Review by mf29
"Ninja Gaiden II has a few bothersome flaws but the gameplay elements makes those flaws forgivable."
Ninja Gaiden II is a sequel to Ninja Gaiden, and was released exclusively for the XBOX 360, and was developed by Team Ninja and published by Microsoft Game Studios. In this installment you play as Ryu Hyabusa once again to restore honor to his Dragon Clan lineage. The storyline seems fairly uninteresting, with some rather shallow characters whose attire and appearance looks better than their personality does. From the beginning of the game, the main character is set on saving and building a small relationship with a perfectly attractive woman who looks strikingly similar to Rachel from Ninja Gaiden on the XBOX. Some characters make multiple appearances, and basically any enemy you see, will be fought some time in the game, some more than once.
Ryu is back again with an even more expansive arsenal of weapons and attacks. The Dragon Sword is once again the starting default weapon; some old weapons have made a pleasant return, along with some rather odd ones that come in handy with certain enemies and super fiends. Unsurprisingly enough, Ryu manages to be quick and nimble with any weapon in hand regardless of the weapon's weight. The attack lists for all weapons go on and on, and discovering or achieving new attacks is a very invigorating experience. This time around, Team Ninja, from the start, included two difficulty levels. From the average player's perspective, (Acolyte), is normal mode, and evidently, (Warrior), is hard mode. The Acolyte mode is hard mode masquerading as normal mode. The expectancy of Normal feeling like Hard is apparent here. Acolyte packs much of a punch, and the difficulty of the AI is very inconsistent.
Throughout the first three chapters in the game, gameplay seems like a complete cakewalk combined with a peaceful walk through the park. Shortly after, the AI abruptly increases in the skill the department, making the game nearly unbearable. It's asinine that all of these fiends and humans are out for this one Class A ninja. The game expects the player to bask in failure, and precisely dodge, evade, and counter every little significant bullet and weapon slash. With the difficultly level this way, there is no excuse for the camera to be faulty. The bogusness of camera is beyond comprehension. Often times in play through, a player will have to cautiously dash and block repeatedly before walking around corners of through doors, because you might have some cheap enemies waiting patiently for you behind that door or surface.
You will have to predict enemy presences because sometimes there is a lack of sound effects or movement to signify their presence. As soon as you slip up slightly the enemy(s) will knock you into submission, then you will have to wait until their combo is over to retaliate. Their mannerisms are rather sporadic and uncertain. Mastering keen predicting skills can be a pain. If you stand in one spot and block, the enemies will either grab you or attack randomly as possible to make you let go of your block because you think you see an opening. Some situations seem impossible or unbelievably laid out. With the screwy camera in action, (that sways itself further away from Ryu, and slightly skewed to the bottom of the screen), and multiple enemies wailing on you with untold amounts of attacks, the enemies can be more difficult than boss fights.
The enemies stop at no line to kill you. They all bombard you with attacks with weapons, explosive shurikens, missiles, grenade launchers, bullets and whatever else. Sometimes you will be required to stand against a weapon party and it isn't your birthday. Blocking cannot block everything, you will spend more time trying to dodge opposing forces, than trying to kill enemies. Cutting off an enemy's head right after they drowned you with annoying bullets is very rewarding, but that empty health bar gained afterward isn't. Instead of your health just simply going down, the health bar goes down from a point, and from that point where health is lost, there is a red spot, which lets you know, how much your health will automatically heal afterwords. It's similar to Tekken Tag's health system.
Explosive jellyfish are reasonably placed within water, sometimes you will have to battle three men with grenade launchers that shoot two to three grenades at a time, while running on water, trying to avoid touching an explosive jellyfish at the same time. It's hard to do correctly without some type of slow motion vision. Anywho, this brand new obliterating technique is very helpful. After slicing at least one limb from your enemy's body, you will be able to press Y once, (while close to them), and then Ryu will unleash this very brutal and gruesome type fatality that is a blast to watch and never gets old. If you discover the convenience of this attack, watching it will never get old, it's a great savior in itself. Platforming seems a little easier this time, in combination with automatic jumping animations and solid ninja wall to wall maneuvers, platforming seems lesser of a hassle from the second game. Some platforms refuse to allow you to fall off of them, which in some ways take some pressure off of your jumping precision. All weapons can be upgraded three times. If one takes the time to scour a stage for items and cash, you will be rewarded with being able to max out some weapons before the third chapter.
The same orbs are still present. (Red), filling in Ninpo slots, (Blue), replenishing health, and (Yellow), giving you cash. Also, instead of having to pause to use items or change weapons, there is a quick tool used by pressing up and down in the D-Pad, a subsidiary that allows you to quickly choose a weapon, item, or Ninpo scroll, but can seem redundant because the time it takes to load that small box at the bottom of the screen takes just as long as it does to get to the pause menu. The Pause Menu's activation is also delayed if you are grabbed by an enemy or boss. You will have to wait until their attack is said and done before accessing it. When the enemies grab you, you can tap buttons rapidly to escape their hold. The ultimate attack is back and better. Instead of an enemy being able to knock you out of deep chakra concentration, your toughness has been increased, and now you are able to charge your weapon while getting attacked. All of the ultimate techniques for each weapon are brilliantly animated and are well done. They come in handy with bosses especially, and with hordes of fiends.
In mid-stage you are able to take the Test of Valor which is a circular room filled with only so many enemies. If all enemies are defeated without dieing, you will be rewarded with some handy items. Often times (Life of the Gods), or other items that increase your Ninpo slot capacity, money, or orbs that increase the level of your Ninpo power. These come in and handy and they can be taken over and over until completed. Some boss fights are complete jokes and some seem despicably tricky. It also doesn't help that some bosses explode, and they take you with them. To defeat a boss and then die in their explosion is maddening. Some realistic features in the game are undesirable. You even lose health if near a robot that explodes. The new save points may appear to be helpful but further down the road they seem illogically placed. They replenish your health after one use and only can be used when no enemies are around. The same goes for buying items and using the blacksmith. The music is good, but it isn't overpowering. The sound effects are there, the graphics seem very average, per say. The environments don't look very impressive and the models, seem, rather average as well, all sharing the same action figure type qualities. The controls are extra responsive, making way for spectacular skill development.
The game is a steal at $25 or less. It's a great gameplay experience with an agonizing experience upon difficulty. However, the game doesn't seem superior to its predecessor, in fact, its predecessor is superior. Nonetheless, for the hack and slasher fans, Ninja Gaiden II is a game worth playing. It's flaws can be forgiven, when it has smooth animations and intriguing gameplay elements.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/12/09
Game Release: Ninja Gaiden II (US, 06/03/08)
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