Karma System FAQ by aaxe

Version: 4.0 | Updated: 09/21/04 | Printable Version

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Karma System

By aaxe

Version 4.0

Copyright Information
Copyright 2004, aaxe

This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal,
private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed
publicly without advance permission. Use of this guide on any other web site or
as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of
copyright.  Just contact me via GameFAQs if you wish to reuse this material.

Version 4.0, 09-15-2004 - Reorganized Yellow Essence Quantities section. Added 
Added Combo Essence Multiplier Information. Big credits go to tweaks87.
Version 3.5, 07-27-2004 - Added Hurricane Pack Disclaimer.  Big credits go to 
mmaag for figuring out the exact Essence multipliers.
Version 3.0, 07-05-2004 - Updated content.  Reorganized Essence section.  Added
Ninja Gaiden Download information.
Version 2.5, 06-05-2004 - Updated content.  Added Master Ninja Tournament
Section.  Reorganized.  Moved Timely Boss Strategies to the Bestiary FAQ.
Version 2.0, 04-14-2004 - Updated content.  Added Story Cleared.  Added Rolling
Techniques.  Updated Boss Strategies.
Version 1.5, 04-08-2004 - Updated content.  Reorganized.  Added Essence
Version 1.0, 04-06-2004 - Corrected inaccuracies.  Added Very Hard boss
strategies.  Added credits.  Added index.  Added ASCII art.
Version 0.6, 03-10-2004 - Corrected inaccuracies.  Added Boss Strategies for
Normal Difficulty.
Version 0.5, 03-07-2004 - Initial release.  I will be adding Boss strategies
for defeating bosses as I come up with them for the different difficulty

Table of Contents
1.  Karma System
	a.  Setup
	b.  Combo
	c.  Kills
	d.  Time
	e.  Implementation
2.  Chapter Cleared
	a.  Clear Time
	b.  Kills
	c.  Essence
	d.  Ninpo
3.  Story Cleared
4.  Essence
	a.  Types
	b.  Uses
	c.  Yellow Essence Quantities
		1. UT Essence Multipliers
		2. Combo Essence Multipliers
		3. Armlet of Benediction Essence Multiplier
5.  Tricks
	a.  Rolling Techniques
	b.  Essence Avoidance
	c.  Ninpo
	d.  Environment Usage
	e.  Unlabored Flawlessness
	f.  Rekill
6.  Master Ninja Tournament
7.  Hurricane Pack Disclaimer
8.  Credits

--Karma System--
Ninja Gaiden is the latest game from the Japanese development studio, Team
Ninja.  In my opinion, it is one of the greatest games of this generation.  It
is also one of my favorite games of all time.  While the unparalleled graphics,
sound and play mechanics have a lot to do with this, there is one, specific
aspect of this game that pushes it far beyond every single action game ever
created for the Hardcore.  I've never considered myself a Hardcore gamer, but
this game and its Karma system is setup for just that type of person.

Team Ninja went way above and beyond by implementing this game's Karma System.
As you probably know, when you hit the white button, a Karma window pops up.
It displays only your total Karma whenever you are not around an enemy.
Whenever you encounter an enemy, two more stats pop up.  However, there is an
undocumented feature such that if you click the left thumbstick while that
window is up, you will also get what I call an Encounter Counter.  This time
limit will appear whenever you are about to be attacked.

In all honesty, I believe that they omitted this from the documentation, as it
would've spoiled a lot of the surprises on your first time through the game.
I'm thinking that this feature was included, solely for those of us that will
play this game, over and over again.  Including this functionality will greatly
facilitate trying to get those Master Ninja rankings.  It's a great addition
that was not available in the US demo at least.

You have to click the left thumbstick at first for it to turn on the time
display. It will remember this for the rest of the time that the Xbox is on, so
you don't have to keep clicking the stick for every encounter.  Unfortunately,
if you come back from a save, or continue, you must hit white and click the
thumbstick.  They changed this for the Master Ninja Tournament, however, as you
only have to hit the White Button and the Timer appears as well.

