Welcome to the start of CVG's exclusive Ninja Gaiden II week. You may have already noticed everybody's favourite ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, staring you down when you jumped onto the CVG homepage this morning? Go take a look if you didn't, we spent more time than you'd imagine doing that (well Andy did).
So to kick off an awesome week of coverage, which will include previews, screens, movies and competitions, we're going to start with a look back at the Ninja Gaiden series and in particular the main events of Ninja Gaiden on Xbox (you've been warned if you never played it - there will be spoilers). It's been going longer than you think.
Check back at 5pm (GMT) for the unveiling of a brand new level from Ninja Gaiden II.
For the uninitiated Ninja Gaiden and dragon ninja Ryu Hayabusa first appeared in the arcade in 1988 before taking its 2D action-platform gameplay to NES, SNES and then Sega's Master System. But it'd be 16 years on from its debut that the series would make the giant leap to 3D. In 2004 Team Ninja unleashed Ninja Gaiden onto the unsuspecting Xbox fanbase. The result proceeded to garner rapturous applause that echoed around the globe.
Ryu Hayabusa's Xbox action-adventure became an instant hit, in particular it was the combat system that won the hearts of action fans thanks to its fluid nature, depth and huge challenge in mastering it. Oh and all the violence didn't exactly go down like a lead balloon, either.
Ninja Gaiden's story follows a good old-fashioned tale of vengeance, placing Hayabusa at the heart of a plot that takes him deep inside the evil Vigoor Empire. The story revolved around Hayabusa's attempted retrieval of the Dark Dragon Blade, a weapon of mass destruction stolen by the greater fiend, Duko. The bad blood between these two runs deep as it was Doku who destroyed the ninja's home village.
Kicking off with Hayabusa infiltrating the fortress of the Shadow ninja clan to locate its leader (and his uncle, Murai), events led to the inevitable showdown with Doku. But this wasn't to prove the game's climax. In his dying throes, Doku placed a curse upon Hayabusa which would force the ninja into confronting and defeating the Holy Vigoor Emperor if he was to ever remove the curse and lay claim to the Dark Dragon Blade. However, in the ensuing collapse of the Vigoor empire following the Emperor's death, the blade was lost.
Uncle Murai, it turned out, wasn't the sort of relative to buy his nephew toys and sit in a comfy chair by a roaring log fire while smoking a pipe. Nope, in the best of Machiavellian tradition, Murai was revealed as the originator of the plight in which Hayabusa found himself. Using the ninja as a tool for his own nefarious needs, Murai intended to restore the power of the Dark Dragon Blade by infusing it with the souls of those vanquished by Ryu in his quest. The dirty rotter.
When Murai was finally defeated, Hayabusa destroyed the Dark Dragon Blade with the True Dragon Sword. And that's where that tale ended.
But Ninja Gaiden was such a resounding success that, rather than leave fans waiting several years for a sequel, Tecmo, Team Ninja and Microsoft chose to release Ninja Gaiden: Black in 2005, which was a revamped version of the game for Xbox that featured loads of extra missions to get to grips with. There were even Xbox Live Leaderboards that played host to the best ninjas in the world. This was then taken even further with Ninja Gaiden: Sigma.
When Ninja Gaiden II was officially confirmed in 2007, fans clutched the news in a passionate embrace. "Guide Ryu Hayabusa on a mission to avenge his clan and prevent the destruction of the human race", Microsoft grandly said of the sequel.
Revenge and friendship are the major themes in Ninja Gaiden II that act as the catalyst for events. It's ultra-violent too, with the ninja dispatching foes in massive gouts of blood and flying dismembered limbs. You've all seen the movies and screenshots, right? We fully expect Tecmo and Team Ninja will chuck a twist - or two - into the story, but we'll have to wait until we chop our way through the full game to find out what creator Tomonobu Itagaki has in store for us.
Check back at 5pm (GMT) for the first details and screens on a brand new level from Ninja Gaiden II.
Ninja Gaiden II Compo: Q1
What home console did the Ninja Gaiden series first appear on?