by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
A History of Bloodletting
In 1989 one of the most beloved titles of the 8-bit era of gaming, Ninja Gaiden, saw a release onto store shelves and quickly became a part of gaming history. Renowned for its difficulty as well as its sheer fun factor the game garnered two sequels before suddenly disappearing into the mists of history seemingly never to reappear again. All hope was not lost however as in 2002 Tecmo announced that the series would be making a return under the guidance of in house developer Team Ninja and headed up by Tomonobu Itagaki, creator of the Dead or Alive series known of his “bad boy” behavior and work ethic. Re-imagined within the universe of DOA, the 2004 release of Ninja Gaiden saw rave reviews, though not without complaints on some components, and quickly became a key title in the Xbox lineup.
Ninja Gaiden II, hot off the presses and an Xbox 360 exclusive, is in stores now and has a lot to live up to. But can it make up for the flaws that its predecessor had?
Vengence: Best Served Cold
Tecmo’s creation in 1989 wowed gamers with some of the first cut scenes ever to appear in a console game with a storyline that was, while simplistic, still fun. The 2004’s Ninja Gaiden story was filled with plot twists and mysterious figures galore, but the end result wasn’t as promising as it could have been. It seems that Ninja Gaiden II stakes its name and tagline on being a quest for revenge though it’s quite clear that Tecmo has dropped the ball in this regard.
The story, occurring an undisclosed amount of time after Murai’s betrayal and the destruction of the Vigoor Empire, once again follows Ryu Hayabusa, one of the last descendants of the Hyabusa Dragon Ninja Clan and protector of the Dragon Sword. After having encountered and rescued a scantily clad CIA agent named Sonia from his arch nemesis the Black Spider Clan, Ryu goes off on a world-spanning pursuit. He wants to find Genshin, leader of said clan, and Elizibet, queen of the Greater Fiends, who have wounded Ryu’s father Joe and stolen the Demon Statue, an ancient relic whose power ensures the eternal slumber of the Arch Fiend.
Sounds like the basis for a good story, right? Sadly this is not the case. In all the globe-trotting it’s clear that Tecmo forgot what they were advertising and decided to minimize the story into a ridiculously basic and ludicrous one even by Tecmo’s standards. The only interesting part of the plot curtails not to the events occurring in the game but rather the various memos and diaries you can find on the corpses of other fallen ninja. The wannabe love plot between Sonia and impotent Ryu is shallow and unfulfilling while his quest for revenge simply becomes a slaughter fest of boss after boss without any feeling of justice served for Joe. Ninja Gaiden II definitely won’t be winning any awards for its storyline, but then again, you’re not here for that, are you?
Sliced, Diced, or Made Whole?
What makes the Ninja Gaiden series so great are its tight controls and wicked gameplay that goes along well with its unyielding difficulty level. However, while this new now-gen title has quite a bit of promise with an expansion of the previous game in 2005 and a refinement of the same game in 2007 it’s clear that the opportunity to fix many of the issues was, for the most part, passed by. Just like its predecessor, Ninja Gaiden II once again suffers from a maddening camera system that can lead to near controller-throwing frustration at times. Especially since every single enemy is designed specifically to kill the player instead of being there to be hammered upon. The game is also very unfriendly to newcomers to both Ninja Gaiden and fast-paced actions games alike as its difficulty makes even the most experienced players see a ‘game over’ screen time and time again.
No Pros and Cons at this time