Encounters are rated for Combo, Kills and Time. The Time factor is the most
interesting.  Every encounter has a time limit in which you should be able to
beat a group of enemies. Once you encounter a group of enemies, this counter
will appear and count backwards from whatever value is assigned to that
encounter (and difficulty).  This group of enemies can span multiple regions of
an area as well.  The significant thing is that if you beat this time limit,
you get a 10,000-point bonus.

Additionally, for the fights that re-spawn, all bonuses are cut in half until
you get no bonus whatsoever. The interesting facet of this system is that while
long Ultimate Essence moves are good for Essence generation, they are counter
productive to getting a good time bonus.  I.e. The Dragon Sword regular Essence
Technique decapitates, whereas the Ultimate Technique gives you a long combo
depending upon what level your Dragon Sword is.  So, if you're looking to
generate Essence, you'll want Storm of the Heavenly Dragons.  But, if you're
shooting for time, you'll only want to do Haze Straight Slash.

If you decide to flee an encounter, you don't get any bonus at all, you'll only
receive a literal amount of points for the enemies you did kill and the last
combo you did.  The positive aspect for this is that the encounter resets, so
you can take another crack at getting the Time Bonus.  The bonuses do not halve
until the encounter is completed.

Bats and other small reoccurring enemies that you can kill for Essence do not
trigger an Encounter.

At the successful end of the encounter, your combo count is multiplied by 10.
Every time a combo is completed (either by being hit out of it, blocking,
etc...), it is multiplied by 10 added to your score on the fly.  There doesn't
appear to be any additional reward for getting the multiples of 50, 100, 200
combo hits, etc. That is, it's still only multiplied by 10.

Lastly, your combo ends if you wait too long to hit somebody, if you get hit,
or actually block successfully. You can block and roll and not reset the combo
counter.  But, if you successfully block a hit or counter attack, your counter
will reset. You can pad the counter reset time by throwing shuriken in some
instances as well.  The window of time appears to be 3 seconds. This particular
counter is not displayed anywhere.

Your kills are multiplied by 1000 at the end of a finished encounter (except in
the cases of bosses where the kills are multiplied by 100000).  The kill score
is modified such that a percentage of how many seconds were left on the clock
are multiplied by a factor, depending on the type of enemy killed and then
added to the kill score (not the Time Bonus).  Interestingly enough, a kill is
registered as soon as the blow lands (not when the body disappears) on the
counter.  But, for you to get the time bonus, the body must disappear.  Even if
the body falls off of the cliff, it still has to explode before you can get
your time bonus.  This is to account for the fact that you can continue
juggling an enemy long after they have died (and uttered their death rattle).

The hidden Time Bonus is only achieved if you complete the encounter in the
allotted time.  Also, how much you beat the encounter by affects your Kills

For example, on chapter one:

The very first Ninja encounter has a time limit of seven seconds on the Normal
Difficulty setting. If you kill them and their bodies explode in pools of blood
before seven seconds is up, then you get 10,000 extra points.  In contrast, 60
seconds is allotted for Murai. It doesn't seem to matter by how much time you
beat the clock. If you beat it with even 1 millisecond left, you get the
10,000.  The more that you beat the time by, the more your Kill score goes up.

Therefore, for the first, Chapter, there are around 12 encounters. So, if you
nail every one of those encounters, you should have at least 120,000 points by
the time you reach Murai in just Time Bonuses alone.  This is essential to
getting Master Ninja on each level, as you get a 100,000-point bonus for 
beating the level time limit.  It's possible to get 349,000 points which will 
equate to a Master Ninja ranking while 250,000 or greater means Head Ninja.  
Lastly, the kill bonus is elevated to 100,000 for many of the games bosses.

The times do vary depending on the difficulty level.

As an example, I've made a comparison of the time limits (in seconds) for the
first 5 encounters on Ninja Fortress for Normal Difficulty versus Very Hard

7 vs. 10, 15 vs. 26, 7 vs. 12, 10 vs. 15 and 35 vs. 56.

This is to account for the increased number of enemies (and challenge) per
difficulty.  Additionally, no calculation is done for Essence.

