I don’t know exactly what Team Ninja was thinking when they first came up with the idea of brewing up a sequel to Ninja Gaiden, but it’s not exactly what I expected.
All I can say, without sounding completely ridiculous is that this time around Ryu Hayabusa is out for blood, even more so than in the original game.
Packing a deadly arsenal of ninja weapons, slicing through enemies like butter becomes only a matter of artistic impression, rather than fighting skills.
Let’s just say that when Team Ninja wrote the script on the background story, they probably thought that everyone has ADD and that no one will notice the huge gaps in it. Trying to tone down my disapproval, I can only say that it’s as awfully as it gets and rarely you get a glimpse at what your actual goal is.
Jumping from one scenery to another without having any warning whatsoever, might seem unimportant at first because you’ll be more interested in ripping your enemies apart. On the other hand, as you dig deeper through the whole fourteen chapters, you find yourself scratching your ninja head and wondering how in blazes you got there.
With no narrative constancy and only a handful of cinematic scenes that do nothing more than to deepen the mystery of you final goal, Ninja Gaided II relies mostly on the gameplay to support the entire experience. Gameplay
Just as the cover of the CD case says, the game contains a huge amount of gore, blood and violence that will appeal to everyone that has seen enough horror movies. Although they’re not all that intense as you might expect it, the gore effect is mostly based by the evisceration of your enemies with the surgical precision of your ninja blade.
Rest assured that the Dragon Sword isn’t the only thing you’ll be bringing to the fight. Equipped with eight different weapons, each of them upgradable, you will surely find pleasure in ripping your enemies apart, dismembering fiends and beheading ghouls.
Tons of combos can easily be achieved by using only two buttons on your controller. With a fast attack and a strong attack feature, Ryu blocks, kicks, stomps, slashes and dashes through enemies, behaving more like a raging sociopath rather than a stealthy ninja.
For the most part, this is actually a good thing because endless single-minded fiends will spawn around you and ripping their limbs apart is the only fun about it.
Also, if you think that losing an arm or a leg will cause your enemies to just quit and die, you’re in for a big surprise. Not only that they crawl, hop and flop their way to you, but they also unleash a surprisingly powerful explosion once they’ve found you. Therefore, if you really want to kick them to the curb, just use the Y button and you’ll witness some really awesome camera cut that mainly involves some decapitation, displacing the remaining members and a kick to the jaw to make it all look badass.
The same finishing touch can be applied to the Grater Fiends and it’s particularly interesting to watch as you carve them open like a turkey dinner. But, if you want a free piece of advice, taking on Volf (an overgrown werewolf with an ego to match his size) or Alexei (the hellish angel-looking and self-proclaimed master of lightning) is probably a thing you want to do after you’ve mastered the Y button combos and the across-the-room teleport.
There’s also the matter of which weapon is best suited to inflict the most amount of damage and from what I could gather, anything with a blade attached to it will cut just nicely through their flesh, leaving them kneeling and strangely surprised at the end of each battle.
As if four Greater Fiends (read: bosses) with egos big enough to fill the Empire State Building weren’t enough, Team Ninja thought it would be a smashing idea to add some midlevel bosses and even make you fight the Greater Fiends twice.
All of a sudden Ryu Hayabusa must seem like a God by now, but as it turns out, the entire do-over process is not as bad as it looks. Sure, it’s frustrating until you get the hang of it, but it’s surely gratifying to see that you’ve managed to pull out another ninja rabbit out of the hat and sucker punch the villains, twice.
The only thing that really makes you pick up the controller and shove it up Ryu’s tight ninja leather pants is the camera control (read: no control). It’s so frustrating and badly designed that it makes you want to scream and probably that’s why you lash out and hack daylight out of your enemies.
In tight places, you sometimes fight blindly because the camera refuses to get out of the wall, causing you to simply stab and slice enemies that have long since died. Granted, you can always get it to center on Ryu, but it doesn’t always work quite as you expect it. Off-screen attacks are something you need to get used to and the only thing the camera is good at is showing off the action in a stylish matter rather than giving you the full picture of your environment. Audio and Video
Environments and details have been given a great though and you’re fortunate enough to explore sceneries that are mostly bug-free. With blood pumping out of your enemies that’s being splattered across the room and with weapons that keep being bloody even after the battle is over, it’s certainly a delight to hack and slash your way from one enemy to another.
There are a couple of levels that are highly vivid and (I dare say it) breathtaking, that you just want to stop and look around for the sheer pleasure of it. The good thing about Ninja Gaiden II is that throughout the entire fourteen chapters, you rarely get to see the same environment twice (except for when you return to the Hayabusa Village).
Even the soundtrack is pretty good, setting up a nice blend of metal rock and ambience tunes that will get you in the mood for a killing frenzy. Most of the times you won’t have time to concentrate on them, but it’s nice to know that you have something playing in the background that’s there to get you pumped for action.
The cinematic acting is fairly decent, but we rarely get to hear Ryu’s voice. It’s like he’s a mute ninja sometimes and it’s because all the characters around him seem to be going on and on about how they’re going to destroy the world, kill you, get the half-naked girl to be their concubine and other narcissistic stuff like that. Conclusion
The best part about Ninja Gaiden II is that you will have lots of killing to do and many ways to experiment on how to dismember your enemies. It may get boring at times, but you can always try to do it at another difficultly level.
With gameplay that’s more focused on delivering blood, guts, flying limbs and the occasional partial nudity to get you to power down your adrenaline rush, playing as Ryu is more about getting your hands dirty than following a good narrative story.
Linear levels are definitely something that’s confining you to stick to a single path and there’s no way you can get around that so that you can do some exploring on your own. The idea is to stick to the plan and ride it out ‘till you reach the final boss.
Overall, with a story that’s unfit to support the gameplay and a camera control that’s ridiculously impossible to fully control, the entire gameplay experience rests entirely on the shoulders of the slashing and body slicing abilities of Ryu and the variety of hellaciously vicious monsters that relentlessly want to take you apart.