Review by Road2Dawn
"The best game to grace the 360?"
First off, let me say that I am a Devil May Cry fan. The series is one of my favourites, and I have played them many, many times, beating them all on the hardest modes. Also, I was disappointed with Devil May Cry 4, so naturally I've been looking for a 360 title that quenches my DMC needs. I know that this isn't Devil May Cry, but it's certainly one of the closest games available at this time. Also, I own Ninja Gaiden Black which I did enjoy, but I found some of the bosses (particularly "humanoid" bosses) frustrating, and like a wimp I gave up in frustration. I just thought I'd shed some light on my reasons for some of my opinions. I WILL compare this game to DMC at some points, so be warned if you hate the game.
First off, if you are a casual gamer and don't like to get beaten once in a while, I wouldn't recommend this game. If it doesn't kill you once, you clearly aren't a casual gamer, or you have some kind of gift. Seeing as how NG Black frustrated me, I played through this game on Acolyte for my first run, the easiest of the difficulties available.
The game basically consists of you playing the part of Ryu Hayabusa, wielding a selection of weapons and running through levels dispatching enemies in extremely cool ways. There are also some Prince of Persia-esque platforming parts - wall running, pole swinging etc, although I felt there was less of this than I remembered in Ninja Gaiden Black, which was a shame. Anyway, the meat of the game is the fighting. Your basic moves are light and heavy attacks, jumping, projectile weapons, and defensive manoeuvres. Every weapon has a vast array of combos, which can be viewed in a fighting game style list in the inventory screen. Melee weapons can be upgraded using Yellow Essence, which works like currency. When weapons are upgraded, you unlock more combos which are generally even better. Blocking is very important in the game. Projectiles are useful, but generally only to stun enemies or are used in situations where they are required (puzzles, flying enemies etc). These are not upgraded like the melee weapons. The fighting is very fast paced, and you must learn to block and dodge to avoid getting yourself completely beaten. Your guard can be broken however, and some enemies also have grabs that will ignore guarding. The blocking (in my opinion) is what separates this game from Devil May Cry's fighting, and enemies can also guard, so they're not quite as 'punch-bag' like as some of the DMC enemies can be.
A cool new feature that has been added since Black is that enemies can lose limbs as you fight them. When they do, they become dangerous and suicidal, and can attempt to impale you and self destruct. To counter this, you can now perform an "Obliteration" attack, which lets you finish the enemy in a single attack which usually looks very stylish. There are also Ultimate techniques that allow you to charge power, and unleash it as a flurry of attacks. Obviously when you charge you are vulnerable, though.
One particular part of the game has a huge amount of enemies in one room. However, this bit does seem to have quite a bit of slowdown. Personally, I enjoyed it because it was fun seeing parts in slow motion and didn't really feel like it detracted from the gameplay, but this is probably more of a technical hitch and I thought it was worth a mention.
The bosses are challenging, and there are a lot of them. There are usually two, or sometimes even three bosses per chapter. Some are slightly weaker "sub-bosses" but generally I found them all quite tough. To me, I see two categories of boss - big bosses, and humanoid bosses (that are usually a similar size to Ryu). Some of the big bosses seem a little easier than in NGB, which may not be a particularly welcome thing to diehard fans of the original, but it didn't really feel like a terrible thing to me. The humanoid bosses however, feel vastly improved. I often felt that these types of bosses (even the Nunchuck man on the first level of NGB) were often very unforgiving, and they would often seem to block and counter nearly everything, unless you had a very precise strategy that worked. However, they now feel a lot fairer, and although still hard, I felt as though I could adapt to them, and learn how to avoid their moves and find openings to attack. The fights were now perhaps my favourite type of battle, and none of them frustrated me to the point of turning off my console.
Obviously I've only beaten the easiest setting so far, and I'm assuming there's going to be a lot of pain ahead of me on the harder modes, but you don't have to beat them unless you enjoy that kind of a challenge.
As with the DMC titles, the story isn't bad, but is at the same time fairly simple, and in the end a good excuse to fight lots of cool demons. The basic idea is that someone wants to resurrect an ancient evil, releases demons to do their bidding, and Ryu comes to save the day. It's a nice story with some very well made cut scenes, and it does the job nicely. Obviously I can't say much more without giving anything away.
The game doesn't seem to be a gigantic leap from NGB graphically, which I felt was graphically beautiful for its generation. However I might change my mind when I next boot it back up after playing NG2. The game doesn't have the best graphics I have EVER seen on 360, yet don't get me wrong they are every bit as gorgeous as the original, and probably even better. Ryu manages to go to a lot of different locations in the game - futuristic Japan, the Hayabusa village, Russia, South America and more. All of these locations are vastly different, and they all look amazing. They have been brilliantly designed, and I think Team NINJA did a good job with it. I really did enjoy playing through them, and they are all very memorable.
The sound effects are all fitting, and occasionally I noticed some good rock music every now and then, but I don't think I personally pay that much attention to the music. It's all fitting and nothing stood out as ghastly or annoying, so as far as I'm concerned they did a good job. It all merges into the atmosphere and apparently it works because I didn't feel anything was out of place. And after I've played any game more than once, I'll more than likely boot up my own albums on my hard drive and enjoy playing the game to my favourite tracks.
This might not seem to be a usual section for a review, but to me unlockables are important in a game of this genre, as they increase the amount of time that I will want to play it. Some weapons are optional, although I found them all on my first playthrough so they aren't too hard to find. There are also 30 crystal skulls to find in the game, although they are only for completion and three achievements. There are 4 extra colour variants for Ryu's outfit to unlock when each mode is beaten, and Team NINJA are planning to release 3 more costume designs, all with 5 colour variants as well (so 20 outfits in total). The Fiend Hayabusa outfit was given to some pre-orders as download via a code, and I was one of them. It will be available on Xbox LIVE marketplace for a small amount of points in July. The design is very nice, and all of the colour variants look good. There is currently no word on the nature of the other two designs, although they will more than likely be available for download either in July or by the end of the year. Also, if you are someone who likes to get achievements, there are achievements for beating the game using only a single melee weapon for the whole game (i.e. Beat the game using only the Dragon Sword), and there is one for every weapon.
Play Time/Replay Value
The game took me about 16 hours to complete first time, the levels are all fairly long. I probably played closer to 20 hours including the times I died and didn't save my progress. It's a good length for a game of this genre, and the different difficulties, costumes, the skulls and the achievements all give opportunities to replay the game to its fullest. I personally plan to do everything, which will require me to beat the game at least 10 times, and will take me over 100 hours. That's a lot :P
If you are looking for a challenge, look no further. If you were a hardcore fan of the original, buy it - you may or may not find there are subtle changes you don't like, but its at least a worthy sequel, and the harder modes will surely still offer something challenging. If you are looking for something fun but aren't good with difficulty, you might want to rent it first to get a feel for it. Lastly, if you love DMC but were disappointed or bored with DMC4, give this a shot :P
Overall, a brilliant game but its no pushover.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/11/08
Game Release: Ninja Gaiden II (EU, 06/06/08)
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