Review by sunny_bizkit
A worthy sequel to a worthy game
When Ninja Gaiden was released on the XBOX in 2004, it was declared unequivocally as the "best action game since Devil May Cry". In 2005, Team Ninja released Ninja Gaiden Black, a revised edition of Ninja Gaiden including tweaks to the gameplay and new enemies along with a mission mode. How could you make a near perfect game even more perfect? Release ANOTHER build of the game as Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PS3, the alleged "complete" version of the original game. And now in 2008, we have Ninja Gaiden II, which director Tomonobu Itagaki has hailed as "the world's best action game running on the world's best system". He's right about the first part, but the second part of that statement won't be determined until this generation of console wars is over.
First things first, Ninja Gaiden II is a fine action game. The combat is ridiculously fast and brutal. There's enough blood in this game to cause Dracula to overdose! There are weapons galore as Dragon Ninja Ryu Hayabusa slashes with his sword, scythe, claws, bladed tonfa and slices his way through hordes of ninjas, fiends, mechs, ninja-fiends, ninja-mechs and other ridiculous contraptions to save the world from the menacing Archfiend, who is apparently a relative of the first game's final boss: The Holy Vigoor Emperor. Action-game afficianados will feel right at home here, with tight mechanics and gameplay to keep you busy for hours and hours, you are definitely guaranteed your money's worth with 40+ hours on the story mode plus countless hours which one may invest on mission mode which is downloadable via XBOX LIVE. The action is the game's strongest point and is sure to please anyone willing to get their hands' dirty and invest hours and hours of gameplay, racking up experience to become the best! Furthermore, the game's environments are utterly gorgeous as the player navigates Ryu from Sky City Tokyo, through New York City, Venice, The Amazon all the way down to the grim darkness of the Underworld to stop the Archfiend. The graphics are crisp and sharp, with excellent character details and glossy finishes. Add to this a mighty soundtrack that gets the blood pumping while you're being blasted by explosive-shuriken-throwing ninja and dogs with knives in their mouths, and you've got a might fine package!
However, Gaiden II is far from perfect. The game is riddled with glitches and flaws, ranging from graphical malfunctions like blood spatter floating mysteriously in the air, to repeated re-spawns of enemies appearing out of nothingness adding to needless frustration, especially on the higher difficulties. The difficulty isn't rosy either. Master Ninja Mode in this game is brutal; it simply does not let up! Although, this wasn't that great a problem in the original Gaiden, the problem here is that most of the time players will find themselves overwhelmed by enemies who seem to continually re-spawn. For example, you encounter a group of eight enemies, and you kill four, somehow you will find that you are still fighting eight enemies as their buddies have teleported in from the underworld to join them! This can be incredibly frustrating, and the truth is only the most disciplined and patient players will beat the Master Ninja Mode, skill is not essential.
Furthermore, I personally am a little underwhelmed by the lack of enemy variety. It will feel to players that they are often fighting the same groups of enemies again and again. There will be variations on the later levels of many of these enemies, but in truth they are mere palette swaps e.g. winged fiends are normally purple but become red and golden towards the end of the game, yet their attack patterns do not necessarily change. Besides the unbalanced difficulty, there are issues I believe with the camera. Personally this does not bother me much as I have somehow managed to "tame" the camera in this game (I have experience from the previous games, the camera angles there weren't peaches either). However, I am aware that many players have criticized the awkward angles at which the auto-camera does place Ryu. Although, this may be corrected by means of the right analog stick and trigger, it is a nuisance and one will hope that such an anomaly is corrected in the next edition of this game released by Team Ninja (if one is ever released, for that matter).
All in all, Ninja Gaiden II on the XBOX 360 is a fine action game and as far as I am concerned a must own for any self-respecting action gamer. It can be frustrating at times but it does deliver a solid gameplay experience and one of the deepest combat engines I have ever encountered in any game ever. Sure the game is not perfect by any means, but I do believe that whatever issues there may be do not necessarily hamper game-play. One might even come to think of these shortcomings as 'lovable flaws' just like the strings attached to the spinner in Blade Runner or the goofs in action films from the 80s like Showdown in Little Tokyo. Cheerio.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Ninja Gaiden II (AU, 06/12/08)
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