Review by hashpocalypse

"First Impressions of NG2 - OMG THAT WAS SWEET and OH WTF C'MON ALREADY"

Graphics: 10/10
In some reviews, the graphics have been given the "not enough improvement/not that different" treatment. Quite frankly, I found myself looking around at the scenery quite a bit more than I did in the first Ninja Gaiden. Perhaps this was just because the camera rarely displayed a lot of the background or detail, making it necessary to switch to first person view more often (also because the titling of the camera up or down from 3rd person view is unnecessarily wacky), but either way the game is gorgeous. The camera zooms and effects during the Obliteration and Ultimate techniques are fantastic even if they force you to stop blinking as often (turn off any fans in the room, as any air circulating around your wide-eyed stare will eventually cause your eyes to bleed).

Sound (Background/Music): 9/10
It fits the bill, but I won't be running out to grab the soundtrack (if there even is a soundtrack). The background and occasional music does a good job of adding to the ambiance of the various locals. Although there is one point where you'll likely find yourself head nodding along with a pretty decent techno groove, only to realize you're in a swamp and that this music would have fit in a whole lot more during one of the city levels. What were they thinking? Techno + Swamp = Ninja?

Sound (Effects): 10/10
Perfect. About the only reason to use some of the games weapons (I'm looking at you Tonfas) is their uber-satisfying slap/squish/crunch effects.

Weapons: 5/10
The dragon sword returns in all its glory, as does the Vigoorian Flail. The Lunar and Eclipse Scythe are your "heavy duty weapons" much like the Warhammer/Dabilahro in the first game. But the rest of your arsenal ... well, you'll probably only find yourself paying lip service to the other weapons, especially on the first few times through. It's not that they're flawed, and maybe it will just take some time and a few pros who'll write up their "guide to pwning enemies with the Talons/Kusari-gama/Tonfas" before these new weapons are truly appreciated. However, at the moment, you'll find that for the most part you're relying heavily on the DS and Scythe.

Controls: 3/10
While there's no major flaws with the controller use (responsiveness is perfect), and the game still punishes you for button mashing or failing to block (rightfully so), you'll find it often is way too easy to rely on a very limited set of moves (cough ... flying swallow ... cough ... blood rain) as almost every enemy is vulnerable to them or will rarely block those attacks. My personal disappointment is that even the more advanced combos are much easier to enter than in the first NG. I remember having to practice the Izuna Drop over and over in the first NG before I was able to perform it with ease, but in NG2 I did it almost by accident the first time, and it . I've always enjoyed the DOA games for their complexity and subtlety in using the controls, but this game seems to lack that basic challenge. Lastly, it's about time that every single-player action game got on the bandwagon and offered fully customizable button mapping (DMC4 did this very well). While there is some customization (trigger/bumper order) you're not fully able to reconfigure all the controls (moving ninpo to one of the bumpers or putting the first-person view/zoom to the "analog stick pressed in" settings would have been great to experiment with).

Gameplay (first few hours): 10/10
OMG! There's blood everywhere! I just dismembered and then decapitated an entire squad! This is the sweetest thing ever!

Gameplay (a few hours later): 9/10
Okay, so I just spent 20K on a Talisman of Rebirth, and half a level later I find one in a chest, but I won't be able to come back for it later on because I'll be halfway around the world or something. Really starting to miss the "hub-world" design used in most of the first game.

Gameplay (a few days later): 8/10
Man, I wish some of these other weapons had a variation of the Flying Swallow. How the heck can that soldier shoot me with six rockets when I'm within arms reach and not die from it as well? And WTF is this? I have to hold block during a cinematic or else I die no matter what my health? C'mon! At least make the blonde chick scream "duck!" or something. (And seriously ... either remove the limit to the stock of carry-able items, or create a way to return back to at least some of the previous levels ...)

Story: 3/10
While action/beat-‘em-up games are not primarily about storytelling, the first NG had a very decent story. More importantly, they built up a whole mythos to offer the user a few paragraphs of background to tie the in-game events together. Plus, it had a "it was him all along" twist at the end as well as a major point of contention - was Ryu killed/resurrected/only-wounded/something-like-the-crow-movie - which lent itself to debate. This game has none of that. The "globe trotting" while visually rewarding is ultimately pointless as it only serves to prevent returning to previous levels. They very well could have built in a "pick destination" or chapter-selection option or they just could have linked all the different areas in some way which would have at least keep the semblance of a hub-world. Finally, I've become annoyed to no end with the paragraph at the beginning of each chapter (prior to the cut-scene) which basically tells you what the cut-scene is about to show or set up. Maybe they should have put "spoiler alert" on those loading screens, or put the cinematic before the loading screen ... then maybe I would be the least bit interested in why Ryu is suddenly popping up out of a swamp.

Overall: 9/10
I do enjoy this game. But I really, really, really want to enjoy this game more. It's definitely got a lot of fun and entertaining parts to it. It kept the core of the original mostly intact, and it has so many great new things going for it (blood, blood, and more blood) but there are more than a handful of annoyances that are new to the game, things which taken on their own may be insignificant, but which add up as I continue to play it more. Eventually, I start to feel more like playing the original NG, to forgo the improvements of this next-gen version and pop back in the classic. This second iteration is huge success and a very fun game - certainly worth owning, especially if you're a DOA/NG fan. But in my opinion it falls short of the first game in a lot of areas I didn't expect it to fall short. Hopefully, there might be significant patches released to tweak this version as much as they did with the first game. And without a doubt I'll be downloading whatever content is offered in the hopes of being able to enjoy NG2 as much as I enjoyed NG.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/10/08

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

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