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.

Currently Playing…

Ninja Gaiden 2

I was close to quiting tonight, as the beginning to chapter 8 sucks.  I definately hate the guys that spit out 40 rockets/second.  Whatever happened to blocking nuclear explosions?  But no, I have to get 30 rockets to the face along with giant mech guys along with dogs throwing exploding shurikens…and whatever else there was.  I ended up saving after each battle, and running people around to avoid the rocket dudes.  After all that was over, things got better.  That is, there were fewer 30 rockets/second guys.

Not a fan of the exploding shurikens either, but I’ll deal with that.  The beginning to this chapter ensured I wouldn’t go play on path of the Warrior.


Currently Playing…Demo Edition

Last night I spent some time checking out some of the newer demos released on XBL.

Mercenaries 2

I thought this game looked pretty fun.  All of the videos and previews show how much you blow stuff up.  Seeing buildings crumble below air strikes and the like in an open-world environment sounded pretty fun.  Either this demo sucks, or that mentality is not given enough weight in the retail release.  I feel as though it might be the former, as the explosions were definitely cool.  The only problem was that I only had 10 grenades and the rocket launcher didn’t last as long as I wanted either.  The tank was pretty entertaining, as you could level some of the smaller buildings; however, it just didn’t seem to find a balance between ‘freaking awesome explosion God’ and ‘dude running around shooting other dudes’…I didn’t really want to use a gun.  I wanted to blow everything up.  Yet, I had to use the gun.

This seems like it’d be a really fun co-op game with cheat codes adding in random helicopters and weapons, but I don’t think I’d want to play it on my own.  It also lacked some polish.  The animations seem a little stale, and the controls didn’t feel right (‘A’ to push on the gas in a car?  really?).  There was also a mini-game for stealing a tank that was pretty uninteresting, not challenging, and annoying halfway through the first time you do it.  To steal a tank, you run up on the tank’s gun barrel, pull the pilot out by his shoulder and headbutt him.  Yes, the dude with a mohawk headbutts the soldier, who happens to also be wearing a helmet, and the soldier gets disoriented.  Interesting.  Then, you pull a grenade off of the soldier’s jacket and then play tug of war with the grenade until you get it, take out the pin, and throw it down the hatch.  Yes, you do that every time you want a tank.

The AI was pretty bad as well…granted, in these types of games I’m not expecting 400 Jason Bournes running around.  However, when I was performing the aforementioned tank steal, another guy was standing on top of the tank, apparantly trying to look alert as though his boss were watching him.  So here I am, wrestling a grenade from some poor fragile-skulled tank pilot, and the guy apparantly wasn’t paying attention during the ‘what to do when a mohawk guy is stealing a tank’ training video.

I think if I had the actual game, I might have some fun with it after getting some cash and having the ability to buy more explosives.  Until I have an abundance of time to play games, however, I’ll probably pass on this.


This one surprised me.  I actually had fun with it.  The ground raising/lowering mechanic is pretty fun and adds a dynamic twist to the action.  The character design looks pretty stupid, honestly, and the story looks to be as interesting as a “Dora the Explorer” episode; however, the gunplay is pretty fun with the addition of the ground lowering and raising.

A good example of the use of this is at the end of the demo, when you are tasked to wait for a transport to get you out of the area.  It is simply a defend this fortification for x amount of minutes from an endless supply of enemies.  The first time I played this part, I simply shot everyone that came out.  This worked for a few moments, but eventually the large amount of people overtook where I was and they took me out (granted, I forgot there was a melee attack).  The second time, I raised the ground surrounding the fortification to its highest point, making it harder for the soldiers to get to the fortification.  This made things easier for me, as I just kept raising the ground when they lowered it and stayed on top to take guys out as they climbed the hills.  Not a one of them got close enough for me to forget my melee button.

I’m concerned about how fresh the concept will stay in the campaign, but I think it’ll make for some interesting multiplayer.

