Review by gulliver49

"If you like action games, you need to play Ninja Gaiden 2"

Ninja Gaiden 2 (henceforth referred to as NG2) improves on its successor Ninja Gaiden Black (NGB), but it also feels like a rushed product that needed more time to be polished.

Story: 5/10

Just because NG2 is an action game, does not mean that it is immune to this category. I realize that not every game needs a Metal Gear Solid story, but I cannot forgive developers who do not put SOME effort into a game's plot. The story here is actually worse than the first game so it took a step backwards!

Sound: 9/10

The music is pretty good. Not much else to say. Some of the tracks feel repetitive and are only differ from one another because of subtle variations to the same theme, so I would have liked to see more variety, but other than that it's fine.

Voice acting is crappy, but who cares. What is important is the sound effects when you kill things, and those are done very well.

Visuals: 9/10

It is defiantly a step up from the last game. Not all the levels look equal, with some that are breathtaking, while others pathetically simple. Tunnel areas have one or two colors on the walls, and that's about it for detail, and other areas have countless layers of detail and gorgeous visual effects. I wish every environment had the same level of quality, but the package as a whole is pretty good.

Aside from the environments, character models are fantastic. When enemies got stuck in the air (more on this later) I got a chance to observe them and noticed how much detail every enemy has. This is truly a step up from the last game and must be commended.

Gameplay: 7/10

If you expect NG2 to play anything like NGB, you will be surprised. There are numerous tweaks to the core combat that make this a game that is almost completely separate to the previous entry.

First off, the gameplay is much faster and much bloodier. It makes for a satisfying experience, although things can quickly get hectic and you sometimes you will have no idea on what's going on. Overall, the speed is a nice improvement if you have the skills to keep up. Sadly, the camera is horrible, and regardless of your skill level, you will no doubt die a couple times just because you got hit by something you could not see. I can't even count the number of times I got hit by something off screen and die. The camera in NGB was bad as well, but given how fast the gameplay is in NG2, there is more of a dependence on a good camera, and the camera simply doesn't keep up.

In terms of weapons, you have a lot more this time around, and they all have dozens of moves. Unfortunately, most of the moves are useless and take so much time to execute that you probably will die attempting them. I wished the game would focus more on quality rather than quantity in the sense that I would prefer a handful of moves for each weapon, but each being useable and useful. On the higher difficulties you literally have to neglect certain weapons altogether and focus on only a few moves in order to survive. What's the point of a deep combat system if you are discouraged from exploring it? What I loved about NGB is that every weapon had its use, and every move had a purpose. On the higher difficulties, you had to master every move in order to survive, as the game threw enemies that required different weapons and strategies to defeat. I was really disappointed that NG2 did not continue the pattern.

One complaint that many gamers have with NG2 is its level of cheapness. In terms of whether the game is cheap, I will say that it throws a few punches that really annoyed me, but overall the game is relatively fair. There is one cheap death situation after a boss battle where you literally will keep dying over and over because you have no idea what to do. I can't give away spoilers to reference what I'm talking about, but I will say that I had to go online to seek a solution because the game gave no hint on what to do. Cheap deaths have been around ever since Mega Man 1, but after playing NGB (which had no cheap deaths) I really wondered why one was included in NG2. Some Boss moves are also very cheap. One boss can grab you anytime, anywhere, without any indication. Luckily, it does very little damage, but it is nonetheless very annoying. Remember in NGB when if a boss was going to grab you, it would give some sort of visual hint? Well, this time there are no hints and if a boss wants to grab you, there is no place the hide and no way to defend yourself. Furthermore, there is another boss has a whole library of moves, each that can be tackled individually. Unfortunately, when it spams all of its attacks at once, there is no escape. Overall, though, you can see that there are only a few instances where the game is cheap, and the rest of the game can be tackled with pure skill.

Cheap moves aside, you need split-second reflexes to master this game, and for that reason, it is harder than NGB. NGB was far more accessible because its gameplay favored some skill, but required a lot of strategy. In truth, if you memorized and learned to recognize an enemy's attack pattern, than you could breeze through NGB, and if you had trouble, you could keep fighting battles for money and buy so many healing items, that you would be unstoppable. To help you out in NG2 you have a regenerating health bar that refills after battles (although it does not heal all wounds) and save points completely heal you the first time you use them. But these additions are balanced out by the fact that you can hold fewer items and aside from a couple beginning battles, there are no re-spawning enemies to farm for money.