To illustrate:

Say you go into the bug room in The Aqueduct. You kill all 60 bugs in a row (on
Normal).  If you beat the Time Limit, your score will look like this:

Karma - 70,100+
Kills - 60 * 1000 + (variable amount depending upon time left in Encounter) =
Combo - 10 * 10 = 100
Time - 10,000

Notice that your Combo rating will NOT be 250, since it takes the combo you had
when the enemies were defeated.

--Chapter Cleared--
Karma was the sole ranking determination for the Master Ninja Tournament.
There are 5 skill ratings that you can receive at the end of each level.  They
are Ninja Dog, Lesser Ninja, Greater Ninja, Head Ninja and Master Ninja.  The
spread of Karma is different for each level, obviously, and the score that you
receive at the end of the level is tallied by several factors: Clear Time,
Kills, Essence, and Ninpo.  Each one of these aspects can be further
delineated.  The maximum amount of points that you can received in these three
categories is 100,000 points.

So, at the end of level, if you reached or beat each limit for each factor, the
Karma screen will look like this:

Clear Time:   00:00:00  100000
Kills:              00  100000
Essence:            00   10000
Ninpo: (Ninpo Symbols)  100000

Karma:                  310000

Where, the Karma will be the running total of Karma that you have collected up
in the game first.  Then as the score is calculated, the points you earned on
this level will be added to your level.

Clear Time
The amount of Karma you receive for Clear Time is based upon how quickly you
complete the Chapter.  Each level has a hidden Time Limit in which it is
possible to kill every single enemy in the Chapter and still reach the end.
This is more difficult in some levels than it is in others.  However, you
cannot go back to previous areas and rekill those creatures and expect to hit
your Clear Time Bonus.  In most instances, though, the amount of Karma that you
pick up for rekilling more than makes up for this.  A special case is made for
the Fiend Challenges.  As, you'll need to kill either 60, 80 or 100 enemies in
a row (depending on difficulty), the game accounts this to certain levels.
That is, the game does not expect you to do the Undead Fiend Challenge and the
Monk Fiend Challenge in the same Chapter.  If you try to do both, you will not
receive your Clear Time bonus, and consequently, you will not get your Kills
bonus on the subsequent chapter.

Keep in mind that Clear Time is calculated by total time but not including
restarts.  If even if you soft reset, the clock on your save game will have
increased by the time that you were playing before you soft reset, but this
will not affect the Clear Time at the end of the mission.

You receive Karma for Kills based upon whether or not you killed the correct
number of enemies on the level.  Typically, this time will include the ability
to do one or more Fiend Challenges as well.  In some instances, you must scour
an entire area for hidden enemies.  For example, you can kill Spider Ninjas in
the Archive and the Monk's Room on almost every Chapter after you've visited
these two areas.

Essence isn't a simple tally of how much Essence you've collected.  The Essence
that you spent at Muramasa's is subtracted from the Essence that you earned on
the current level.  So, it's quite possible to get no Essence points either.
The largest bonus possible is 10,000 unlike the rest of the End of Chapter
bonuses.  The reason for this is that it is extremely easy to farm Essence in
many points throughout the game.

The amount of Karma you receive for Ninpo is based upon how many Ninpo you have
left at the end of the level.  If you have 1 out of 2 Ninpo left at the end of
a level, that number is reduced by a large factor.  You get no points if you
have no Ninpo.
If want to achieve the full 100,000 bonus, you have a full stock of Ki at the
end of the level.  So, use a Greater Devil Spirit if you can.  Otherwise, your
Ki will be restored for the next level.

Once I discovered this system, it cemented my thoughts as this game being the
best game of all time.  To think about the time it took for them to map out
every single encounter on every difficulty to come up with a time that's really
reachable. That is amazing. I'll be playing this game for years.

It's totally possible to hit every single time bonus so far with a little
practice. If you are finding it difficult to reach a bonus, there is usually a
trick involved.  See the trick section for more details.

--Story Cleared--
You also get a total game rating that tracks the total time you spent in the
game, total number of enemies killed, ending amount of Essence and ending
Ninpo.  The time recorded is not the same as the save game time which runs even
with continues and restarting.

