Video Game Review: Ninja Gaiden II (360)

Time for my first complete review. While I’m playing a game, I’ll keep you updated with my Currently Playing posts. Upon completion, I’ll write up an overall review. The games that I don’t finish (or at least get close enough to finishing) won’t get a full write-up – but I might write a little blurb about why I stopped playing the game (I’m looking at you, Dead Rising).

I’ll discuss four things that I find important in the medium of video games:

Story, which deals with the game’s story.

Presentation, which encompasses the game’s visuals, sound, and UI.

Gameplay, which will entail the mechanics of playing the game.

Technical, which is composed of the technical achievements and faults in the game.

Finally, I’ll wrap up with my overall view of the game, and rate it based on three options:

Worth the purchase – I got my $60 worth, and really enjoyed the game. Might play it again down the line.

Worth a rental/bargain – The game was alright, but I probably wouldn’t play it again. I would’ve been OK with moving on halfway through the game.

Skip it – The game isn’t very enjoyable and not worth my money nor time.

I’ll try to keep this constant, but I might later find it necessary to add more (like ‘effifiency of the usage of mullets’).


In Ninja Gaiden II, you play as Ryu Hayabusa. Ryu is a ninja (ish) who is tasked with preventing the Archfiend from being awakened. In order to do this, he joins forces with a busty CIA agent who doesn’t grasp the concept of kevlar. The pair travel the world in pursuit of a rag-tag team of evil-doers, determined to bring various monsters back to life. As you go, you fight various monsters, army men, ninjas, robot fat guys, and everything inbetween. It all seems pretty hastily thrown together, with the high points being when no one is talking and no ill-dressed females are in the shot. This accounts for about 3% of the cinematics.

Essentially, I never feel intrigued by Ninja Gaiden II’s story. I can actually be OK with that, as I don’t think that’s what this game is about. Really, they’re just looking for a reason for the player to go chop up some dudes. And, really, that’s alright – because with Ninja Gaiden II, I really just want to go chop up some dudes. The problem is that it doesn’t let me ignore the story. I can’t skip cutscenes the first time through…and there are a lot of them. I can’t imagine who’d want to use the Ninja Theater feature, where you can view all of the cutscenes.


Ninja Gaiden II doesn’t represent the same leap forward in graphics that Ninja Gaiden got so much praise for during its prime. It is pretty much on par with anything out for this generation. In fact, the animations are not as smooth as many high-profile games that have come out recently. There’s also not a large attention to detail – you can really tell sometimes that they just assumed that what they wanted was too expensive, so they simplified it. For example, there’s a skull monster that comes out of a pile of bones – instead of making it look like he actually came from under a pile of bones, he just kind of appears there as most of the bones disappear.

There were some really cool environments, however. The backgrounds of some of the later levels are especially intriguing – really open space filled with skulls, fiends, and blood. Yes, some parts of these levels look like you were traveling through some female reproductive organs, but others are quite brilliant. Some parts of the game remind me of the wonderful environments in God of War, but they are few and far between (and never to the same grand scale).

In terms of visual style, it’s pretty normal until you run into character designs. The women are barely dressed, if at all. The monsters are absolutely ridiculous, consisting of robot body parts, some flesh, and a lot of spikes. The two-headed robots with big boobs and four pointy legs actually annoy me so much that I avoided them. The bosses are just as bad, my favorite being the wolves whose jaws were so unhinged that they looked like they evolved from King Dodongo.

The UI was easy enough to navigate, I don’t really have any problems there. It worked similarly the 360’s blade setup, so it was very recognizable. It is very simple and functional

As far as sound goes, it’s decent. I couldn’t tell if the voice actors are terrible or if they just couldn’t disguise that they knew they were reading horrible dialogue. There are some wierd sounds that don’t seem right, such as when the armadillo chews on Ryu. I would think a person would sound a little more crunchy than a mouthful of ketchup packets. The sound effects from the weapons and environment are a little cheezy, but were fun nonetheless. I honestly do not remember what the music is like. Must not be very memorable.


All of that and I haven’t even gotten to the best part. Here it is, the reason I got through the whole game, brushing aside the awful story and ridiculous characters. This game plays great – it is a lot of fun to dodge around, slicing into people, jumping off of walls, etc. The combat is fast and fluid, for the most part. I’d really like the ability to change weapons on the fly, because I feel that that adds a bit more strategy into the mix as you can hot-swap between weapons of different strengths.

Speaking of weapons, I loved the weapons. You have a great selection at your disposal by the end of the game, and they all offer different eye candy for obliteration techniques. The differences in their usage are ranged from obvious (power vs. speed) to subtle (wider range vs. more concentrated blows). As far as the different combos exposed, I couldn’t really comment. I simply mashed buttons as I moved Ryu into position to evade or attack. I would follow patterns in order to perform specific moves (such as swinging around in the air with the Vigoorian flail), but I never knew precisely the button combination to perform the action.

There is a fairly limited variety of enemies, but they’re mixed up enough to keep it fresh most of the time. Some enemies are really easy (like these little skeleton scorpion things), while others will take some focus (freaking exploding shuriken throwing dogs). Still others, are seemingly made just to annoy you. The guys who shoot 6 rocket bursts and attack in groups were especially frustrating, becuase if you are hit once, you aren’t be able to move for awhile. Enemies that uses exploding shuriken can get pretty annoying in large numbers as well. These enemies are really the only ones that made the game difficult. I played on the easiest mode to avoid giving the game up in frustration, and I was able to beat the game fairly easily. Many boss battles I won in one or two tries. The bosses are fun and engaging, and not too challenging. Once you get the boss’ patterns down, you can execute the necessary reactions with some skill.

Another cool part of Ninja Gaiden II is the acrobatics. Running along walls, jumping off of enemy shoulders, and running across water are all a lot of fun to utilize in combat. There are also some navigational puzzles solved through these things, but they never get very interesting.


As you may have noticed above, I really enjoyed Ninja Gaiden II’s gameplay; however, one huge technical problem degraded the experience for everything I listed above: the camera. Throughout the entire game, you have to fight the camera. You must constantly manage it – sometimes you have to use ‘R’ to center it behind you; othertimes you have to move the right stick to get the correct view; and still other times you’re just shit out of luck – it wants you to look at that thing, no matter what you can or can’t see.

The worst of this occurred when I had to defeat two lava armadillos. It seemed like they just added another instance of an armadillo – the problem being that the two kept fighting over who got the camera’s attention. Often, they’d start bouncing around and I wouldn’t know where I was or which armadillo I was looking at – it would go back and forth, with Ryu nowhere in sight. I died quite a few times on this boss battle simply because I had no idea what was going on – Lord knows those things are easy pickings when you get them figured out. The same thing would happen when in part of an acrobatics puzzle – you always had to keep the camera in control, is it would do as it pleased. I’m still not really sure how to control Ryu moving along a rope – it never seemed in line with the camera.

There were also some limitations put upon acrobatics. I presume that this is due to the way things are put together. For example, you can only perform the flying bird technique in specific areas – even if another area had close enough walls, you couldn’t perform it.

I also noticed a lot of clipping and hit detection problems while playing, especially with large enemies or non-level terrain. I also noticed a drop in framerate when a lot of enemies were on screen, particularly when a lot of particals from metal clashing were around. Enemies would also occasinally get stuck on obstacles or appear out of nowhere.

Other than that, the game is pretty stable. I didn’t encounter any crashes, game-breaking bugs, or anything of that nature. My hat is off to these guys, of course, as I’d bet they’re brighter and/or more experienced than I am. Finding a proper and efficient bounding box to a 15 foot tall dragon probably isn’t an easy task to take on.

Final Verdict

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing this game – and that’s what really counts. There’s a lot of playability here; if I had the free time, I’d probably start on the higher difficulty. Not sure I’ll ever get to that, however. My rating for Ninja Gaiden II?

Worth the purchase

I loved the gameplay. It kept me interested even when a lot of other things were annoying. This game definitely isn’t perfect, but I had a great time.