Review by Sinister187

"There Will Be Blood."

In 2004, developers 'Team Ninja' released what is one of the greatest action-adventure games of all time, 'Ninja Gaiden' for the Xbox. Everything about the game was stellar, from the brutal combat, the ruthless difficulty, amazing enemies and bosses as well as great graphics. As time passed, the game was given a remake as 'Ninja Gaiden Black', which contained more weapons and improvements on the game-engine. Finally, a port was released on the PlayStation 3 as 'Ninja Gaiden Sigma', which contained some features from NGB as well as superior-graphics. After all these re-releases and so on, many fans were waiting on a real sequel to emerge, well, that time is now. 'Ninja Gaiden II' is here on the Xbox 360 and it packs more blood, more gore and faster gameplay, but how well does it stack up to the spectacular original? Read on and find out.

The story in 'Ninja Gaiden II' is sparse, even less-so than the original, which really didn't have one to begin with anyway. The one here consists basically of the leader of the Black Spider Ninja Clan, known as Genshin attacking the Hayabusa village, wishing to steal a demon statue that they are protecting. The hero of the original, 'Ninja Gaiden', Ryu Hayabusa returns along with a new companion, Sonia and attempts to save his village and keep the clan from taking the statue. Unfortunately, it is stolen and Ryu must travel around the globe in order to retrieve it, meeting fiends galore along the way. This pretty much is the main story and it isn't really fleshed-out all that well in the cutscenes, it would have been nice for the tale to have been better. But it's clear that the developer's main focus was in the gameplay, which really shines.

Those familiar with the gameplay of the original, 'Ninja Gaiden' will be able to pick this up and start murdering foes with ease. The combat is just as deep and fast as ever, your enemies are merciless and will strike at you with everything they have until you are a bloody carcass. Even when they lose limbs, they will still attempt to kill you, however, you have more than enough moves, weapons and magic at your disposal in order to take them all out. As with the original, blocking is essential, you don't use it, you are as good as dead and utilizing combos that will make quick work of anything in your path. The combat is very fast and fluid and the variety of weapons keeps it pretty fresh throughout, the one thing I'm disappointed in was the lack of real-time weapon switching. I wanted to string combos together with the various weapons I had, but was only limited to performing combos with one. If they had incorporated this, it would have been great. Returning back is the feature that lets you upgrade your weapons (Muramasa's Shop), making for more devastating moves, as well as the platforming that was much fun in the original. Ryu is able to perform flips from poles, clinging to ledges, running on water and walls as well as swimming. Ninpo also makes a comeback and they unleash attacks that can clear rooms in seconds, one even includes a tornado of blades that rips enemies to shreds. Projectile weapons such as shurikens, bow and arrows and so on also return. A new addition to the system are the obliteration techniques and the ultimate techniques, both of which are extremely pleasing to the eye. The obliteration techniques are over-the-top finishing moves that dismember your enemies into tiny pieces, resulting in the loss of many limbs and lots of blood. The ultimate techniques brutalize your enemies with an almost non-stop barrage of slashes that leave your opponent nothing more than dead. New weapons include such destructive pieces like the Falcon's Talons, which include razor-sharp claws attached to your hands and feet, allowing you to slash up surrounding enemies like confetti. And the Eclipse Scythe, a massive weapon similar to Rachel's Warhammer from the original, only much faster and more bad-ass.

The enemies here are plenty as are the bosses, but none are really that memorable as opposed to the ones in the original. Enemy projectiles are much more prominent this time around also, including ones that pound you with rockets like there is no tomorrow. The difficulty however is much easier than that of the first, after every battle your health bar also refills and at save points it fully heals you. This is geared to please those who complained about the difficulty of the original and for casual gamers. But make no mistake, if this is your first time playing a 'Ninja Gaiden' game, you will still die a bunch of times, but seeing the ending of the game is far more likely. Many people have been having issues with the camera and while yes at times it can be a pain, I didn't find it that much of an annoyance. You can also center the camera back to it's original position with a quick press of the Right-Trigger, so it shouldn't be that much of a problem. Another gripe that people seem to be having with the game is that it is cheap, while some parts can be considered cheap, such as defeating a certain boss only to find out that you can still meet death if you do not block. As a whole though, I also did not find it to be that bad on this end, considering for the most part your enemies are standard, block, dodge and attack fare. Sticking to that made me demolish opponents quickly and they barely got hits in.

Visually, ‘Ninja Gaiden II' does not look that much different than it's predecessor, ‘Ninja Gaiden' or to be more exact, ‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma'. While the original did look great, we expected this to look much better than it does and it should have. Granted it is by no means a bad-looking game, it's just that it doesn't look much different than a title released on a last-gen console. There is also some really bad slow-down in certain areas, one level in particular makes you feel as though you are playing in slow-motion. However in certain areas, the game does shine, especially in the level known as, the Aqua Capital, with it's bright locale and many battles in water. And it also packs more enemies on the screen, dozens of bad-guys can fill an area and after the slaughter, the room will be littered with blood and gore, which is pretty impressive. Also, a nice little visual touch is having Ryu's weapons get drenched in crimson and after a bit, he will flick the blood off of them, cleaning it up. The soundtrack is rather decent, packed with energy suiting the violent combat, and the sound effects also provide a suitable treat for the ears. From the clashing of swords to the explosions from incendiary weapons, it all sounds really good. The voice-overs however are a hit and miss, some are fine while others are downright horrendous.

The controls are similar to the original, so vets of the first should find no problem picking this one up and getting business done. To those new to the series, the controls are set-up very well and are as follows. Y performs strong attacks and B performs projectile attacks while pressing both Y and B together lets you activate your Ninpo attack. A lets Ryu jump and X allows for quick attacks The Right Control Stick controls the camera while the Left Control Stick moves the character, the Directional-Pad opens the quick menu while holding down the Left Button allows for First-Person view. Pressing the Right Button makes you interact with various things, holding the Left Trigger allows you to block, pressing the Right Trigger resets the camera and also lets the camera zoom while in First-Person view. The Back button opens the Options menu and finally the Start button pauses the game.

As far as replay value goes, ‘Ninja Gaiden II' doesn't have much in terms of new things to unlock aside from Achievements of course and some new costumes and harder difficulties. You start with ‘Path Of The Acolyte (Easy)' and ‘Path Of The Warrior (Normal)'. Beating Warrior unlocks ‘Path Of The Mentor (Hard)' and beating Mentor unlocks the final difficulty, ‘Path Of The Master Ninja (Very Hard)'. Beating each difficulty unlocks a different outfit for Ryu, replaying the game on completed saves lets you start out with whatever weapons you had already unlocked and upgraded, so that's pretty cool. And the game is very fun, so going back through it again isn't bad at all.

So to conclude this review, is ‘Ninja Gaiden II' better than the original? It's debatable but I think it is, not by much, but I enjoyed it more than I did the first. And I consider the original to be one of the best action games that I have ever played. So, if you're a fan of ‘Ninja Gaiden', no doubt pick this one up or if you've never played the series before and are looking for some fast-paced, difficult and violent combat. Pick up the original first then grab this game, you're in for a treat.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/30/08

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

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