Review by Galactus21

"Brutality at its finest"

Four years and three months later, players finally got their grubby hands onto the next installation of Ninja Gaiden. Mayhem, brutality, addiction, and peer awesomeness can be used to describe the reintroduction of Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox. The enjoyment was expanded with Ninja Gaiden Black. Sigma was subsequently released on a Sony system to expand the existing fan base. Much on the same line as Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden II once again follows the tale of one super ninja – Ryu Hayabusa. Players are once again greeted to pure, brutal, non-stop action. While Ninja Gaiden II didn't make the same Earth shattering presence that its predecessor bestowed when it released, the sequel provides fan with much of the same things that made many fall in love. In some ways, Ninja Gaiden II isn't as good as the first, but in many ways it's better.

After a brief cut scene, players will be thrust into action. The initial shock can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers. There are brief moments of rest from the constant carnage that the game entails. The emphasis on brief needs to be emphasized because the game throws enemies…more enemies…and even more enemies at you until you feel you've been overwhelmed. Despite the constant barrage of enemies on your television screen, the game's aggressive A.I is what makes Ninja Gaiden II a fair but difficult game.

The game begins with the introduction of a new character – Sonia. She is quickly attacked and kidnapped. Ryu Hayabusa the protagonist of the series quickly enters the fray of things. The story revolves around Genshin and the black spider clan trying to resurrect the arch fiend. The story's depth doesn't go much more in depth than that. Team Ninja has always been known for impressive cut scenes. Ninja Gaiden II is no different. Boasting high quality scenes that is reminiscent of any other Team Ninja game. While the game has some impressive cut scenes, most of the scenes didn't help further the storyline. It acted as filler to showcase some of the Xbox 360's graphical prowess. A nice storyline would have been a “nice” to have, but for an action title, it was not a necessity and did not detract from the overall gaming experience.

The highly intense action that Ninja Gaiden II presents is reinforced with one of the best combat systems in any action games. It requires a dial up combo system that forces the player to pull off amazing combos rather than mashing buttons together. Button mashing has been eliminated by the game's aggressive A.I. Consequently, players must block constantly and effectively. This is especially true when the game throws a vast amount of enemies at you. This occurs frequently. The combat system is quite in depth and fluid. The transition between each slash occurs fluidly. In addition, the move set provides gamers with plenty of choices to dispose of enemies. With a variety of different moves, it makes Ninja Gaiden II likes its predecessor one of the best action games around.

The combat's depth revolves around the wide variety of techniques at one's disposal. Whether a player wants to finish off an enemy with the obliteration technique, charge up and unleash a devastating ultimate technique, or performs one of Ryu's many regular moves that removes body parts left and right gives one different ways to play. Just to give one a glimpse of the different ways to kill an enemy, I could perform a series of quick and strong attacks to string together an impressive combination. Once that enemy is disposed of, I can charge with the strong attack and unleash a powerful ultimate technique to finish off any surrounding enemies. The combinations in the game are numerous, with more moves being available upon leveling that weapon up. For example, the izuna drop technique is not available till the dragon sword is leveled up.

In addition to the variety of deadly moves at Ryu's disposal is the plethora of weapons. In addition to the dragon sword, Ryu now has more weapons to dismember and destroy his enemies. With unique weapons such as the talons it gives players a different way to play the game. While the combo system is still relatively similar, it's the way that each weapon can be utilized that makes the game much more fun. In addition to this are Ryu's projectile or secondary weapons. With bow and arrows and shurikens, it allows Ryu to mishmash between his main and projectile weapons. For example, I would pull off a combo that would launch an enemy in the air and throw shurikens in midair for a devastating and appealing finish to an enemy. Additionally, Ninpo (magic) allows Ryu to perform amazing magical feats to defeat enemies as well.

The enemies in the game are plenty. There isn't a dull moment in the game. The different types of enemy make the game much more fun. Team Ninja threw enemies that launches rockets and slashes at you to provide different ways to finish you off. Unlike the first game however, Ninja Gaiden II has much more enemy projectiles flying towards you. At certain points it becomes overwhelming and does get frustrating at times. With that said however, there isn't much else to complain about.

While many have complained about the camera, I thought the camera held up quite well. This is especially true when considering how fast Ryu moves from point A to point B. Additionally, it also holds up particularly well when Ryu is darting all over the place and cutting body parts off. With a button to center the camera and the right analog stick to move the camera around, it gives gamers a fluid camera system. It does however take a bit to get used to, but with quick reflexes, I didn't have too much trouble with the camera.

One thing that kept the sequel from reaching the masterful level that the first did was the lack of interesting boss fights and the somewhat easiness compared to the first. The first half of the game felt like a breeze compared to the first. Although the game's difficulty did pick up ten fold in the later half. This is perhaps due to the introduction of a regenerative health system that eased some of the pain. Boss fights were plentiful, but none were as memorable as the fight with Alma. The boss fights were fun, but didn't have the design, nor the difficulty that made me go over each boss fight over and over till I came up with a good strategy to fight the boss.

The graphics for the most part were quite good - although not as breathtaking as the first when it first came out. There were also certain parts where the frame rate dipped. Load times also felt a bit longer than the first. In addition, there is one area where the frame rate drops to unacceptable levels. The characters were highly detailed, as well as the environments. Cut scenes were also gorgeous, but as mentioned before did not really do much in terms of storytelling. The musical soundtrack on the other hand was topnotch. It did a fantastic job at setting the mood of all the bloodshed that was going on. Voice acting was also rock solid. The voice actors did a fantastic job at portraying the characters.

NGII took about 14 or so hours to complete, while the first Ninja Gaiden took over 20 hours. The sequel is quite a bit shorter, but the amount of fun that the game provides, it would be hard not to go back and play through it at least once. In addition achievements provide some extended longevity to the game. For example, playing through the game with only the dragon sword is one incentive to go through the game once more.

Ninja Gaiden II for the most part does things better than Ninja Gaiden. The combat was improved. The A.I was as aggressive as ever. From a pure action point of view, Ninja Gaiden II succeeds on all counts. There are a few nuances however, that prevent Ninja Gaiden II from overtaking its predecessor. A bit more fine tuning would have accomplished that feat. The dip in frame rate and the unleveled difficulty between the first and second halves of the game are some issues that prevent NGII from making the same impact as the prequel did. Although minor gripes, it does detract from the overall experience a bit. With that said Ninja Gaiden II is without a doubt one of the best pure action titles on any console – past or present. It would be a shame if you didn't experience that yourself.

Game Play – 95
Graphics – 88
Sound – 95
Replay Value – 85
Overall – 92


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/11/08

Game Release: Ninja Gaiden II (US, 06/03/08)


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