As I pulled off another "obliteration technique," my mouth remained dropped. I thought to myself, "Team Ninja, you've done it again." Brutally, a poor warrior's legs were chopped off, sliced around the torso in a spinning fashion (like a spindle), only to be finished by a beheading of the vicious claws that our hero Ryu can sport. Ninja Gaiden II defies and reinvents classic hack 'n slash gameplay while also utilizing the newest technology and development. Even at the title screen, NG 2 gives me a certain nostalgic feel and has a particular aura about itself. This is because while NG 2 could be viewed as a complex combat adventure, the simplicity of the mostly linear gameplay and environments create a sort of 2D feel to a 3D environment. Typically, linear gameplay is looked down upon nowadays because of the possibilities of 3D environments. Despite of this, NG 2 is an exception to the rule and Team Ninja has perfectly blended gameplay reminiscent of 2D coupled with the execution of 3D.
The story in Ninja Gaiden II is not very important. It is a classic tale of good versus evil, with an emphasis on evil. You play as a masterful ninja named Ryu Hayabusa of the Dragon Lineage clan. The story has a sort of anime feel with a real life vibe. There is no need to play the previous game for the story as it is rather ambiguous but for skill maybe so as the general concepts of the first game have been transposed over to this sequel. You basically are a one man killing machine on a mission to save the world from evil demon fiends. The cutscenes littered throughout the game certainly add to the game and are extremely stylized. They are useful in cutting up the gameplay and explaining how Ryu gets everywhere that he goes.
The beautiful Vienna-like stage is colorful and intricate
The environments in Ninja Gaiden II are uninteractive for most of the game and while some of the stages are simply stunning, others are a bit lacking. Essentially, what makes it linear is the fact that everything other than the combat is planned out. By this, I mean that you must enter a certain doorway or you must run along two walls in order to reach higher ground, etc. Everything else that may seem to be jumpable or interactive is many times not either of the two. This can be a fresh of breath air if one has an open mind and has liked the linear nature of 2D games. You will never get lost in Ninja Gaiden II and people who have played the first installment that came out on XBOX a little over four years ago will have no trouble getting accustomed. While there were various little puzzles and tasks that split up the combat and varied the gameplay in NG, NG 2 seems to be almost completely void of these chores. Because of this, the gameplay is faster, meaner, and sanguineous.
Undoubtedly, NG 2's heart can be found within its combat. Team Ninja and director Tomonobu Itagaki explicate their vision of bloodshed through numerous stunning and graceful animations. Ninja Gaiden II is simply the ultimate and best hand-to-hand combat and hack 'n slash game ever made. This may be a slightly bold statement, but the combat speaks for itself...and it speaks in large volumes of blood and dismemberments. The heavily expansive list of weapons available in the game is gratifying. Unlike the first Ninja Gaiden, all the new weapons in NG 2 are swift and speedy. Some are more than others of course, but even the burly, death-defying sickle is blazing fast in comparison say to the "War Hammer" in the previous Ninja Gaiden. The "Falcon's Talons" easily are the most badass and foraying addition to the various melee weapons. They are simply wolverine-esque looking claws that also have foot attachments consisting of claw-like blades as well. Similar to the feeling when you initially get the "Vigoorian Flails" in the first Ninja Gaiden, the "Falcon's Talons" are a blast to play with and has a phenomenal balance of blindingly fast attack speed and colossal power. When fully leveled up by purchasing upgrades at the "Muramasa Statues" through the use of collecting the yellow orbs of dead Fiend's souls, this weapon will mutilate to an extent which is unfathomable.
Yes, luckily this is a reality for us. Unfortunately for him, it isn't.
