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Ninja Gaiden II Review

  • First Released Jun 3, 2008
  • Reviewed Jun 3, 2008
  • X360

This action-packed sequel isn't quite up to the standards of its precursors, but it's still a brutal blast.

Ninja Gaiden II is a great game and a maddening one. In some respects, it improves upon the core Ninja Gaiden gameplay to exhilarating effect. It's flashier and it's bloodier, and when those enhancements are in full force, the game offers the best action available on the platform. You de-limb werewolves and slice up legions of rival ninjas and demons, and pulling off these moves produces a gory, showy explosion of particles and body parts. And, as any fan of its Xbox and PlayStation 3 predecessors should expect, it's incredibly difficult, which makes a successful confrontation still one of the most rewarding moments in all of action gaming.

Hold still--this might pinch a little.
Hold still--this might pinch a little.

Team Ninja also went back and fixed a few of the frustrating issues from the previous entry. For example, should you lose a boss battle (and you'll do it frequently), you can restart most of them at the beginning of the encounter, rather than having to revisit 10 minutes of lead-in gameplay. There are more save points, which also replenish your health, and your health will replenish on its own after action sequences. But for every step forward, the game takes an infuriating step back. It isn't as slickly paced as its precursors, and it isn't the visual leap forward that Ninja Gaiden was. Most noticeably, the camera has taken a turn for the worse, seemingly more interested in flaunting the game's flamboyant flurries of steel and black spandex than in being functional. Ninja Gaiden was hard, but it was rarely cheap; when you died, you knew it was because you needed to perform better. In Ninja Gaiden II, the badly implemented camera and other factors (more on this later) can lead to trial-and-error repetition that relies more on dumb luck than on your controller-wielding prowess. Sure, this sequel is a fantastic game, but it isn't as good as the game that reintroduced the franchise.

The core action is both familiar and remarkably intense. As returning hero Ryu Hyabusa, you hack, slash, and decapitate your way through hordes of nasty-looking foes, many of which are returning enemies from the Xbox original. What makes it so satisfying is how fast and fierce these encounters are. Using just two attack buttons and a jump button, and pulling a trigger to block, you can execute a flurry of slashes, ground-pounds, and high-flying feats with ease. And it looks fantastic in motion. The particle-heavy, blood-spattering special effects and silky animations will make your jaw drop, thanks to the exciting spectacle they create. Each battle keeps you focused and engaged, and the speedier your thumb waggles, the more satisfying and explosive the resulting acrobatics are.

In fact, the standard combat is even better than before, thanks to a few violent touches that take the series to new levels of adrenaline-pumping ferocity. Humanoid combatants routinely lose limbs at the mercy of your steely weapons, but rather than collapsing in a pool of spurting blood, they just get angrier. Amazingly, a werewolf with one arm is more dangerous than one with both limbs intact, but this fact is nicely offset by the possibility of a finishing move. If you get close to a de-limbed demon and hit Y, the camera will move in close and showcase a fantastically over-the-top fatality, complete with flying viscera and the ghastly sounds of spurting blood and squashed tissue.

Bosses are more frequent now and vary in terms of quality and challenge. Some of them are maddeningly difficult, such as dual armadillos that spew fiery rocks toward you. Others, like a blood-dripping, sword-yielding she-fiend, hit all the right notes. And one of them, a giant worm that speeds through subterranean caverns, will get stuck in walls due to a glitch and is easily defeated by slashing at its head while it tries to extricate itself. You can slash and bash using some of the old weapons, including the dragon sword and the lunar staff, but you may want to go into these battles with some of the newer additions such as the blade tonfas, which deliver some excellent combo moves and are fun to wield.

The action looks spectacular...
The action looks spectacular...

Make no mistake: All of this is really hard, and the second half of the game in particular is certainly just as hard as the original game. You'll face a number of enemies at a time, but they aren't content to lounge around like Dynasty Warriors refugees. They jump around quickly, may tackle you and execute an overpowering assault, and are often remarkably in tune to the actions you're trying to pull off, ready to counter with their own violent reply. The insane level of difficulty may not seem apparent in the first few chapters, which franchise fans may notice are hard but not as hard as Ninja Gaiden's. However, the challenge ramps up considerably as the game progresses, and you'll eventually be repeating certain sequences multiple times until you find a way to dispose of the brawny baddies. Much of the time, death brings with it the realization that you simply need to be a better ninja. When Ninja Gaiden II relies on its formula, it's not unfair; it's tough, certainly, but not punishing.

