ones where you have to platform while ranged enemies shoot at you feel particularly sadistic, the military base infinitely spawning laser drones that send you flying if they hit you takes my nomination for the worst of all. I don’t mind the general difficulty of the game but these sections are difficult in a way which is not interesting or enjoyable to engage with. The swimming chapter is another example of an idea so disconnected from what makes the core mechanics good that it's difficult to imagine anyone finding it fun. Bosses were also mostly pretty terrible. Bland and simplistic movesets aside, I feel this combat is very obviously complimented by opponents similarly sized to Ryu who will react to being hit, whereas the game is content to throw these massive boss monsters at you over and over again, even having the gall to recycle a very bad worm miniboss four times in quick succession. There seemed to be a commitment to having diverse scenarios but some of its ideas are awful: infinitely spawning phantom fish that lock you into a grab animation, fights vs tanks and helicopters with awful ranged combat, grab attacks in the final tower that pull you through the floor and make you slog through the same section again, and so on.
It's fashionable to bemoan the shift of action games away from exploration and worldbuilding and towards an endless stream of combat arenas but I'll be honest and say that I found the attempt at an interconnected world here pretty underwhelming, at no point did any of its lame lock-and-key puzzles or frictionless backtracking impress me. While I agree with the overall sentiment about CAG's neglecting the importance of their worlds, I would rather not return to this particular incarnation of it.
It feels pointless to complain about the story given that nobody cares but it’s kind of impressively bad and incoherent, Rachel is a particularly trashfire character design that feels like what outsiders to gaming have in mind when they deride the gaming sphere as juvenile and unserious and every cutscene that with her in it had me looking over my shoulder to quickly get the game off the monitor if someone walked in.
The camera is a common point of complaint with a lot of players. Its permanent inverted controls (+ a very awkward activation which I didn’t figure out for quite a while) already make it inherently weak but the game seems determined to construct environments that make the camera freak out in its winding, claustrophobic tunnels. There are frequent combat arenas where enemies will just spawn behind you, requiring you to either reposition or just try to guess what the enemy is doing, which feels like playing around a bad camera rather than actually engaging with the mechanics. Context sensitivity is another issue revolving around this. Interact and attack being the same button was particularly frustrating but in terms of the most frequent fuck-ups flying swallow is inconsistent both in activation and damage and will just sometimes hit an armored part of the enemy and do nothing.
My laundry list of gripes I can only lay out in a boring manner because it's not a unified problem but a sort of consistent stream of ancillary issues that stick themselves onto a very fundamentally sound core, and so I do come out the other end still favourable towards Ninja Gaiden Black, but I am disappointed that unlike a lot of people I respect on this platform I can’t really call it one of my favourites. I will say that I think the visuals of the game are generally very good and I could easily see myself appreciating it more on a second playthrough, but for now it can sit at a strong 7.

The best version of this fantastic game

I've been a big fan of character action games since the original Devil May Cry and it's been a genre that I've exhaustively explored. I came into this game wondering if the reputation of it would sour my opinion, but I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this. Ever since Devil May Cry 3, it feels like all character action games have followed the Platinum Games paradigm. I was surprised at how different that this game felt. It felt much faster than Devil May Cry, maybe even faster than DMC 5. Ninja Gaiden may not have as many crazy combos as DMC, but I love how you will use almost every technique that the game gives you. This isn't for the sake of scoring style points, you need these advanced techniques in order to survive. The game controls a little weird since you may be so used to how Dante (and by extension just about every other character action game you've played) moves and attacks, but once you adjust it flows extremely well. The encounter design of the game is quite good and expertly mixes it up between throwing you against overwhelming odds or against just a few, but tricky-to-fight enemies. The level design is also interesting with a good mix of exploration and platforming. The camera can occasionally cause problems - especially with some of the more difficult platforming sections. There are definitely some boss fights that are 15% more difficult than they need to be due to the weird camera perspective, but if the game was 100% fair then it wouldn't be a Ninja Gaiden game. If you're like me and feel like you've exhausted everything out of this genre play this because it feels incredibly fresh and it's a shame that more games don't try to copy it.

Completed yesterday on Very Hard. Going to start again on Master sometime soon