After nearly 60 hrs and three straight consecutive playthroughs, I've finally completed NINJA GAIDEN II on 'Master Ninja' difficulty setting.
In my opinion the game is plain awesome. I really can't believe I never bothered playing it until now, specially since I've had the game for a long time.
I also can't believe the game only received average scores at the time. The action and fighting system is faster, deeper, and just a lot better than NINJA GAIDEN BLACK.
The de-limbering mechanic isn't just for cool looks as it adds a whole new dimension to the battle system.
Sure, the game is rough around the edges, but so was the original game, if you ask me. That one had a lot more of annoying platforming action, and underdeveloped arrow shooting mechanics which really contrasted with the more polished battle system. Lousy saving/continuing system, annoying never-ending respawning enemies etc.
I think the fact that you could drown yourself in elixirs made the annoyances of the original game more bearable for most people.
I also can't understand the complaints about the environments. Yeah, I guess they weren't the best for 2008 standards, but do people actually like the generic looking city, military complex/warehouses and TOMB RIDER-esque ruins of the original better?
It's really a shame ITAKAGI left TECMO before he could release an updated and reworked version of the game like he did with BLACK. But still - all in all, I think NINJA GAIDEN II is a great game and definitely one of the best action games of this generation.