NINJA GAIDEN II is the sequel to the acclaimed 2004 action title NINJA GAIDEN, itself a reboot of the classic series from the NES, which was in itself an adaptation of an arcade game. Like its predecessor (the Xbox one), the game stars Ryu Hayabusa on a mission of death and destruction as he seeks to eliminate the Greater Fiends (the devils), and their companions the Black Spider Ninja's, from the face of the earth. To do this, he'll have to scream a lot and slash and shoot anything that gets in his way...yeah you've heard this before...
Ryu is a death machine. When he slices, heads and limbs go flying. And he's got approximately 9 weapons to do the slicing with in this game. The Dragon Sword may be reliable, but who can forget the ninja claws (which turn him into a Japanese Wolverine), the Great Scythe and the Twin Swords? Each selection is more a matter of preference, but I found weapons like the Scythe to be more powerful because they hit multiple enemies and do more damage than the other weapons. And given the swarms of very tough, very fast opponents you'll be facing here, you'll need that leverage. Speaking of which...
Why they gotta make this game so damn hard!? Well...I guess that's part of the appeal. The first NINJA GAIDEN entry was one of the best games for the Xbox and probably one of the best action games of the last generation. It was a tough game...but it felt balanced and rarely unfair. NGII throws all that window and amps up the difficulty to the level of absolute insanity. If you thought 3 explosive shuriken throwing ninjas were bad, how about 9 of em?? Some enemies are just ridiculously fast and the only way to win is to be ferocious with your attacks so they simply don't have the opportunity to hurt you! Otherwise you'll be overwhelmed by all the cheap attacks coming your way.
After a certain point though, things become more manageable. On the Normal and Easy difficulty settings, constantly keeping a full stock of healing items handy is extremely helpful. The trick to beating the enemies then boils down to figuring out which weapons can dismember them fast enough so you can get in with your execution move. Rationing Ninpo is also important too. So the game IS beatable...it just requires an incredible amount of patience.
The previous reviewer mentioned some major problems during the final battle with the demonic priest Dagra Dai. Well, I didn't encounter any problems with Dagra, but I did encounter some major frustration with the Archfiend, the boss which succeeded him. It was in this battle where Ryu's tendency to miss with his arrows drove me insane. NOTE to developers: If you're going to make a game this hard and this fast paced, can you please make sure all your technical bugs are worked out before you ship it?? I also hate the fact that every time you continue, you have to go through two loading screens before you get back into the action. And in this game, you're going to be dying a lot.
The graphics were advertised as being "made from the ground up" for the Xbox360. Well...they look a lot like the visuals from the previous game, which made me immediately assume it was the same engine. Consequently, some of the visuals look kind of "last gen". This is especially apparent in the environments, which feature some breathtaking scenery (the river city) contrasted with some dull scenery (the underground tunnels). But still, the sights of combat and dismemberment are incredibly wicked and look superb to even current games like DMC. The sound is fairly superb, with the deafening slashes of steel and the fully orchestrated soundtrack both being highlights.
NINJA GAIDEN II really makes me question my interest in action games. One one hand, it's just a nightmare to play. One the other hand, once you get past that towering learning curve, you might be hopelessly addicted. The action is so fast and furious and so outrageously blood boiling here that many other titles in the same genre look feeble by comparison. Now, I haven't tried the update (NINJA GAIDEN SIGMA 2) yet, but I've heard from some trusted reviewers (including the previous commenter) that it's a significant improvement over this game. Since it sounds better balanced, I would say start with that edition and work your way back to this one if you want a crazier, bloodier challenge. But that's up to you. Given that this edition is signficantly cheaper, that in itself might be a tempting factor. Just be cautious...this game is hard and it's a little buggy. If you're not willing to tolerate these problems, there are many other more balanced action games out there willing to satisfy your thirst.