Review: Ninja Gaiden II

NinjaGaiden2.jpg Ninja Gaiden is one of those series that I don’t quite understand the fascination with. I guess it’s the whole idea of ninjas and extreme violence that attracts so many followers, but me, I simply don’t think the games are that well made. While I never did play the original Xbox release or Black, I did complete the entirety of the PS3 Sigma port – widely considered the best version of the three – and while finding it reasonably enjoyable didn’t see what made it the classic I’d heard it called so much. Ninja Gaiden II, the true sequel to 2004’s Xbox outing, has left me in much the same boat, only this time reasonably enjoyable has turned into outright hatred.

That’s right, folks. I hate Ninja Gaiden II on the 360 with a passion. Hardcore Ninja Gaiden purists can flame me all they want for not “learning” how to play the game – the frequent excuse I hear apologists give to bash gamers who don’t like it – but I’m sorry, this game just plain sucks.

On the surface all appears fine and dandy. You play as Ryu, a badass ninja on a lengthy quest basically consisting of slicing demons into piles of mutilated body parts with all sorts of deadly weapons, from swords to staves to claws to clubs to chain blades. The gore is excessive and rather spectacular to behold. Problem is, the guys at Team Ninja seemed to care so much about pointing out the blood and guts and making the action look cool with cinematic dismemberment camera flourishes that they forgot to develop gameplay that’s actually, you know, functional.

The camera system is the culprit behind Ninja Gaiden II’s downfall. As far as I’m concerned, it completely kills any good elements the game has to offer. I constantly hear about how hard Ninja Gaiden is, but to me it really isn’t that difficult from the game itself providing a stiff, fair challenge, but more the fact that the camera sucks so bad that you are constantly pounded on by out-of-view enemies. It’s cheap and it’s frustrating, and it drives me absolutely insane. The piss-poor camera also makes seemingly simple tasks like wall running and platform jumping a total pain in the ass. Of course, Ryu’s touchy handling compounds the problem, as does the cramped level designs that often leave nowhere for the camera to go even if it were designed well.

It’s a shame, too, because during the few fleeting moments when you can keep track of what’s going on and luck into avoiding cheap shots from off-screen attackers, the combat system is fast, fluid and satisfying – it certainly puts Sigma’s combat to shame when it works. But sadly, the camera rarely ever does succeed in keeping up with the action, so ultimately it’s not worth the aggravation. No, seriously, it isn’t. I honestly gave up halfway through the game because I couldn’t put up with the camera any longer. That’s a rare occurrence, too. Trust me, it takes a lot to deter me from completing even the crummiest of games.

There is a whole lot more to why Ninja Gaiden II has left me underwhelmed, like the abundance of invisible barriers, graphics that aren’t much improved from Sigma, the inconsistent framerate and some pretty serious bugs (a couple of times Ryu actually plummeted through the ground and vanished from the game world), but generally speaking, the camera system is the game’s executioner. I know a lot of you love it to pieces, but to me Ninja Gaiden II is a mess of a game that I am more than happy to forget about.

SkipIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Spectacular gore and dismemberment effects
+ Fast and fluid combat system can be enjoyable

Cons:
– One of the worst video game camera systems ever
– Touchy, slippery controls make the platforming elements a chore
– Inconsistent framerate and a lot of bugs
– Other than the spewing blood and flailing limbs, the graphics aren’t all that impressive

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 6/3/08
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!