Game Reviews
Ninja Gaiden 2 Review

Ninja Gaiden 2 (Guy Den not Gay Dan) is a game that needs little introduction. A game that focuses first on kicking your ass and then being awesome, the sequel to the ground breaking 3D action game Ninja Gaiden (a remake of an NES classic), continues to build upon the structure laid out by the original. Featuring some of the most frantic and epilepsy causing character movement in a video game, Ryu Hayabusa returns to seek revenge upon those who would oppose him and his Dragon Clan.

As the game begins, we see our hero attempting to rescue damsel in distress and sidekick Sonia, a CIA agent being held prisoner by the Spider Clan. The Spider Clan is attempting to revive the Arch Fiend with the help of four greater fiends. A plot which during and in hindsight makes absolutely no logical sense given how Ryu lays down the law on everyone in his path. I don’t see why they didn’t just decide not piss him off in the first place and make him their new leader.

The gameplay hasn’t changed dramatically, but its definitely been tightened and improved. You’re still a bad ass. Your move set seems almost limitless, and with the new obliteration techniques fights no longer get drawn out to ridiculous lengths. One maiming and the fight is over. But that just means you’ll have to do a lot of maiming. Your dodge technique has been replaced with more of a dash than a roll and back flip. This keeps you planted on the ground and more of a target. No more crazy escape plans when you’re surrounded. On the other hand, with the dash its easier to get the surprise on a foe, hitting their weak side while they’re still facing the opposite direction.

The game has improved in quite a number of ways in its 4 year hiatus. For one, the level design for the most part is straight forward and limits the amount of areas you can go to and get lost in. A personal dislike of mine from the first was the frequent reuse of Tairon Town and the respawning enemies. I’d often get lost not realizing which area I was supposed to head to next and find myself locked into a challenge. The selection menu can be accessed from the d-pad and also pauses the action. A much appreciated feature given how often you SHOULD be switching weapons in order to dispatch different opponents. But even though you may still find yourself deeply in love with the Dragon Sword, the other weapons are far better alternatives than the ones in the original.

The game can be relatively short for some and long for others. It all depends on which difficulty you play at, and more importantly what skills you bring as a gamer. Some might breeze through the game on Warrior (Normal), and others may find their progression slowing to a crawl on Acolyte (Easy). I found myself taking frequent breaks between save checkpoints, taking advantage of the most useful feature in the game. It’s definitely not a game that can be finished in a few sittings for the average gamer. And being realistic, itslikely that a few gamers will buy the game out of curiosity and quit at Chapter 3.

The enemies vary from level to level. Depending on which difficulty level you play on, certain enemies will appear later on in the game. Although each enemy type has their own specific patterns, they differentiate their attacks so frequently that it becomes very difficult to read. Their attacks range from Annoying to Infuriating as some attacks are unblockable. You may find yourself completely at a loss in some sections where you are dodging for your life, incapable of blocking, and centering the camera all at once. At times, it can also feel a bit repetitive as you are simply running through stages awaiting your next merciless group of foes. It would’ve been interesting if they had been able to work in a platforming or puzzle mechanic that’d complimented the combat. Not a huge issue, but it feels like the original Ninja Gaiden was less intense. It really boils down to personal preference.

Although the first game had some seriously difficult bosses, the second game raises the bar to levels far surpassing the realm of cheap. Often you will have dealt with a group of enemies so difficult that you will have been forced to expend a precious healing item early on. This puts you at a significant disadvantage when facing both bosses and mini-bosses. It is difficult to tell the difference, and quite disheartening to have fought to what you think is the end of a chapter only to find some new unholy monstrosity awaiting your blood bathed blade.

Although some gamers were disappointed that Sigma did not reach the Xbox 360, Itagaki stated numerous times that his game would be better in every way. Although now he seems to have exaggerated on the extent of how much better Ninja Gaiden 2 looks over Sigma, it does not detract from its visual fidelity. It’s not a bad looking game by far, but there are some levels and areas that look like they could have done with a few more coats of polish. Not to mention the game has technical issues not found to such a degree in Sigma. At times in the game, the framerate will dip to the point that it appears the game is in slow motion. Combined with some awkward loading segments during combat, it creates an annoyance that may be enough to put some players past the boiling point combined with the frustration that is bound to be had. Alone, and on a good day, these issues however are not entirely game ruining. Just pretty damn annoying.

Ninja Cinema is a nice idea, that could’ve been more than an idea. A feature that was supposedly included in order to assist gamers with becoming more capable Ninjas, the feature seems to be less about actual video help and more about showing or goofing off. Restricting uploads to the top tier of the leaderboards, skilled gamers who just want to show their videos to their friends are SOL. A little more thought and effort could’ve made this an actual feature instead of an after thought. But this seems to be a recurring theme of Ninja Gaiden 2.

Ninja Gaiden 2 is far from a perfect sequel. There are a number of differences between the first game that may irk veterans, and the game still might not be as accessible enough to gain new fans, let alone keep them. The cheapness of the enemies can also lead to new frustration. Combined with the technical issues and the fact that the game just doesn’t seem to have changed much for the better in such a long period of time, the game will disappoint some. Still, the gameplay is brutal and unchallenged. I’m still waiting for that truly next-gen action game. One that excels in gameplay, storytelling, level design and AI.


That was a good review, I agree all the way down to score.