Ninja Gaiden (Sniper)
Genre: Action platformer
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo

Team Ninja made what was, until now, the most beautiful game on the X-box to date, Dead or Alive 3. Ninja Gaiden uses the same engine; pixel shaded effects galore, high-resolution textures, and slick animation. Ninja Gaiden is the new king of graphics for Microsoft's gaming platform.

Many of the light-techno/orchestra-mixed tunes in this game succeed only at "not getting in the way", and are worth forgetting. Others, such as the Aquaduct song, are memorable and catchy. The sound effects, like Dead or Alive 3's, are only average. Voice acting is cheesy, as it is in most action games.

Ryu Hiyabusa has a large contingent of his moves from the Dead or Alive series, and adds wall-running to his reportoire. There are two action buttons, in addition to block and jump buttons. Counters can be performed, also ala Dead or Alive. Most actions in the game can be fluidly strung together, and the map design gives you plenty of places to use these moves, although the clunky camera often gets in the way, and there is no way to manually rotate it- you can only snap it behind Ryu in the direction he is facing.

Ninja Gaiden is a game that's fun when I sit down to play it, but I have to make myself sit down initially to begin a session. It's a fantastic action-oriented foray into the world of ninjas, but I don't find it particularily addicting either, and there's no story worth speaking of to liven it up. There's a wide array of weapons, and although the game is linear and broken into chapters, most chapters revisit prior levels, allowing you to visit new areas within them. Ninja Gaiden is a game with a familiar premise and feel, although it is more well done than most other games in this well-populated genre.

Sniper's verdict: