Review by CovieEngineer

"Exactly what a fan expects"

I should start here by saying that I am a big fan of Ninja Gaiden, right back to the NES days and the bullsh!t bird enemies. Ninja Gaiden (Black) for the Xbox was a stunningly awesome action game, definitely the best hack n slash I have ever played in terms of the gameplay mechanics, and an excellent game all around. How does Ninja Gaiden II measure up?

Well, if the score told you nothing--the answer is very well. So instead of breaking the entire game down like what everyone else has done, I'll just address the issues other reviewers have raised pitchforks over and help you see the game through usually undesirable fan-tinted lenses.

COMBAT: Ninja Gaiden II's fights aren't visceral. They aren't intense, either. They are downright brutal. If you're coming from Black, you will notice that everything has quite literally been turned up to eleven: speed, blood, number of enemies, number of moves, etc. Instead of a bunch of weapons that share movesets, we get eight totally distinct weapons with 99% unique movesets (exceptions being stuff like the throws etc.). Instead of three enemies at one time, we get five or six, sometimes even more.

DIFFICULTY: Far more newbie-friendly than Ninja Gaiden I, and definitely more challenging than other hack n slashes on the market. Many things that reviewers have called unfair (rocket infantry, explosive shurikens) were in the first Ninja Gaiden, so I honestly don't know what they're complaining about. There is a single spot I'd truly call unfair, and it is a boss that explodes at death: so I'll spoil the solution now. Just hold block. Good, carry on enjoying this awesome game.

CAMERA: everybody has been making cracks about Ninja Gaiden II's camera, like it's the fashionable thing to do. The truth is, if Ninja Gaiden II has a bad camera then I've never played a hack n slash with a good one. Considering you can snap the camera back to its neutral position at any time with just a click of the right trigger, it makes me want to jump on DMC and stab it to death. Even Dynasty Warriors has bad camera, and those games take place on virtually featureless plains!

FRAMERATE SLOWDOWNS: these happen very rarely, when way too many things happen at once--this is more of a problem in overreaching ambition than any flaws in game design. In any case they are few and far in between, never lasts more than a second or two. The only exception is a truly epic fight later on in the game, where the slowdown--a result of the Xbox's technical limitations--actually feels more like a purposeful move in direction. You'll see when you get there.

STYLE: The entire game is basically a showcase for the world's most badass ninja. He kills demons, ninjas, zombies, dragons, mech ninjas, gun ninjas, mech dragons, zombie dragons, and all manners of insane enemies in Locales including stylized New York, Moscow, Venice, Giant's Causeway, a flying fortress, and so on and so forth. NOT A SINGLE ENEMY OR LOCATION WAS RECYCLED FROM NINJA GAIDEN I. That plague of sequels is nowhere to be seen, which is only a good thing. Hell, even the returning weapons all have vastly changed movesets.

THE DOWNSIDES: the story, while bombastic, has the plot depth of the average Japanese anime (literally none); the number of locales, combined with the discreet chapters system, sacrifices coherency for variety; boss fights are recycled, but at least not as blatantly as Megaman does it. Finally, boss fights are technical duels, not cinematic affairs like in God of War, so you're not going to get anything as epic as "eviscerating a colossus before breaking his arms in a water wheel".

FINAL VERDICT: I'd like to say "if you liked Ninja Gaiden I, then you'll like II", but as Tycho of Penny Arcade succinctly pointed out, that can also be said as "if you like Ninja Gaiden, then you like Ninja Gaiden", an utterly pointless tautology. So, I'll just tell you to buy it. If you don't think you have the chutzpah to handle the higher challenge, grab the free demo or rent it. Unless you seriously prize story over gameplay, or the opinions of major game review sites, you owe yourself to check this game out.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/14/08

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

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