Unfortunately, the game strays all too often from its roots and meanders into the abyss of cheapness that Ninja Gaiden only rarely peered into. There are some hints of this early on, but the first third of the game and the final third are incredibly satisfying. Nevertheless, the center portion relies on tricks that simply don't cut it. Ninjas who you can't see pummel you with unblockable rockets over and over again, a defeated boss explodes and takes you down with it, and under- and over-water sequences feel more like work than fun. These sections are where the camera is at its most annoying. Apparently designed to focus on Ryu's exciting swordplay, the camera has been pulled in closer and moved a bit downward, which isn't ideal, but at least it isn't a hassle in wider levels, like one in a postmodern New York City. However, for the majority of the time you're in confined spaces and narrow corridors, where the camera gets stuck in corners, moves into uncomfortable positions, and requires more resets than before.

Then, after the infuriating middle section comes to a close, Ninja Gaiden II jumps an impressive hurdle. During its final third, everything clicks into place, and brilliantly so. The enemies become more interesting, unfair difficulty is replaced by breathless challenges that reward your skill, and the level designs take advantage of the platform's visual strengths. In the best of these levels, you fend off flying fiends while fighting ground foes across bridges and on ledges, as lava cascades down the cliffsides. Other quality levels throughout the game include a nail-biting trek through a hulking airship and a tour of duty in a sprawling castle, where you slice up dining-room chairs in addition to growling lycanthropes.

It's disappointing that the same amount of attention wasn't given to other levels, or to environmental design in general. Devil May Cry 4, Ninja Gaiden II's closest competitor, showcases sumptuous backgrounds that stand in beautiful relief to its furious action. By contrast, Ninja Gaiden II's environments are generally bland and utilitarian, such as the ugly and repetitive green caves that one of the previously mentioned bosses calls home. Some trips back to Hyabusa Village provide some needed narrative connections to the previous game, but it looks barely better than it did before. As far as its environments are concerned, Ninja Gaiden II does not feature the technical prowess you would expect from a game in 2008. It also suffers from some occasional hits to its normally smooth frame rate, which was simply never an issue in the past. Another familiar visual glitch is a returning one: Splotches of blood and goo still stick to the invisible walls, and because there's so much gore, this flaw sticks out all the more. By now, this sort of thing should have been addressed. By contrast, the vivid special effects, excellent enemy design, and fluid animations are fantastic, and they make it easy to notice that the rest of the visual design is decidedly behind the curve.

The environments? Not so much.
The environments? Not so much.

The cutscenes are great as well, if a bit cheesy, and they give some flair to Ninja Gaiden II's throwaway story. Not that it's bad, but the tale's just an excuse to pit you against a series of greater fiends, and to introduce you to the game's femme fatale, Sonia. She's exactly what a Ninja Gaiden fan would expect: blond, beautiful, and buxom. So buxom, in fact, that you will marvel at how she manages to move at all without suffering from back pain, and at how much breast physics have evolved over the years. Ryu's archenemy Elizebet is just as curvy, and a scene that features blood dripping from her bare bosom is wild, intense, and disturbing. You probably won't get invested in any of these characters, but the cutscenes are good enough to look forward to, and the finale may very well knock your socks off.

Leaderboards and unlockable, masochistic difficulty levels provide some replay value. You can also record sections of gameplay and upload them for other players to watch, but though this feature is neat, it isn't implemented very well. You're stuck recording entire swaths of gameplay, and the frame rate takes a bit of a hit when you turn the option on. But it's a feature that, like its amped-up combat, will please the game's core audience. If you're one of those folks, you'll enjoy what this sequel offers. Its various inconsistencies and visual deficits are obvious, but the fluid, heady action makes Ninja Gaiden II a great game.

Back To Top
The Good
Slick, gruesome action is flashy and intense
Finishing moves are fun to perform and awesome to behold
Some great new weapons
Excellent, dramatic cutscenes
The Bad
Inconsistent level of difficulty sometimes crosses the line into cheap territory
Infuriating camera
Environments don't look that good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Ninja Gaiden II

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
10 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for rickphoenixxx

This could be my fave game's so fun even today and has such a slick style to it.

Avatar image for Grenadeh

I highly disagree with the difficulty comments. The camera was no worse than NG and when you died it was because of sheer difficulty, not because of the camera or mistakes. You were fighting against fucking missile barrages and demons that took insane amounts of damage to kill

Avatar image for himoura32

100% disagree. I played the first level man...beat it on path of the master ninja and did all the trials.

Ok I can definitely feel your pain in that it is the hardest game I ever played but like a lot of hard games there is always a trick to it. The game designers didn't fully explain how to utilize the mechanics because I guess they thought people would say it wasn't hard enough once they figured it out. Unfortunately I think they were wrong here. Even when you know how to work it its still hardest game ever. Not to mention people are always gonna bitch... It's too easy of they beat it and its a fail cheap game if they make it too hard right?