Enemies are new and varied and the bosses are fun and memorable. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of bosses and many of them have similar attack patterns. Instead of giving you a new Boss every Chapter, for the game's 14 Chapters, NG2 suffers from repeating the same Boss encounters again and again. I really would have liked to see more Bosses and I was really disappointed with the lack of variety. Even the common enemies you face are fairly limited. Later on you will only face stronger variations of the same enemies and I would have liked to see some new enemy types to play against. After all, like a match made in heaven, adding more unique enemies and bosses that are weak to all those useless weapon techniques I mentioned earlier, would have propelled the combat system to the heights it was meant to be on

The biggest detriment to NG2's gameplay has to be loading screens, slowdowns, and glitches. The game throws tons of enemies at you at once, and even if you can handle them, the game cannot. There are many times when the adrenaline pumping fast-paced combat will go into slow motion and ruin the experience. Frequent loading messages pop up in the middle of battle, and during this period and commands you enter will not be registered, so you are left completely vulnerable afterwards and will most probably get killed. Another issue is that even when you kill an enemy, it might get stuck in mid-air. Most of the time this is laughable and forgettable, but some battles require you to kill every enemy in the room in order to proceed and if a dead enemy is frozen in the air, there is nothing you can do and you have to restart your system and play the whole battle over again. Installing the game onto your hard drive lessens the slowdown and loading times, but not completely, and more importantly a game should not have so issues that force you to install it and use up valuable space.

The last and arguably most frustrating glitch I encountered is disappearing bosses. Sometimes I would beat a really tough boss and he would just disappear! At that point there is nothing left to do but reload a save and try again. But imagine how frustrating it is to finally beat a boss that troubled you for days, only to have a glitch ruin your accomplishment.

Overall the gameplay is good, but the technical issues really hurt and there is no denying that the game could have benefited from more variety.

Replay Value: 8/10

In NGB, higher difficulties showcased new enemies and new bosses, giving players something new and fresh if they wanted to keep playing. In NG2, there is nothing new on the higher difficulties. Enemies get more aggressive and increase in numbers but that's about it. Don't get me wrong, the higher difficulties are fun to play, but I still feel as though more could have been added. When you beat the game, you can run through that difficulty again with all your maxed out weapons and money, so that is pretty fun.

NGB also had a mission mode in addition to the story mode and offered dozens of unique fights to play around with. In NG2, you have to pay 800 MS points for its mission mode, and I would not mind paying if it was worth it, and unfortunately it will only satisfy the move die-hard fans of NG2. There are only a handful of mission, only two of which are unique! The rest are simply the same Boss battles from Story Mode or Survival Battles where you are given one weapon to face off against an unlimited number of enemies. I really wished there was some more variety considering that if I want to play against Bosses, I would just keep a few spare saves right before I encountered them in the Story Mode, and the survival missions are really just one mission with different weapons.

That's not to say that Mission mode is completely worthless as I've spent hours on it. With I love about the survival missions are that they are perfect for “pick up and play” action. Sometimes I only have 10 minutes and just want to sit down and slice up some enemies, and these missions give my that entertainment. But to be clear I love NG2 so I can't help but fall in love with the Survival Missions. That being said, if you're only a casual fan of the game, I would not recommend buying it for 800MS points.

Players are scored in NG2 based on what they do in battle and that score can be uploaded onto leaderboards, but other than that, and the satisfaction of beating your own best score, there is not much fresh material in NG2 to occupy casual fans. Even f you are skilled enough to master the higher difficulties, and if you can sink hours into the Mission Mode, the game definitely could have added more content.

Conclusion:

If you enjoyed the first Ninja Gaiden, then I would recommend you try NG2. If you are new to the series I would not start with this game before I warmed up on the previous entry, as this game is defiantly more challenging.

NG2 is filled much frustration, but there is gold to find if you search hard enough. Those who can manage the higher difficulties will get their fair share of play time, but regardless of your level of skill, there is no denying that the game has quite of few technical flaws and it could have benefited from more content.

Story: 5/10
Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Replay: 8/10

Overall: 7.6/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/14/08, Updated 01/20/09

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


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