Fifa 09

Oh, sweet, sweet Fifa.  So, it’s an annual sports franchise.  That means no one looks at the game as a whole, we instead just look at the improvements they’ve made since last year.  Graphically, I’m not sure the models and textures are any better (if not a little worse); however, the animations have gotten noticeably better, which is more important for timing attacks and the like.  The ball physics also look much better from last year’s, and it all seems to run a little smoother.  I didn’t fire up Fifa 08 to compare the models and textures, so I don’t know how they compare (just from memory, they seem worse).  Anyone else care to comment on that?

As far as features, not much is shown in the demo.  There’s some added improvements to team management.  You can adjust how your team works together a lot better.  The UI is also easier to see, as they made the ‘kick strength’ meter more contrasted, so it is easier to see how hard your kick will be with your peripheral vision.

Not sure I’ll pick it up, as I know something better will be out in another year.  With annual releases, I typically end up picking up every other entry.  They literally had a bullet point at the end of the demo that you can customize your control profile and ‘easily take it online’, so you know they’re reaching for new features.

Madden 09

It’s Madden.  It’s continuing on it’s line of improvements, but I’m not sure I’ll stay interested enough in it after the season’s over and I’m no longer watching the games.  The game set the difficulty to between All-Pro and All-Madden for me, even though I rarely play Madden games, so I’m pretty skeptical of its accuracy.  The demo only lets you replay one Madden moment, though, so I haven’t a clue as to how it stacks up in the long term.  Maybe I’ll pick it up once it hits the bargain bin so that I have a football game to play.

I also continued on one of the full games I’ve been playing.

Ninja Gaiden 2

I just beat the skeleton miniboss in chapter 6 or 7.  Depending on what he did, I could kill him without being touched, or he would kill me (mainly because I didn’t want to waste items when I could kill him without using them).  I’m still enjoying it, but I sure wish I could skip the cutscenes the first time through.

Gracious..that was a lot.


Currently Playing…

From time to time I might update on what game(s) I’m currently playing and any thoughts I have on them.

Games right now:

Ninja Gaiden 2

I’m finding this a lot more fun than I expected.  Granted, I’m playing in the lowest difficulty – but I didn’t want to get too frustrated with it.  I’m finding it a bit too easy, but I prefer that over giving up the game because it eventually gets too frustrating to have fun with it.  The camera is pretty bad – you really have to manage it a lot.  The character designs are absolutely ridiculous, but I guess that’s how NG fans like it[, JIM].  The story is equally forgettable.  The combat, however, is a lot of fun.  It’s fast-paced and brutal, with a pinch of grace tossed in.  I haven’t really used any weapon other than the Shredder gloves (whatever they’re called) since I got them, though…which makes me wonder if there isn’t too much balancing on the weapons, or if my play style just makes them work better for me.

Resistance: Fall of Man

I just started on this on Friday night.  I bought it because I felt like getting a new game and thought expanding my PlayStation 3 library to 2 might make it more worth it (haven’t bought too many Blu-Ray movies yet).  I can tell that its design is a bit dated, but I’m enjoying it overall.  I haven’t played too much of it, so I can’t comment much on the details.  The only weapon I’ve gained is the standard issue gun to the Chimera.  It’s pretty interesting – utilizing the secondary fire as a tag to attract bullets to a la The Fifth Element.  I played a bit of the multiplayer, and the spawn points are atrocious.  I didn’t play long enough to find out anything else about it.

Dead Rising

I’m not sure if I should leave this on the list, as I’m not too sure I’ll ever go back to this game.  Lord knows I’m late to the party, but good God is the save system bad in this game.  I’m also missing the 2 years of third-person control standardizing that has happened since its release, as the controls are definately not optimal.  I loved the demo, because the zombies were hilarious and I could find lots of things in the mall that made killing the zombies even more fun.  However, with the objectives added in with the time limits, I’m finding all the charm draining.  It also drives me crazy that in the first area there aren’t any good stores around.  I took this out of my tray and started on NG2 a week and a half ago, and with Fallout 3, Fable 2, and Mirror’s Edge approaching, I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever give this game another shot.  Lord knows I definately won’t be getting the X-Buster.