Ninja Gaiden II Xbox 360 Review

A few years ago Ninja Gaiden arguably set the standard for action games. It was loved for many a reason, but if you asked its most ardent fans they would be adamant that they treasured the title because of its firm but fair difficulty level. Regretfully, even after many years to craft a capable update, Ninja Gaiden II seems to fail at the one facet that made the predecessor so much fun. The game is fatally flawed with many deaths occurring through no fault of the player, instead due to bad design decisions.

At its worst it is all too easy and you’ll want to toss away the controller in anger when playing NGII. When the game forces you to trek through sections multiple time as you learn how to solve problems through trial and error you certainly won’t be praising Itagaki for his design efforts this time round. When the last explosive attack of a boss kills you with one-hit you’ll want to scream blue-murder. When it happens again your blood will boil. Then when you finally figure out you’re suppose to block the attack and hope you have enough energy left to survive you’ll be filed with a downright pessimistic attitude instead of the joy you’d expect after your victory. Then when you have to replay rather large sections due to the games sporadic use of save points you’ll feel even worse.

Then there are the camera issues which does not help matters either, with most enemies that use projectile attacks always seemingly appearing just out of your sight range. However, while fighting at close-quarters the camera is thankfully somewhat better, but it still needs to be babysat with right thumb-stick to find the best position to see your foe. Ultimately, where the games falters most is that it fails to improve significantly on its much loved predecessor, at times even taking a step back.

Another noticeable problem this time round is the game’s distinct linearity, and the fact that it doesn’t try to hide from you that it’s always funneling Ryu towards one solitary goal on each level. Sure, you could agree that the Xbox original did the same. But four years is a long time in the world of games, and with other titles finding clever ways to hide the fact their guiding you, the distinct lack of something similar in NGII leaves you with the feeling that Team Ninja were happy to create a game much the same as before instead of taking things to the next level.

However, even in the face of all this adversity Ninja Gaiden II is, in parts, still a fun game to play. When it manages to get something right it’s almost magic. For the most part I will admit the combat remains tight, and the combo system continues to be engaging, thus offering some solid entertainment throughout the adventure (once you’re not being blindsided by the game’s nuisance collection). The new limb removal combat element – the only solid new feature that effects gameplay – is top notch as well. Furthermore, when you combine this with the beautiful animation, it makes the game stunning to look at while playing as everyone moves fluidly and realistically, even though they are copious amounts of blood spouting from their wounds.

Unfortunately, when shown close-up – particularly in cutscenes – the game still boasts characters that look like plastic action figures so it is not impressive at all times. Of course, when talking about the cutscenes you could also point at the stupidity of the story as another point of concern. However, it borders on such farce that it transforms itself into the ‘so bad its good’ feeling you get from many an old-school B-movies.

So, in the end the game is best described as an acceptable update in terms of presentation, but regretfully somewhat lacking in the new gameplay features the move to a new generation should demand. Regretfully, it is far from the spectacular game many hoped it would be when it was first announced. It grasps on too tightly to what came before, refusing to give gamers the freedom other games in this generation have offered. In addition, the game is just far too inconsistent to considered a classic as the Xbox version was, and you always seem to get the feeling it’s a game that could have offered so much more.

6 out of 10
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