Of The Ninja Guy
of Ninja Gaiden II is a simple one: The Black Spider Ninja
Clan kidnaps a really hot chick and beats the crap out of
her. That's not cool, so Ryu Hayabusa flips out and kills
the whole town. Along the way he saves the world, but that's
beside the point.
have succeeded in creating a game that is both one of the
most beautiful, and one of the most violent. Ryu's travels
take him to such locales as Sky City Tokyo, New York City,
the Amazon, and even the depths of Hell. The detail rendered
in all of these is impressive in it's extent, and provide
the backdrop for a virtual gorefest. One almost feels bad
for staining such beautiful scenery with huge splatters of
blood and bits. The game has a Mature rating, and it is well
earned; the dismemberment of Ryu's enemies is a vital part
of the game's strategy.
mostly on two attack buttons: X (light attack), and Y (heavy
attack). The two can be linked together, along with a few
miscellaneous directional presses, to execute moves and combos.
Ryu begins the game equipped with the Dragon Sword. During
the course of his adventures he can upgrade it several times,
up to a maximum level of 4. With each new upgrade comes a
selection of new moves and combos. While certain key hits
in the various combos seem to have a higher chance of dismemberment,
it does appear that any one individual attack does have the
ability to do so as well. Once an enemy has lost a limb, getting
close to that enemy and pressing Y will perform an instant
kill move, known as an Obliteration Technique. During these,
the camera zooms in for a closer look at the carnage, as Ryu
chops heads off left and right without even thinking twice
dismembering of enemies, followed by Obliteration Techniques,
becomes a central part of the game. The corpses, severed limbs,
and blood puddles become permanent landmarks of Ryu's passage;
they never fade or disappear. Often they'll even stick to
to Obliteration Techniques, Ryu can also perform massive super
combos referred to as Ultimate Techniques. These are done
by holding down the Y button to build up a charge. At a level
1 charge, Ryu will emit a blue glow. At level 2, the glow
will turn red. Releasing the Y button will execute the Ultimate
Technique on the nearest enemy. If the enemy is defeated partway
through the Ultimate Technique, Ryu will teleport to the next
nearest enemy and continue the combo.
Techniques are, of course, extremely powerful, but they do
have a slow charge time. Luckily there is a way to instantly
change them. Whenever an enemy is defeated, it drops either
a Yellow, Blue, or Red Essence. Yellow Essence is used as
currency at the weapon and item shop. Blue Essence restores
Ryu's Hit Points. And Red Essence refills his Ninpo (Ninja
Magic) meter. However, if you initiate an Ultimate Technique
charge with any of these in the air, Ryu will absorb them
for an instant charge. Putting two and two together, it doesn't
take one long to realize that chaining Ultimate Techniques
together is a very useful and powerful strategy. The one downside
to this is that any Essence absorbed into an Ultimate Technique
does not count towards Ryu's money, HP, or Ninpo values. Thus
some discretion is advisable, especially when Blue or Red
Essence is nearby. Those are better off collected for their
through the game, Ryu will find additional weapons to add
to his arsenal. These are the Lunar Staff, the Claws, the
Tonfa, the Kasari-gama, the Eclipse Scythe, the Vigorian Flail,
and the Dual Katanas. All of these can be upgraded at the
weapon shop, in exchange for Yellow Essence. While some weapons
are better suited than others in different situations, there
does not seem to be any one particular weapon that is overall
better than any other. Opinions will vary, but it all comes
down to personal preference, as it is possible to complete
the game using only one weapon all the way through. There
are even achievements for doing just that.
has a variety of ranged weapons at his disposal. He starts
the game with an unlimited supply of Throwing Stars. As in
Devil May Cry 4, as they are a ranged weapon of unlimited
supply, they are also incredibly weak. The Throwing Stars
main purpose is to interrupt enemies using ranged or magic
attacks against Ryu as he closes in on them. Early on in the
game, however, Ryu will find a Bow, and a supply of arrows.
The Bow is much more powerful than the Stars, but Ryu can
only carry 30 arrows at a time. When using the Bow, Ryu will
automatically aim at the nearest target, however it is possible
to enter third-person-view mode to aim his shots manually.
This is, of course, especially useful when trying to hit moving
also Incendiary Shuriken, little throwing daggers that somehow
manage to explode when they hit something. As with the arrows,
they can be carried up to a maximum of 30. Both the arrows
and Incendiary Shuriken can be charged in the same manner
as Ultimate Techniques.
out the ranged weapons are the Underwater Gatling Gun and
the Windmill Shuriken. The Underwater Gatling Gun is extremely
powerful, but yeah, it only works underwater. The Windmill
Shuriken is a throwback from the old NES Ninja Gaiden games;
a large star that behaves as a boomerang when thrown. It's
a neat addition but of very limited use.
classic move, the Windflip Throw, is also present in NGII.