Essence is the life-force released from an Enemy once it is killed.  It appears
as little floating spheres that Ryu collects by just being around it.  Ryu uses
it in many different ways.

There are three types of Essence: Yellow, Red and Blue.  Yellow Essence is the
currency that Ryu can use to purchase things from Muramasa's shop.  Blue
Essence will refill Ryu's health slightly, and Red Essence will refill one
stock of Ninpo (or two  if the Armlet of Fortune is utilized).  There are many
sizes in which the Yellow Essence can take shape.

Every enemy in the game releases Essence when it is killed.  Some enemies are
more prone to release Blue and Red Essences than other enemies.  More difficult
enemies release more Yellow Essence as well.

While you may always utilize the inherent currency, health or ninpo properties
of Essence, Ryu may also choose to collect the Essence using a Charge Move.  A
Charge Move is one that Ryu utilizes with most of his weapons when he holds
down Y.  When the charge animation begins, Essence will begin to travel towards
Ryu VERY quickly.  Unfortunately, Ryu is not invincible during this time, and
the Essence collection is not instantaneous.  It is very easy for an enemy to
strike Ryu during his charge animation and cancel the charge.  If the Essence
has not touched Ryu yet, the Essence will stop moving toward Ryu and stay

Once Essence contacts Ryu in his charge state, it will explode and advance Ryu
to his next charge state.  When Essence explodes, it loses its inherent
property (currency, health or ninpo), but you will still retain a TINY fraction
of currency depending upon the size of the sphere utilized.  Ryu has two stages
of charge, which exhibit totally different techniques for every weapon.  But,
once Ryu has collected his maximum amount of Essence, he will be able to
release an Ultimate Technique.  Once this has happened, no more Essence will be
attracted to him during this charge.  An Essence charge gives off blue
particles while an Ultimate Charge gives off red particles.

It takes one Yellow Essence of any size to put Ryu in his initial charge state.
If Ryu collects two or more Yellow Essence or a single Blue Essence or a single
Red Essence, he will immediately progress to his Ultimate Technique Charge.
The Explosion appears different for each charge type.  At this point, Ryu
cannot block or cancel the Ultimate Technique.  Once the charge button is
released, Ryu will quickly dash or jump towards his enemy and proceed in his
technique.  Some Ultimate Techniques must make contact with an enemy for them
to activate, while others will commence regardless of enemy contact.  During
this dash move or jump, Ryu is still capable of taking damage, but he cannot be
knocked out of the animation.

Additionally, if you kill an enemy with an Ultimate Technique, they will ALWAYS
release the highest amount of Yellow Essence that that creature is capable of
releasing.  Evolved and Dragon Fiends release the largest amount of Essence in
the game, and you can readily force 3 of the largest spheres at a time.  For
this to work, the killing blow must be part of the Ultimate Technique.  If you
simply hit an enemy with the UT, but do not kill it; standard Essence release
rules will still apply.

Finally, if you have the Armlet of Benediction equipped, the amount of Essence
you collect increases by 20%.

Yellow Essence Quantities
Yellow Essence comes in a variety of sizes and quantities.  The calculation
used to determine how much Essence you receive is fairly complicated.  The
determining factors include what kind of enemy was killed and how was it
killed.  Visually, there appear to be only four different sizes of Yellow
Essence sphere (small, medium, large and extra large), but the size alone will
not tell you how much Essence you will gather.  They are strictly ranges.

small       - 20 or 50
medium      - 100, 150 or 200
Large       - 300 or 350
Extra Large - 400 or 700

Additionally, the Extra Large spheres are only released by certain types of
enemies including the Evolved Fiends and Flame and Ice Gallas.  Depending
upon how you kill them, they will release multiple spheres.

Every enemy will give a different amount of Essence for how you dispatch it.
If you kill it with any regular combo (regardless of length or ingenuity), you
will receive the default amount of Essence.  If you use an Essence Technique to
kill it, you will get a larger amount, and if you kill it with an Ultimate
Technique you will get the maximum amount.  You need to land the killing blow
with a UT or Essence Technique.  If you do not kill the creature with it, it
won't count.

