Ninja Gaiden II Xbox 360
Published by: Tecmo
Developed by: Team Ninja
Release Date: Out Now
Without question the most challenging game I have played on the Xbox was Ninja Gaiden. Whilst it was a brilliant action game, it certainly wasn't a game you could simply waltz through nor could you simply go through by button bashing. Even defeating the first boss character in the game was no easy task. The feeling of satisfaction from completing the game was immense however and it rewarded all of the hard work needed to master it. Of course it also helped that it was a great looking game and interesting from start to finish. Naturally then the expectations were extremely high for Ninja Gaiden II.
The game begins with a young woman in search of Ryu Hayabusa. This young woman turns out to be Sonia, a CIA agent for the U.S. government. She's investigating a top-secret case and needs to talk to Ryu. Whilst Sonia is enquiring about Ryu at Muramasa's store, the Black Spider Ninja Clan launches an attack and kidnap Sonia. Ryu appears but he's too late to prevent Sonia from being taken away. This then is the beginning to another fiercely difficult Ninja Gaiden action game that is as satisfying as ever but this time around it's a flawed experience and the overall feeling you'll have from it is that it's not quite the game it could have been.
Let's make no mistake about it, Ninja Gaiden II is a great game but it's not quite up to the standards of the Ninja Gaiden game that appeared on the Xbox. Let's look at the positives. The game has multiple difficulty settings and even though the easiest of these is still very difficult it does give most gamers a possibility of finishing the game without giving up in frustration. Even on this difficulty setting you'll notice the difficulty fluctuate quite wildly at times however. Thankfully there are more save points this time around and you can heal at them. If you fail a boss battle you're simply returned to the beginning of the boss battle which does cut down on some of the frustration. Frustration is added however with a troublesome camera (which we'll mention in a moment) and the amount of enemies that are suddenly upon you without any kind of notice. You'll turn a corner for instance, only to be greeted by a barrage of attacks from enemies you had no chance of knowing were there. Enemies, that you usually can't see, attack from range with deadly accuracy and at times it really feels like you're being cheated.
When you aren't being hindered by the game's problems however, you will thoroughly enjoy what Ninja Gaiden II has to offer. It's as visceral as ever as you can chop off heads and limbs. It's actually quite surprising to find that enemies will continue to fight even if you've cut off their arm. There's a good collection of melee weapons and projectiles here such as The Dragon Sword, Falcon's Talons, Tonfa, Shuriken and the Incendiary Shuriken. There are a variety of manoeuvres, combos and Ninpo attacks to learn too. The AI is as aggressive and as challenging as ever and there are certainly times when the combat is as exhilarating as in any other game you care to think of.
Graphically Ninja Gaiden II is very impressive and the game is arguably one of the finest looking action games to date. The character models are superb, as they usually are in a Tecmo game, and the animations are similarly impressive. Most of the various environments you'll find yourself in during the course of the game also look very impressive, although there are a few which are disappointing. The frame rate is mostly OK but there are times when it does drop and it is quite noticeable. By far the biggest complaint however is the camera which is just woeful on occasions and often leaves you with a less than ideal view of the action. You can pull the camera behind Ryu with a press of the RT button and you can manoeuvre it with the right analogue stick but this is a game where not having an ideal view of the action, for even a second or two, can prove to be deadly.
Ninja Gaiden II is subtitled although they are disabled by default. The subtitles don't have any character names or portraits placed alongside the dialogue but it seldom causes any problems. The game's cutscenes are subtitled so you'll have no problems in enjoying the storyline. All of the tutorial tips in the game are shown in text which you can read at your own pace. Whilst there are no captions it doesn't put you at any kind of disadvantage. The game is equally harsh on hearing gamers who will also have no warning at all of the enemies that suddenly appear in front of them. After only half an hour or so into the game, you learn to expect enemies to appear from out of nowhere or to have objects thrown at you with no warning.
The biggest complaint with Ninja Gaiden II will be that it's not up to the quality of Ninja Gaiden which appeared on the Xbox. Most fans of that game would simply have settled for more of the same with enhanced graphics and an ultra smooth frame rate. The fact that Ninja Gaiden II isn't up to the standard of Ninja Gaiden (and the re-release, Ninja Gaiden Black) will come as a major disappointment to fans of the series. Whilst the game has a number of different difficulty settings this time around (the easiest still being very difficult), it almost feels at times that you're being cheated. The enemies who appear out of nowhere and those unerring ranged attacks just seem completely unfair. The camera simply isn't good enough for a game this exacting and it's a real shame because it's just another thing to add to the difficulty. Even with these issues to contend with however, Ninja Gaiden II is still an impressive game and when you're not being hindered by the game's issues, it's an exhilarating experience that hardly any other action game on the Xbox 360 could hope to match.