Review by Kiriyama_X
"Pales in comparison to the original masterpiece"
Ninja Gaiden II
Despite what anyone else may tell you, Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox is undeniably the pinnacle of fighting/action gaming. Where as Devil May Cry may have brought the gameplay style back into the spotlight, it was Ninja Gaiden that didn't raise the bar, it obliterated it. Mixing the most intense fighting ever witnessed with a difficulty that worked. Just when you were ready to call it cheap, everything clicked and you got it, and once you fell into the groove of the gameplay you were untouchable. Now Ryu's back in Ninja Gaiden II and all I can say is, wow, where did this go wrong? Ninja Gaiden II is the most disappointed I've been in a long time.
The story, if you care, follows Ryu's village being burned, again. His clan slaughtered, again. An ancient artifact stolen, again, that will destroy humanity. Maybe Ryu's clan shouldn't be hoarding all of these weapons of ultimate doom if they can't fend off an attack to save their lives. So Ryu's once again an angry guy and sets out to kill everything in his path. There's pretty much no storyline to be had here, and anything presented is pretty embarrassing, which is expected from developer Team Ninja.
Anyone who played the original Ninja Gaiden will immediately be able to pick this one up. The gameplay remains largely unchanged which is both a good and bad thing. Ryu wields various weapons like the Dragon Sword, Lunar Staff (all of which can be upgraded to unlock more combos) and other new weapons like claws and the dual swords seen in Ninja Gaiden Sigma. On the good side, Ryu has a new ability to finish off opponents who have been dealt a certain amount of damage and does so in gory fashion. Slicing enemies heads and limbs off, never gets old. But this isn't just a feature for gore fanatics; it becomes an essential part of combat by thinning out your enemies ranks as quickly as possible since engaging in extended battles isn't going to get you very far. (Of course it also doesn't hurt that it looks bloody awesome when you do it as well.)
The health system has also been reworked as Ryu will now regenerate his health to a certain point after each engagement. This has been added largely in part to help newcomers ease into the gameplay but in the end it doesn't help a whole lot since the enemies you'll face throughout the levels aren't necessarily challenging, it'll instead be the bosses who toss you like a cheap salad which is where you'll chew through most of your healing items. And this is where the complaints start to stack. The majority of the bosses and enemies in this game, to be blunt, suck. They're not cool to look at and even less cool to fight, some of them are even recycled from the original like the teleporting mages. One stage has you facing off against a giant fish monster that looks like Seaman from the Sega Dreamcast. Another stage in New York has you fighting wolves with daggers in their mouths and blade straps around their legs, uh huh. Don't expect too many epic fights with ferocious looking bosses that you may have faced in the original, because you won't find them here.
The other and most glaring problem I have with Ninja Gaiden II is the camera. Yes I know how to reset it but to be honest I shouldn't have to keep pressing the trigger every second to make it cooperate with me. Squaring off against enemies in confined spaces leads to the camera getting stuck behind walls or in corners making it impossible to see what's going on, until it gets reset. The camera was the originals biggest fault and the fact that it's actually been made worse is unacceptable and just downright embarrassing from a developer such as this.
It's also worth mentioning that despite the changes made to appeal to the casual gamer, don't be fooled. If you've never played Ninja Gaiden, you're probably going to hate this game because it will beat the hell out of you at every turn, and at times, yeah, it is very cheap, I don't care what anyone else says. Ask yourself this, is a game really Challenging if all the enemies do is grab you and do ludicrous amounts of damage? Or is it challenging when archers and aerial enemies bombard you relentlessly and the camera is making it impossible to see them? No, it's cheap. Anyone who says differently is the kind of person who will say someone sucks at Ninja Gaiden and turn around and play a game like Splinter Cell and say it's cheap just because they suck at slower paced games. Cheapness was never a problem in the original Ninja Gaiden, enemies had patterns you could pick up on your own, not by frustrating trial and errors.
From a presentational standpoint Ninja Gaiden II is embarrassing. The graphics here are hardly, if any better than those seen in Ninja Gaiden Black. Sure Ryu's animations are still silky smooth but the levels are dull and void of any kind of life, they even can't get the Manhattan level right, you'll come across an overturned cab here, a pile of rubble there, and that's pretty much it. Yawn. I also have to mention how ugly the water looks it this game, and diving underneath some areas reveals one large, un-textured green tile, yuck. The sound fares better. Blood effects are the most satisfying as you can almost hear them splattering onto every surface around you and the music has some great pieces that fit the mood nicely, especially the Aqua Capital.
All in all Ninja Gaiden II isn't a bad game by any means, the combat is still very visceral and highly gratifying but when you take everything this game offers as a whole, from the broken camera, the inclusion of only a few new weapons, recycled enemies, and truly uninspired levels and presentation, it's pretty hard to say this is a worthy sequel to such a masterpiece. For $60 what you're getting feels like Ninja Gaiden 1.5, if that sounds just fine to you and you don't mind that the games taken a lot of steps back upon the foundation of the original, then you'll probably eat this up. As for me, Ninja Gaiden II can only be recommended as a rental, and a forgettable one at that.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/09/08
Game Release: Ninja Gaiden II (US, 06/03/08)
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