Microsoft UK has finally confirmed that the PAL version of Ninja Gaiden has been stripped of its gory decapitation routines, despite playing down reports to that effect earlier in the year.
Last month the company denied that any changes had been made, claiming that the game would be submitted to censors without any pre-emptive alterations, and that any changes would only be considered at their request. In their words: "minor changes may be made to ensure that the game satisfies ratings requirements in Europe."
Having spent some time with PAL review code, which Microsoft assures us is representative of the changes made to the European game, it's safe to say that the lack of decapitations isn't a massive problem, but it results in some less violently emphatic encounters with bloodthirsty enemies. In other words, it's a shame, but it's not the end of the world.
Interestingly, meanwhile, it appears that shurikens (throwing stars) have made it in to the European version of Ninja Gaiden, even if decapitations haven't, despite having been stripped from European versions of games as recent as Tenchu: Return From Darkness (also on Xbox).
Ninja Gaiden is due out in Europe on May 14th. You can read our review of the American version here, and trust that in the absence of decapitations, the version you can buy is still more than worthy of that score.
According to a spokesperson for Microsoft, Ninja Gaiden - sans decapitations - has earned a 16+ certificate from ratings body PEGI, whose website confirms the rating for most European countries (including Germany), with the exception of Finland, where it seems to be worthy of a 15.