Pressing A+X together will execute a flip directly at Ryu's
nearest enemy; press them again to perform the Windflip Throw
from the original Ninja Gaiden arcade game! This move does
not actually damage enemies, unless they are thrown into each
other, or into walls.
Ace up Ryu's sleeve are his various Ninpo arts. There are
four different types of Ninja Magic to be discovered and upgraded.
They are Flame, Windblade, Piercing Void, and Phoenix. The
Flame Ninpo targets up to three enemies at once for massive
damage. Windblades, at the very least, dismember all enemies
in a 10 meter radius, and often kill them outright. Piercing
Void does rediculous damage in a straight line, but must be
manually aimed. And Phoenix does something like reduce damage
Ryu takes when he gets hit, but as soon as he does get hit,
it disperses. It's universally considered to be the least
useful of them all.
in NGII is great. You may even find yourself humming it on
your way to work. Sound effects likewise are pretty adequate.
Slashes, blunt impacts, and the various assortment of grunts
are all done very well. Even the English voice actors did
a terrific job, although Japanese voices are available if
you so desire. The game is subtitled into about 8 different
languages, so regardless of which language you speak, you
will probably be able to follow the storyline.
plays very much like Devil May Cry 4; when trying to figure
out which one is "better", there really is no clear
winner. It really is 16 onces of one and a pound of the other.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the way
they are balanced. DMC4 has extremely easy monsters, offset
by extremely difficult bosses. NGII, on the other hand, has
much more challenge during the actual stages, coupled with
bosses that are not as hard as their DMC4 brethren. Boss fights
generally don't last longer than one minute in NGII, and can
often be over much sooner. You can actually see their HP bars
move when you hit them. Personally, the smoother balance spread
is what makes NGII a better game, in my opinion. Even still,
if I were to give NGII a 9, DMC4 would be a close 8.9.
If you were
to browse the NGII community, however, you would find ample
supply of whiners complaining that NGII is "too hard".
So allow me to put things into perspective here. The game
comes fresh out of the box with two difficulty levels immediately
available: Acolyte (Easy) and Warrior (Normal). I played through
the game first on Acolyte, and while I continued many times,
I never thought it was "cheap" or "too hard".
The second time through I played on Warrior, and I actually
continued LESS times than I had on Acolyte. So while there
is a learning curve, it is certainly not insurmountable. Warrior
difficulty is pretty standard fare once you get the hang of
beat Warrior, though, Mentor (Hard) mode becomes available,
followed by Master Ninja (Insane). These modes are INTENDED
to be ridiculously hard, but should not be used as the basis
for complaint that the game, as a whole, is too hard. Even
after the game had been released for a week, there were already
many people who had beaten all four difficulty modes. Kudos
to Team NINJA for having the balls to make a game that is
actually going to provide gamers with a bit of a challenge,
regardless of the vocal minority and their incessant whining.
so much right, could there possibly be anything wrong? Absolutely.
The game is chock full of issues and glitches, some of them
game-breaking. The most infamous of them all is the Chapter
10 slow-motion staircase. Team NINJA thought it would be funny
to have Ryu ascend a set of stairs with (quite literally)
100 enemy Ninjas attacking him at once. It is at this point
that the game slows to an absolute CRAWL. But that, in itself,
is part of the comedy of it all. They HAD to have known, through
internal testing, that this part of the game was incredibly
laggy, yet they left it in there. Kind of like "Yeah,
we know it's slow, but it's 100 ninjas, isn't that kickass?!"
are not as common, such as various camera and monster behaviours.
One time during the Chapter 6 midboss, my camera got stuck
inside the wall. Several times during the Armadillo bosses,
my camera got stuck in first-person view mode. And there were
a few times when a few of the Skeleton worms of various levels
became transparent, and stuck in an eternal spawn loop. The
latter has even caused major problems for gamers in Chapter
10; all of the worms must be defeated in order to open the
door to the next area. If Ryu defeats all of the worms, then
dies, they do not respawn when the last save point is loaded.
If the player has been using Autosave, they're quite simply
screwed. Only if the player has a manual save at an earlier
point can they resume play without losing too much time. Hopefully
these issues, particularly the latter one, will be soon resolved
by Team NINJA in a downloadable patch.
Itagaki has been at the reigns of Team NINJA for the past
several years, bringing us lots of great Xbox games, including,
of course, Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive. Sadly, in July
2008 he will be resigning from Tecmo due to unpaid bonuses
for his work on Dead or Alive 4. As Tecmo owns the rights
to Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive, those two series will no
doubt continue without him, but without his guidance they
may not live up to their predecessors. Ninja Gaiden II marks
the last of his games with Team NINJA and Tecmo.
a huge contributor to the Xbox platform, perhaps Microsoft
itself will snatch him up into their own studios. I, for one,
hope that he goes to work for Sega, and breathes new life
into their Shinobi series. In reality, it is unclear what
his intentions are, but few believe that we've seen the last
of Tomonobu Itagaki.