1. UT Essence Multipliers - mmaag's did a lot of research into this, and found 
the following.  See his FAQ for more information:


The Essences of enemies killed with ET's are multiplied by 4.  The Essences of
enemies killed by UT's are multiplied by 7.

There doesn't seem to be any adjustment for how many enemies you kill with the
same technique, either.  If you take out 3 Shadow Ninjas with one Hundred Wing
Blade, they will still only grant you the amount of 350 a piece.  Also, the
amount released does not change with difficulty.  You will receive the same
amount of Essence on Normal, Hard and Very Hard difficulties.

Lastly, if you utilize Yellow Essence for an Essence or Ultimate Technique, the
currency you receive from the Essence that explodes is reduced considerably.
In most cases you will only receive 20% of the original amount if gathering it 
for an ET or UT.

2. Combo Essence Multipliers - tweaks87 also did a ton of research into the 
Combo generation aspect of Essence increase.  Here are his findings:

As most of you know, an ET grants an additional 200% essence (that is, it 
triples how much you get), and a UT grants 600%.

A 1-19 hit combo does nothing.
A 20-29 hit combo grants an extra 200% (triples it).
A 30-39 hit combo grants an extra 300% (quadruples it).
A 40-49 hit combo grants an extra 400%.
A 50-59 hit combo grants 500%.

It *seems* that you can hit the dead bodies after they've been decapitated and 
still get greater bonuses. Eg, you can kill some of the imps in the middle of 
Cremator but still get bonuses at the end.

Now, I only did ONE trial for UT + combo, and I did this just by charging the 
flails with a UT and getting a 20-hit combo with it, but the result was a 9x 
multiplier - 800% extra. Now, I'm guessing that's 200% from the combo and 600% 
from the UT -- in other words, the multipliers don't synergize (eg, 3 times 7 = 
21x bonus) but do add together. At this point the imps dropped 2 essence balls 
totalling 900. If anyone with more skill wants to try a more advanced combo 
(I wanted to do something like Cremator on a few enemies to get a 30 hit combo 
and to generate Essence, Red Hot Iron Brand on a more distant fiend, and an OL 
UT to get about a 40-hit combo) and confirm this, please do.

If this is true and there's no cutoff in bonuses for combos, then I'd expect 
people with 200-hit combos (2000% extra essence?) to get LOTS of essence, such 
that when fiends die they generate multiple balls easily...

3. Armlet of Benedition Essence Multiplier - The Armlet of Benediction 
increases the amount gathered by 20%.

Aside from the extremely in-depth combat engine, there are various tricks that
you can use to hit a lot of these Karma Bonuses.  Several of the Encounter Time
Bonuses are very difficult if you don't know how to do them correctly.

Rolling Techniques
The most important technique in the game is Roll Jumping.  Ryu can cancel the
recovery animation of a roll with a jump and vice versa.  What this means is
that he can continually move much faster than regular running by continually
rolling then jumping and then rolling again.  I call this technique Roll
Jumping.  You can avoid pretty much every projectile in the game by using
controlled versions of this technique.  It is absolutely essential to even
survive many of the boss encounters in the game, Alma in particular.

You can also cancel the recovery animation from a Guard Crush with a roll as
well, and then proceed to Roll Jump.  Guard crushes are what happens when a
strong enemy hits Ryu with enough force to remove his block and throw his
weapon back.  You are vulnerable during this animation, but you can cancel it
with a roll.

The combination of these two techniques makes Ryu quite a defensive force.