What truly stands out in Ninja Gaiden II is the level of accuracy, precision, and tangibility it possesses. When you land an attack or slash an enemy, the accuracy of the blade is practically flawless resulting in either a severing of a limb or maybe just a visceral body blow. When flawlessly executed, beheading an enemy by the use of typically "the flying swallow" technique (a fast dashing slash attack), terminates an enemy and cuts to the chase. During sequences of heavy action this may be hard to see, but with enough fighting, the precision is notably smooth and dreadfully responsive. This scrupulous swordplay becomes highly circumstantial as every slice and movement is pivotal and urgent. When the battles get intense one will really feel like his or her life is on the line and a new health regeneration system helps to ease the tension in-between fights. While there isn't much more that is living and moving other than the combat in the locales, the game breathes and is alive because as a ninja your primary objective is to kill. One will know when he or she has performed a "counter-attack" or an "obliteration technique" because when it happens, you truly feel it. The Ninja Gaiden series has always been a challenging endeavor. Very rarely is the game unfair and if one is to keep dying in the midst of battle, it signifies that he or she is probably not quite on top of their game and on par with the ramping difficulty that Ninja Gaiden 2 manages generally well. Unlike its predecessor, Itagaki took in account the various complaints about the difficulty of the game being very hard from the start and accommodated beginners in NG 2. The beginning few stages are fairly easy and allow some challenge to veteran players. Once the player reaches stages 4 and 5, the vicissitude in difficulty is greatly increased and is evident as one will continue to stare at the "Game Over" screen perplexed.
A difficult weapon the master, the Kusari-gama are as much challenging as they are fun
Ninja Gaiden II as a game is unfortunately not as flawless as the combat it contains, though all of these issues are little nuances that will only slightly hiccup one's experience. An evident and sometimes glaring issue is the occasional frame rate drop that plagues the gameplay when there is a lot of action and enemies on the screen. Luckily, I've only encountered this problem a handful of times and the rest of the game was fluid. Another extremely minuscule detail is how NG 2 consistently utilizes the concept of forking paths and enclaves. Many areas in NG 2 will force you to either go right or left, one route typically becoming a dead end with an item chest or a slain ninja with a document. This is what makes NG 2 a little more enjoyable as you are constantly being equipped. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but not very often. This extra exploration is gratifying, but sometimes the other path leads to a cinematic or event in which you cannot go back. Also, this extra exploration can be extremely limited. What I mean by that is the fact that these alternative paths will make one subconsciously explore more in order to guarantee that nothing is missed. One will most likely discover that there isn't much more to interact with and that they are wasting their time. The mix of many obvious paths with a few more imaginative routes make breaking that habit of going the extra distance difficult as I typically always feel like I could be missing something in some desolate corner. Another almost comical issue deals with the amount of blood splatter that covers the walls and floors. This great attention to detail works extremely well but sometimes there is so much blood that some splatters amongst the thin air just suspended and void of gravity. Of course this is another very small detail that only occurs rarely and is more laughable than ruining.
The boss battles are larger and more frequent than the previous outing
The final and probably the most important issue with Ninja Gaiden II is the use of the game's camera. The camera hasn't changed much from its predecessor (other than maybe slighter higher up and the various camera tricks of the obliteration techniques) and it was what faulted the title. The camera essentially is the reason why NG 2 is just shy short of a perfect score. It is problematic, somewhat unpredictable and lazy. While you can straighten the camera with the "R Trigger," in the midst of battle this is difficult to continuously do. The camera seems to strive in large and open areas, but fail in closed in and tight spaces. Sometimes the camera will stick behind a wall totally blinding the player from the action, which can sometimes be imperative to survival. Although this is somewhat of a sacrifice, the camera beautifully and elegantly embraces the action as if it were hugging a teddy bear, staying close to the action in order to expose the details. The issue is reasonable as programming code in order to fix or change a integral part of a game, (such as the camera) could easily affect the entire game. I imagine that Team Ninja sought out in devising a compromise in order to fix these issues and maintain its signature view. Unfortunately, time constraints and inconveniences could both be reasons why the camera can be somewhat problematic. Either way, it is the biggest issue in the game, but only a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. A camera that works perfectly and just stays exactly behind Ryu at all times is solid, but Team Ninja's trademark camera work is just extremely cool. Further more, it may have been worth their while if they included an option between a stylistic camera and a more straight-forward camera. Something to think about if there ever is a Ninja Gaiden III.
NG 2 is a special title. It is special because a game like this only comes every so often. It is a testament to what gaming should accomplish: a creative, fluid, and tight campaign that is memorable and distinguished. The game feeds you with a fast-paced and heart-wrenching experience that only developer Team Ninja could produce. While other titles come close, such as Capcom's Devil May Cry 4, NG 2's combat is just fiercer, bloodier and exorbitant. It may not be the most well-rounded or best game of the year, but if you are looking for smooth responsive control and combat, look no further than the way of the blade. read