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Ninja Gaiden

Ninjas - they roam the land free of the bonds of hearth and home, kind of like Big Issue sellers. They fight on the side of the poor and the downtrodden, again, like Big Issue sellers. And sometimes they totally flip out and kill people - probably like that Big Issue seller in town. You know, the one with the mad, staring eyes?

But Ryu Hayabusa is one swordsman who has given up his lonely life to settle back amongst his tribe. Which probably explains why, when Lord Vigor butchers his family, our hero swears revenge and sets out on a quest to find the Ryuken sword and defeat the murdering monarch.

FIGHTING TALK

Which, of course, is our cue to embark on the best aerial acrobatics this side of Prince Of Persia and the flashiest carnage we've seen since, well, Onimusha.

For a skilled swordsman like Ryu, speed is your main weapon. Well speed, shurikens, nunchaku and a bloody huge hammer. With a Shinobi-like pace you scamper along walls, slicing and dicing foes into bloody chunks while they slash blindly at the dust you leave behind. The controls are rather clever too, mixing simplicity with depth, so while it's easy to somersault and slash, it takes skill to string together huge combos and turn every death into a brutal and beautiful ballet.

Even with the US version appearing before the New Year, Gaiden still holds a few secrets, one of which is an online mode that Tecmo promise will be totally different to anything seen before on Xbox Live. But with this current version only half complete and the 15 levels being some of the biggest we've seen, the Tecmo boys have a busy time ahead.

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