Essence Avoidance
Ryu gathers Essence simply by being around it.  You can walk near it, jump away
from it and be thrown in its vicinity to pick it up.  The Y charging moves of
almost every weapon have Essence moves and Ultimate Techniques.  If you suck up
just one Yellow Essence, you'll get only the Essence Technique (which is
different than just charging Y as well).  If you suck up more than one Yellow
or a single Blue or Red, you'll get the Ultimate Technique, which is usually an
autocombo or a devastating single strike.  The charging animation can take some
time, which is why the developers implemented an "on-landing" condition to the
move list.  That is, if you hold or tap Y just as you're landing from a jump
(that did not include a melee attack), you'll get an instant charge condition.
This is an extremely powerful technique.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to farm enough Essence to activate this Ultimate
Technique.  Which is why I've discovered this method to guaranteeing Essence
Avoidance.  As long as you are holding the block button, you will not gather
Essence.  You can be thrown into it, you can stand or jump right on top of it,
but it won't be gathered.  You can even jump in the air over it and as long as
you keep the block button held in, it will stay put.  Ryu can Roll Jump and
perform many attacks in the air with the block button held.  This is a very
powerful technique for unleashing multiple Ultimate Techniques as you can kill
just two enemies of any kind and be assured that you can pull of an Ultimate

You can also neglect to pickup Essence from an encounter if you know that
another encounter is going to happen in an adjacent area.  You can then utilize
that Essence to begin the encounter with a UT.  You can pull it through walls,
doors and loading screens as well.  There are many, MANY scenarios where this
is possible throughout the game.  This is EXTREMELY useful to get some of those
Encounter Counters that seem impossible.

Lastly, if Essence is too far away from you, or you are unable to reach it, you 
can always begin an ET/UT to pull the Essence toward you, and let go of Y as it 
comes in range.

Many of the Encounter Time Bonuses can be achieved by clever use of Ninpo.
That is, in confined rooms, you can frequently get your assailants to attack
you in one section of the room and kill them all with one Ninpo.  As the Ninpos
have startup and execution damage, you can use this to your advantage.  You'll
also need it to avoid some of the more difficult attacks in the game such as
the Dark Dragon and the Emperor's Bite.

Environment Usage
The one group of MSATs on the airship when you lower the bay door is
particularly difficult to achieve seeing as you don't have access to the
Unlabored Flawlessness.  The trick for that one is that you have to stand by
the wench, shoot those crates with the bow and suck up the Essence that is
released immediately as the MSATs jump through the window. Also, Flying Swallow
and Divine Cicada can be used a lot, as well.

Unlabored Flawlessness
Once you acquire the Unlabored Flawlessness, most regular encounters in the
game become very easy.  The reason for this is that both Flaming Whirlwind
(6+Y) and Reigning Spiral (Counter Attack) decapitate all normal enemies in one
hit.  You will obviously pay for this with your combo count, unfortunately.

Many, many encounters are reset after every single Chapter.  Therefore, once
you get to Tairon in Chapter 4, you can continually go back and kill many of
the enemies in the game once the Chapter is complete.  This is the key to
getting 20+ million points in total for the game.  In particular, you should
return to Phantom Fish encounters and max them out as there are usually 46 Fish
to kill (x's 1000).  You will sacrifice your 100,000 End of Level Time Bonus in
doing, this, however.

--Master Ninja Tournament--
The scoring system for the Master Ninja Tournament is based solely on your
ending Karma score.  This means, that the way to get the highest ranking in the
tournament is to continually rekill as many enemies as possible.  The highest
score achieved was 26 million.  Redoing every encounter in the game until they
give you no more points, redoing it every Chapter, and receiving the Time Bonus
every time does not mathematically account for this total.  There is some other
facet of the game that has yet to be uncovered.

Regardless, you could have still achieved a high ranking score based solely on
rekilling.  To get the Time Bonus for every encounter does garner some skill,
but it would've been better to take multiple factors into account (such as time
and weapons used).  Once the Unlabored Flawlessness becomes available after
Chapter 7, the game on Normal Setting becomes pretty effortless.

--Hurricane Pack Disclaimer--
It has become evident that the engine has fundamentally changed from the 
scoring, to the fighting, to the character lists, to the moves themselves.  As 
such, I will create a whole new Karma FAQ for the Hurricane specifically, since 
all of this information will always be valid given that the Ninja Gaiden game 
disc remains.

Team Ninja

Big credits go to mmaag for figuring out the exact UT Essence Multipliers.  
Please see his FAQ for other great information:


Big credits to to tweaks87 for figuring out the exact Combo Essence Multipliers.