Can 3D action get any better?
Ninja Gaiden II is the follow-up to the immensely satisfying, albeit difficult, Ninja Gaiden I for the Xbox. Team Ninja has ramped up the intensity on the 360 by adding new mechanics and weapons into the mix. Where does this title take Ryu Hayabusa this time?
CIA agent Sonia is searching for the elusive Ryu Hayabusa when she gets attacked by members of the Black Spider Ninja Clan in Muramusa’s shop. Ryu discovers this attempt and after a vain attempt to stop this capture he chases the clan towards the skyscraper in Tokyo.
Ryu’s adventures will take him all around the world this time around. Further plot develops later on as Ryu will return home to his village at one point to encounter his father dueling with a leader of the Black Spider Ninja clan which will lead to a search for of a sttolen Demon statue and Elizébet (Ruler of Crimson blood).
Acolyte and Warrior difficulty levels are available from the onset for choice in tackling this adventure. Ninja Gaiden is a series known for difficulty so if this is your first outing with the Dragon Blade wielder and patience is not one of your virtues don’t be shy at selecting the lower difficulty.
As with the first title there are many checkpoints which can be saved at as you venture through levels. The save points are much more intuitive this tile around as you simply need to approach a save statue and press the action button which will then save without the need of going to a save screen.
The action is just as slick as with the first time but with additional elements thrown into the fighting mix. Enemies can still be decapitated with one blow only now their bodies can be halved as well (Separation of upper and lower torso). This does not mean the end of the threat, though. Fiends can now crawl around without the need of their legs and once attached to you can deal some serious damage. Thankfully by using the hard attack action button they can be eliminated right away. It is in the best interest of the player to make sure these adversaries are properly dealt with by utilizing this attack strategically – at the end of combos, for example.
There is no longer a central hub town which interconnects like in the first game, for better or worse. This time there are linear levels taken place in different parts of the world. A satisfying design choice as it allows much more variety to the Ninja Gaiden realm. Starting off in Tokyo and venturing to locations like South America, Ryu becomes quite the worldly Ninja.
New weapons are thrown into the mix as well as the return of Muramusa shops which are statue only now. due to no central hub town. Unfortunately while some weapons are fun and useful to utilize the need to go back to the Dragon Blade always seems to creep up on you as it still feels like the most well-rounded of the bunch.
Thankfully, all-in-all, Ninja Gaiden II is a lot of fun. Some may argue that the new ways enemies can attack you can increase the difficulty level, but with proper strategic play and use of combos this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Veteran players will feel right and home with this entry and master it in no time. Bosses are just as fun and challenging – if not less challenging than the first round.
The graphical upgrade is a welcome addition as this is on a newer generation hardware compared to the first round. Everything is crisp and colourful to look at with the exception of the technical flaws holding back the aesthetics. V-sync is certainly not turned on as you will encounter screen tearing now and then and the framerate can slow to a crawl when the action becomes quite intense with a lot going on the screen at once. Aliasing is apparent and there seems to be a lack of mipmapping usage in some areas – especially later on – as there is quite a bit of visual shimmering to be seen.
As with the first title there is nothing especially stand out about the music but for what it is worth it does an admirable job of setting the mood based on the action portrayed. Sound effects are re-used from the first entry, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Game direction Itakagi and Team Ninja have managed to create a masterpiece which enhances the gameplay of the first game and set a high point for 3D action games everywhere. Re-playability is certainly there as high difficulty levels are unlocked with each play through, which hopefully won’t be too much of a chore as this game is such a pleasure to play. There is an upgraded ‘Sigma’ version to be played on the PS3, but additions and changes made were not done under Itagaki.