Ninja Gaiden II
Ninja Gaiden II has been in the media for quite a while now and a lot has been written and said about it, one reviewer being more positive than the other. It’s time for me to put the game to the test and see what this Ryu character is all about while reminiscing about the good old, yet difficult Xbox hit.
Team Ninja is an ambitious group of developers, but the energy they put into this new episode seems to have been focused on refining the existing formula, without really revolutionising anything. The most important and noticeable changes can be found in the graphics and new weapons, next to some smaller gameplay adjustments (like the possibility to cut through limbs and heads).
The latter is as intensifying as it is spectacular. Legs, arms and torsos are soaring through the air like straw in a tornado on speed and on top of that you’ll be able to slaughter de-limbed enemies with one swift, yet fatal move. Do keep in mind you’ll have to be quick about it, because some crazy no-leg monsters happen to think the best way to solve your issues, is by launching a direct suicide attack at you. And you were saying watching too much TV doesn’t influence your behavior?
Just like in its predecessor, you won’t be able to just take the life of your opponents. You’ll have to be in control of Ryu and can’t just start button bashing. Ninja-precision is highly recommended. Just don’t forget the controller isn’t the cause of your failing, it’s you, needing more ninja training! Once you’ve got the controls down, you can start switching weapons as well. You can use the traditional Katanas, staff and sword plus a whole range of new killing machines like a scythe and, my personal favorite, knives attached to both your hands and feet.
Every weapon has about 60 different moves and people used to swinging the Wii-mote will have quite some problems when facing this gigantic need of hard-core gaming skills. However, they did make the health system a bit more “forgiving” with a partially regenerating bar. If that isn’t enough, there’s also an Easy mode which makes everything a little more accessible to everyone if they can come up with the patience and dedication. Next to an occasionally unfair boss or the waiting for a save point which is still miles away, the learning-curve is built quite nicely… Built up to the point where you’ll start running and screaming around the room out of pure frustration. Then again, whoever said everything should have the difficulty of Wii Play?
Content-wise, we certainly can’t complain. No running from here to there and back again and more than 12 to 15 hours of battle during your first play-time. Not all levels are perfect (and interaction with the environment is nowhere to be found), but most of them are quite original and even nicely detailed. They are a testimony to the inspiration and creativity of Team Ninja, going from New York to Tokyo, over lava caves, through Venice and the Japanese homeland. The models, animations and graphical action we can say no more about than “great”… They participate in one of the nicest looking, action packed games we’ve seen till now. Ok, there’s an occasional frame drop, but I think we can take it.
Of course there are more, smaller, defects. Even though the camera has somewhat improved in comparison to what we’ve seen in the first part, you’ll still see some glitches causing you to be unable to see the enemy. Combine this with a rather high difficulty setting and it will lead to some painful situations, both for yourself, your neighbors and other possible beings or things in your immediate environment. Loading times are still too long and can occur in the middle of a level, taking out all the action.
In the end Ninja Gaiden II is a success. It’s not as ground shaking or surprising as what we’ve seen before, but it’s still one of the best action games you can find, both for old-school ninjas as for new apprentices. The only reason why you shouldn’t buy this game, is if you can’t handle losing. Then again, who likes being called a wuss?