By Nathan Meunier
On the NES, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos included cutscene imagery of 8-bit blood dripping from a sword at one point as well as a pool of blood. This was censored in the SNES port of the trilogy by making the blood green. Pentagrams were also removed from the game.
Released in a time when gamers have grown more accustomed to graphic violence in action titles, the 2004 Xbox revival of the series made up for years of relatively tame swordplay. Ryu's ninja skill was now able to siphon ample volumes of the precious red fluid from foes and send it spilling forth onto nearby walls, into the air, and on the dusty ground. Even better, a quick flick of the Ryu's sword could also lop the heads clean off opponents and send them arcing through the air in a blood-misted display.
The gore was dialed-down to nothingness for the release of Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword on the Nintendo DS, though the game features intuitive stylus-based combat and picks up the story six months after the events in Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox. In contrast, the upcoming Ninja Gaiden II for Xbox 360 promises to tip the bloodbath scale to epic levels.
No longer content with mere beheadings (though this time the stumps spray fountains of blood several feet into the air like in old-school samurai films), Itagaki and his team have elevated the gut-churning carnage in Ninja Gaiden II to an artistic ballet of flying body parts. The lush scenery is Ryu's canvas; fiendishly twisted bladed weapons are his paintbrushes; and the crimson lifeblood of his mortal foes is in great supply to fuel this macabre masterpiece. Consequently, Ninja Gaiden II is shaping up to be the Hamburger Hill of the series. The game is not only incredibly bloody; the blood looks insurmountably real.
Like a psychotic, out-of-control surgeon, Ryu wields a bevy of hardcore weaponry to grind his foes into small bits. The giant scythe is particularly awesome, but players will have additional implements to cause bodily harm, including dual-katanas, missile weapons, and extended ninja claws, among others. Moreover, the damage they cause in combat is instantly apparent. Limbs are removed with dazzling ease, and opponents can actually be ripped completely in half. The visceral accompaniment of flying gore, body parts, and entrails is jaw-dropping. As a perfect added touch, Ryu even takes a moment to shake the blood off his weapons before sheathing them…sheer brilliance.