previewed on X360
For action game junkies like myself, Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden series could always be counted on to deliver a fast-paced and challenging experience. Ever since the good ol’ NES games, when it was 2D and played like Castlevania on steroids, Ninja Gaiden has had a special place in the hearts of gamers everywhere. Though it only lived to see three games on the NES, Team Ninja (previously known for making Dead or Alive good) revived the franchise in glorious 3D with Ninja Gaiden for the XBOX (2004). Although we were teased a bit with Ninja Gaiden Black and Sigma, re-releases of the 2004 game with numerous extra features and improved graphics, we were never given a true sequel to what some call the most brutal action game ever made - that is, until now. Fans couldn’t be happier.
What we know about this game has ninja dogs like me filled to a dangerous level with anticipation. There will be awesome new weapons and Ninpo. Numerous design changes have made sure the action will never let up. Blood and disembodied heads fly everywhere at all times. Most importantly however, it looks even more intense than its predecessor ever was. Ryu’s back, and he wants revenge more than ever.
Perfecting the Formula
From what I’ve seen of the sequel, I am pleased to report that the gameplay looks nearly identical to that of the three Ninja Gaidens that came before it (save for the Rachael sections of Sigma that were sloppy and slow). That is to say, combat moves at a lightning pace, almost never lessening in intensity. Players can select from a variety of weapons, each with unique attacking and blocking capabilities, and can unleash showy finishing moves to dispose of foes in plenty of gory ways. If you still aren’t satisfied with Ryu’s basic arsenal, never fear; he can also dish out pain with Ninpo (ninja magic) or throwing weapons like shruikens. When you’re not fighting hordes of enemies, there are numerous platforming sequences where you must use Ryu’s awesome array of ninja skills (including wall-jumping, water-running, etc.) to navigate perilous platforms almost in Super Mario 64 style.
The core gameplay is to remain the same, but many new features have been added to hopefully enhance the players’ experience. For starters, the time needed to spend in menus has been drastically decreased; killing foes can instantly restore your health instead of just giving you items that had to be used through going into an inventory screen (although health-restoring items apparently won’t be done away with altogether; but we can probably expect to see less). Also, weapon equipment has been moved to the D-Pad, allowing you to switch between hand weapons, Ninpo, and throwing weapons without going into the pause menu. Unfortunately, you can’t do this on the fly (yet), but the prospect of never needing to pause again is still pretty good.
Other design changes won’t change the experience much. Although seeing new weapons such as a scythe reminiscent of Rachael’s from Sigma and a completely bad-assed pair of wolverine claws make the already sweet deal sweeter. As well as a new hurricane Ninpo that promises to dismember any unfortunate person who steps in your way.
The last part of Ninja Gaiden worth noting at the time of this writing is the graphics, which look absolutely amazing on the 360 even this early in development. Scenes of a combat-heavy stage set in Venice where Ryu brings down legions of foes only to find himself facing a half-human, half-spider monstrosity show the 360 working at its full potential. The images that are conjured up of Ryu and some unfortunate demons are looking better than ever. While I am a bit concerned about the backgrounds, which were fairly bland, Ninja Gaiden 2 is shaping up to be one of the best-looking games on the 360.
The fact that enemies no longer die quietly makes the game a lot more fun to watch. They have their limbs torn off and stagger around bleeding before finally succumbing. This may sound strange at first, but it’s almost like the gore is a new form of art direction. After Ryu finishes with his foes, you can bet that the battlefield behind him will be almost unrecognizable from the amounts of blood your foes have spilled. Maybe I’m a bit sick minded, but I’ll have to say it adds to Ninja Gaidens 2’s brilliance, and is just another reason to consider picking it up next year.