Review by prophet_of_cool
"Doesn't come close to the game is should have been..."
There's no denying Ninja Gaiden for X-Box was one of the finest games of the last generation, with slick graphics and sound and probably the most in-depth fighting engine ever to grace a console it is worthy of the praise it gets. Ninja Gaiden 2 is the first (and only) sequel to 2004's hit game on the original X-Box from Tecmo and Team Ninja, now most will be comparing this game to Ninja Gaiden Black, seeing as that was the most complete and polished game in the series. Now unfortunately, Ninja Gaiden 2 is probably the worst case of how a sequel can be get totally f***ed up! This game is absolutely nothing compared to its predecessors (even Sigma) and takes everything that NGB did so well, throws it out the window and replaces it with a huge heap of crap, think of NG2 as going to a restaurant, having an amazing starter dish and for the main course a turd is on your plate.
Now, we all know you don't buy an action game for its story; you buy it for the quality of the action that is present in the game. Ninja Gaiden has never been praised for its story, but quite frankly when you have gameplay that can keep people playing for over 1000 hours, who cares. This is pretty much the case with NG2, the story takes the backseat while the action is in the spotlight. Basically the fiends are back and are working with the black spider ninja clan to capture some ancient artefact from the Hayabusa village, once again Ryu's clan is slaughtered, the artefact is stolen and it is your job to kill loads of ninja's and fiends, retrieve the artefact and save the world, standard stuff from your typical action game.
A case of 6 of one, half a dozen of the other here; the characters, enemies and weapons all look fantastic but the environments are quite frankly, awful. All look very low-res and half baked, but seeing as you'll mostly be focusing on the huge amount of enemies trying to kill you more than what the floor looks like, it's not that big a deal.
This is one area of the game where Team Ninja did stick to what works, the soundtrack is really good, plenty of original and atmospheric music that never seems out of place. The sound effects for the weapons are awesome; the bone-crunching and slicing noises are simply brilliant and really make those finishing blows all the more satisfying.
This has always been the area where Ninja Gaiden blows everything else of the water. Now it's not all bad here, when everything is working the way it is supposed to this game delivers the best action out there. It's just that this only happens once for every hour you play and only lasts about 10 seconds.
The core game engine is largely unchanged; pulling off the infamous Izuna Drop is as slick as it's ever been. There are a few new changes present here, Ryu's roll has been replaced with a much faster (and more useless) dash and the interact button is now mapped to the right bumper. Flashy new finishing moves have been added, these are really impressive to watch and really show-off the smoothness of the animation.
However for every step the game takes forward it takes 2 huge ones back. The dash for example, it's nice to have a faster way to move and evade but not when it can't dodge the simplest of attacks, the recovery frames are way too long and it doesn't feel as smooth as the roll did in previous instalments. The new finishing moves are really cool, but when Ryu decides a wall or lamp is more dangerous than a suicidal ninja with explosive shurikens you get problems, basically the gameplay is just not reliable, which is a huge problem for a game that throws as many enemies as you as NG2 does, which brings me to my next point about NG2.
NGB was a challenging game, 99% of the time you died were because you simply needed to improve your skills. Team Ninja seem to have taken a different approach this time around, the biggest threat in this game, is the game itself. Let me explain, every encounter has so many enemies on screen at one time that the game cannot handle it, this results in an abysmal drop in the frame-rate and we all know how much fun this can be. Put simply, NG2 is still a hard game and you will still get a good sense of achievement when you finally complete the higher difficulty levels, but for all the wrong reasons.
The camera is even worse this time around too, it is way too close to Ryu to see what is surrounding him and this results in most of deaths coming from attacks you simply didn't know were coming until you're staring at the game over screen.
Another highlight of NGB was definitely the boss fights; every single one was unique and had a clear and defined strategy in how to tackle it down. NG2 however fails at this too; every boss is quite frankly, boring. All are ridiculously powerful and have clear cut strategy except for the arcade style kill them before you die. This is just yet another region of the gameplay that has failed to live up to expectations.
You get a total of 8 melee weapons in NG2 as well as 5 long range weapons. Some favourites return while others are missing (where the f*** is the Dabilarho!?!?!). The ones that have returned have been tuned up to the extreme, combos are longer and more deadly, but at the same time they are just as risky to pull off and if you do them at the wrong time, you're history. Projectile weapons are also more deadly this time around, now they can be charged up like the melee weapons. The Ultimate Techniques are implemented well for the bow and shurikens etc, and it's undeniably fun to stick a legless ninja with 3 charged up explosive shurikens. However, like everything else in NG2 there are drawbacks, most weapons are just not necessary, the Falcon Talons, Scythe and Dragon Sword will be enough to get you through ANYTHING this game can throw at you. So using the other weapons is something you'll have to want to do.
Now what does all this come to? NG2 is a great game, when it works, which sadly is only about 10% of the time that the game is in your console. The variety of weapons is nice, but completely superfluous as you only need a handful of them. The graphics are impressive, when you look at Ryu, environments are crap.
All in all NG2 is just one hell of a disappointment, this game, by all rights should have been the greatest action game of all time and earned its place as one of the all time greats. NGB had very little to improve on and somewhere along the way this was lost and NG2 took its place. If you're like me and are die-hard fan for Ninja Gaiden, then NG2 will entertain you, briefly; just don't expect it to deliver anything like the groundbreaking action and experience its predecessor did.
Overall score: 6/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 08/20/08
Game Release: Ninja Gaiden II (EU, 06/06/08)
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