So here is the trick... you ready??? Wind walk. Hands down the best and most underutilized move in the game. A lot of people don't realize that this is basically your main opener for all your moves. Once you understand this the game really opens up. Not only does this move give you invincible frames it also locks on to your target and causes you to jump towards the closest enemy... once I figured this out I was able to complete all of the trials on path of the master ninja. The first level is probably one of the toughest parts of the game because you have such a small health bar and most haven't fully realized the mechanics but its not as hard as some of the trials. Those were just insane and I almost gave up a few times.

This game is hands down one of the greatest action games I ever played its just unfortunate it ended up kind of like an Adam Sandler movie. No one realizes how funny and good those are till they get syndicated.

So basically learn to master the wind walk and you will truly be impressed at just how bad ass and fair that game really is.

Avatar image for Grenadeh

@himoura32 Frankly NG 1 and 2 are cake compared to Dante's Inferno. I raped NG 1 and 2 but Dante's inferno saw my ass kicked all over the place. For a while until you become OP. Also that was common knowledge since NG1. There is literally no reason to use any other move but the wind walk, except on bosses where you can't like the giant metal worm bitch.

Doing anything else leaves you vulnerable to gangrape and getting blocked/grabbed/stabbed with exploding kunai.

Avatar image for malachi_27

@Grenadeh: That's really interesting. I had the exact opposite experience. Dante's Inferno was just mundane in that one can keep doing the exact same things over and over. All it takes is patience. I was quicker on my feet with NG and NG2.

Avatar image for offspring94

dude, he called it "a great game." read the last 3 words.

Avatar image for himoura32

I really can't believe how many reviewers gave this game a low score because they suck at video games. Hands down this is the greatest action game ever made. This game combines tekken with shinobi. I am playing it on master ninja and I am literally blown away. Every time u think the game is cheap it's not. Go watch vids from people playing on master and mentor and u will see what I mean. This game has so many nuances it's insane. Itigaki is a friggn rock star genius. For example. Some people think its cheap when u are standing beside an enemy spamming y and u can't OT. They don't realize you have to stun the target with wind jump or shuriken first. U can't just run up to ninjas and kill them u need to distract them first. Every time u think this game is cheap or camera sucks its not. U suck. This game should have gotten a 9.5 just for the insane accomplishment of he complexity of the game play. Who cares of the story sucked. Every ninja gaiden story has sucked. Take the first game on nes for example. Jungle rat rob? really? Give this game another chance if u want something really good to play. It's a shame really. Itigaki should have gotten a lot more credit for this game but they didn't do a very good job explaining how to play it so people thought it was cheap. I can fight wave after wave of IS Ninja and take no damage most the time. There is a trick for everything. Wind jump is the best move in the game but no one used it because u don't realize it's a targeting move that opens up the entire game. It auto targets the closest enemy. Hands down greatest action game I ever played. After a fight on Master Ninja sometimes I would sit back and say to myself "I can't believe I just did that" or "I can't believe someone was able to make a game like this". The AU IGN reviewr said the game was "lazily made". What an absolute fool. Never have I witnessed such attention to detail.

Avatar image for ForceofNature9


Play the first level again on Master Ninja and tell me that Ninja Gaiden 2 isn't the cheapest piece of shit ever made. 95% of damage sustained comes from projectiles and the other 5% comes from grab spam. Rarely do you actually die legitly like in other Ninja Gaiden games.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge are miles better. Ninja Gaiden Black also shits on NG2.

Avatar image for Grenadeh

<< LINK REMOVED >> Lol no. Sigma 2 is the same game and Razor's Edge, despite improvements, is still easy mode.

Avatar image for symphony4flamez

<< LINK REMOVED >> What detail. Small dick asian man sounds pretty angry his familys game didn't get a high rating =(. If we are giving games that have playstation 1 camera with the same equal background graphics and dialogue, and awful story. Might as well give every game a 9.5 that ever comes out lmfao.

Ninja Gaiden II More Info

  • First Released Jun 3, 2008
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Xbox 360
    Ryu Hayabusa returns in the ultraviolent follow-up to the 2004 Xbox resurrection of Tecmo's classic series.
    Average Rating7413 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Ninja Gaiden II
    Developed by:
    Team Ninja, Tecmo
    Published by:
    Tecmo, Koei Tecmo Games, TECMO KOEI GAMES CO., LTD., Microsoft Game Studios
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes