|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Team Ninja||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tecmo / Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 3, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
February 11, 2008 - Ninja Gaiden II is going to be one of those must-play games for fans of ninja action. Whether you buy, rent or borrow, if you're into ninja action, you'll probably be playing this game in the near future. If you haven't heard of the Ninja Gaiden franchise, it is actually a pretty old franchise, which has a history that begins on the NES. The series experienced a bit of a slump after a poor unreleased effort on the Sega Master System. But the series was revived to much acclaim in 2004 with Ninja Gaiden, which was released on the Xbox.
This game has spawned several spin-offs, including Ninja Gaiden Black and last year's Ninja Gaiden Sigma. But none of these games were a true sequel to the Xbox hit, rather they were more of a game recap with extra features rather than an actual follow-up. That is where Ninja Gaiden II comes in. Ninja Gaiden II will be a direct continuation of the original Xbox title, and will include many new features while maintaining the franchise's commitment to awesome ninja action.
The game pretty much picks up where the previous game left off with our good friend Ryu Hayabusa. Still seeking revenge for his clan, Ryu finds himself at the heart of a clan war that has been brewing for quite awhile. At the head of this rival clan is Ninja Genshin, who seems to have quite an obsession with our main man Ryu. He has been training a ninja army just to take Ryu out. However, instead of just fighting other ninjas, Ryu Hayabusa will encounter some pretty interesting creatures that he will have to beat down as well. Early screenshots have shown werewolves and spider-like creatures as being among the super-natural beings that Ryu will have to take out. Not too much is known about Genshin, but my guess is that all will be revealed during the course of Ninja Gaiden II.
The real draw to this game, however, is not its storyline (enchanting as it may be) but its gameplay. The original Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox featured gameplay that had a core hack n' slash feel to it, but gave gamers a deeper experience through varied combat options and expansive battle stages. It also utilized an essence system that was linked with special moves and weaponry. Ninja Gaiden II will build on this experience by keeping the core elements of the battle system, but will include special elements that will keep the gameplay fresh.
While the main goal of the gameplay will still be to cut through your rivals, there will be some tweaks along the way to make it more interesting. Chief among these tweaks is an addition to the essence system. Build up enough essence, and you'll be able to use an obliteration technique to finish off your foes fantastically. Think of it like a fatality. These moves will improve players' overall end stage score, and are also pretty cool to watch. Another new gameplay feature will be the addition of a regenerating health bar. While some might decry this as making the game too easy, I think that the trend towards the regenerating health bar seen in most modern FPS games, which have a 5-10 second regeneration time, will transition pretty easily to the Ninja Gaiden franchise. Plus, who doesn't appreciate having to rummage around every few seconds for extra health?
Graphics are going to be stunning in this game. Much like last year's Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PS3, Ninja Gaiden II will feature graphics rendered in full 1080p. And if you have played the latter, you know that Ninja Gaiden II will be beautiful. Ryu Hayabusa is detailed to a fault, with muscles bulging and weaponry gleaming. Environments also feature some breathtaking detail and are an amazing sight to behold. My favorite environment so far has to be the one with cherry blossoms. Early footage shows Ryu slicing someone up in into a bloody mess right in front of a bright pink Sakura tree. The red and pink provide a stunning contrast, and this use of color is simply amazing to behold.
But besides all these great graphical aspects, there does seem to be a little bit of controversy surrounding the visual styling of Ninja Gaiden II, and it revolves around its gore factor. As you can probably tell from screenshots, this game is going to be pretty gory. Like Mortal Kombat in 1080i. And while gore enthusiasts like myself can celebrate the mass dismemberment and lavishly rendered blood sprays, some are speculating that the ESRB might not have the same affinity. Many are concerned that this game will be slapped with the dreaded AO ranking for its gory content. Of course, the rating is still pending at this point, but an AO rating would lead to a virtual ban on the game and would probably result in modifications to the game and a pushed-back release date. This would, needless to say, probably enrage more than a few gamers. So here's hoping the ESRB gives Ninja Gaiden II the M rating, and we can all enjoy the gory goodness on May 20th.
Ninja Gaiden II is one of the most anticipated titles of the year, and for good reason. It is going to be a direct follow-up to 2004's breakout Ninja Gaiden and will have more ninja action than you can shake a samurai at! There's so much hype and anticipation surrounding this game that it is difficult to describe the high hopes that many have for this game. Even if you have never played a Ninja Gaiden game before, this looks like a title that you may just have to pick up anyway, because the buzz surrounding this title indicates that it may well be the best ninja-inspired game to date. This superstar follow-up will feature stunning graphics, an amazing story, and most importantly, lots of tiny ninja pieces. Have fun slicing!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer