Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ninja Gaiden II

Game: Ninja Gaiden II

System: Xbox 360

Release: June 2008

Ninja Gaiden II is reported as one of my top five most anticipated games of 2008. This game delivers an action packed adventure drenched in blood, body parts, and death. The story is simplistic, vague, and not the most impressive part of the game. Basically there are these monsters called Fiends that are somehow related to the notorious Black Spider Ninja Clan—sworn enemy of the Dragon Linage. A CIA agent, the well endowed blond, comes to Tokyo to warn Ryu of an attack on his village. The Black Spider Clan steals the Demon Statue which is obviously bad juju. Ordered by his father to follow the thieves, Ryu sets off on his journey that ends with the death of the Archfiend—king of bad juju. Of course there are more characters, but the story doesn’t matter, and is merely a raison d'ĂȘtre for Ryu Hayabusa to mutilate the masses.

Mutilation is fun! Really fun! Pick from eight different weapons and go nuts. Each weapon has a unique handling system that seems to suite a variety of play styles. Do you want to pull of the ridiculous 89 hit combo with the Vigoorian Flails on a few unsuspecting ninjas? Would you like to decapitate an enemy, plunge a Scythe into the neck stump, and throw it into the next victim? Or maybe the old fashion Dragon Sword tickles your fancy?

If any of these questions produces a YES, then please read on. In the previous Ninja Gaiden many enemies found their head rolling on the floor. In the second rendition, the head will be joined by the legs, arms, and torsos. Maimed victims will be open to OBLITERATION techniques that kill enemies instantly. Ryu is also temporary invincible during this time because the camera usually pans out and the animation is scripted. This sounds sort of weak on paper, but in practice it is simply beautiful. OBLITERATION—caped for sheer awesomeness—techniques can also be performed on numerous bosses. Each weapon has a different animation. In addition the angle of the strike, appendage lost, and enemy will effect the stylistic death.

The other two significant changes involve magic and the ultimate technique. The ultimate techniques have seen one major change. Projectile weapons are now chargeable. This means there is another source of destruction, and the projectile weapons like the bow will be used in key boss fights. The traditional ultimate technique remains in tact from Ninja Gaiden: Black. The time of the charge is dependent on the weapon, and each phase produces a different animation. Mastering the ultimate technique, along with the OBLITERATION moves, are vital to beating this game.

Two fire Nimpo spells return from the older game. The fire ball is back, and is still arguably the best spell in the game. The other Nimpo original, however, could have stayed in the past. The spell spawns small phoenixes that circle Ryu, and supposedly absorbs damage. They fail at life. The spell does not give the extra seconds of immunity which is the primary reason for having Nimpo in the game, and they disappear rather quickly. The two new spells add something new to the mix. The wind spell acts like a tornado of blades and is similar to the ice spell from the previous game. It is very effective at close range. The shadow spell is a giant ball of death that can be aimed by the player from an over the shoulder perspective, and grants the most control out of all the spells. Casting Nimpo, in general, is given greater control. Players can direct Ryu in a general direction and the HUD highlights the target that you want destroyed. With elements of the previous game, and some new functionality and destructibility the Nimpo system is a critical and enjoyable part of Ninja Gaiden II.

Veterans of the series will find many new additions to the simplistically deep combat system of Ninja Gaiden: Black. Weapons, magic, and consumables are all accessible with the D-pad. Pressing Up or Down will pause the game, and allow the user to switch weapons or heal. This is extremely convenient in comparison to the previous Pause dependent system, and allows for smoother game play. Players are also given improved camera controls. During boss fights the Right Bumper will toggle the camera from you to the boss, and the Left Bumper allows the user to look around in a first person POV. Unfortunately, all of these improvements still fail to prevent frustrating moments throughout the game.

Ninja Gaiden II has a few moments that are extremely annoying. The camera panning into a wall and obstructing the players view is never enjoyable. Boss fights can be either extremely difficult or simplistic because of certain moves and camera angles. Save points restores the health bar, which is great, but the player cannot save without healing or save the heal for later. There are also very simplistic level designs that could have used some basic interaction. Maybe some destructible environments, or more acrobatic set ups like the fight in the clock tower would have added that extra something that wasn’t in the original.

Still, despite these issues, the combat system is one of the best around. There is improved functionality, new magic, weapons, and you can even record the carnage with Ninja Cinema. Games like Ninja Gaiden do not come around often. The entertainment lies in the 30 seconds of fun that you have killing thousands of enemies. The AI is smart and responsive. The moves look fantastic. The replay value is relatively high for a game with no multiplayer. The game offers a challenge that is reminiscent of the old arcade games and unique to next gen gaming. The few faults that I can find with the game knock down the score by a whole .2---4.8 out of 5.

Now go buy this game and kick some ass!

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