You might not know this, but gamers have a certain, unspoken code. We enjoy doing better than others. At the core, that is why we play games. We want to achieve more than other people. We compete. We want to crush our opponents to the dust and raise our high scores up in the air with overwhelming pride. Sometimes, that causes us gamers to be a bit masochistic. Hence, why I love and hate Ninja Gaiden 2.
The original Ninja Gaiden (not the old school Nintendo game, the Xbox version) is concerned to be the hardest game ever. Ever. I never finished the first one. I had a bad save, had absolutely no health, and a 3-story tall monster made of bone coming at me. I turned off my box and read comic books instead.
I think I’ve changed as a gamer, though. I’ve learned that hard games can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. Otogi 1 and 2 opened my eyes to action games. The recent release, Devil May Cry 4, promised to satisfy my slashing, hacking instincts. It failed. The battles in Devil May Cry 4 were short, unfulfilling, and lack-luster. I decided to try again, damned and determined to battle my way though Ninja Gaiden 2. I bought it. I played it for ten minutes, then paused it and held my head in my hands, slightly crying.
Ninja Gaiden 2 is really, really hard. You’re a ninja, and you have to kill your way through other evil ninjas and monsters to stop the biggest, worst monster from coming to earth and…well, you know the deal. The story is horrible, so don’t worry about it. The part you want to deal with is the combat, the wonderful, beautiful combat. Ninja Gaiden 2 is fun because you dance with your controller. You move in ways that no other game lets you. Hold the block button and move the left thumbstick and you can block and skip past an enemy. Hit the jump and the big slash, and heads roll. You can cut off arms, legs, you name it. The combat never, ever gets old and you never feel out of control. You will feel beaten down. You will feel overwhelmed and swarmed with monsters. I ran down a hallway once and saw fifteen werewolves running at me, fangs bared and ready to eat me. And I ran straight at them, eager to give them a haircut with my duel blades. A haircut for eternity!
I want to be honest, though. The learning curve for this game is epically high. There are two levels you can start with: Path of the Acolyte and Path of the Warrior. Path of the Acolyte is hard. Path of the Warrior is really, really hard. I’m playing the first path, which means I’m horrible at the game. But, Ninja Gaiden 2 is a game, and games should be enjoyed. I don’t feel too bad about starting on the easier levels. Think of it as training. You’ll want to play this game again and again, mastering the techniques to survive.
Ninja Gaiden 2 does have some problems. Some of the bosses are too hard. I’m talking about monsters shooting stuff at you, while you are jumping on water, while it is trying to eat you. It takes a while to upgrade your weapons, which makes the game much, much easier too late. The camera will get you killed every time. You can only see about sixty percent of the screen. The other forty percent is full of bad guys you can never see, and they like to jump on you. There will be dudes shooting rockets from about a mile away, ooze that saps your strength, grabs and attacks you can’t block. I can go on. Some of these problems you can adapt to and compensate for. Others will just make you mad. I’ve tossed my controller across the room on more than one occasion. But the combat and action is so good, so smooth that I had to pick it right up again and try one more time.
This is not a videogame for the average gamer. If you aren’t an action fan, you’ll just be frustrated. This game isn’t for children, either. There is a lot of blood and gore, with some easily nightmare inducing monsters. But, if you enjoy some nice fighting, with a control system that is second to none, you should pick this up. I’ll warn you, though. Don’t be surprised if it makes you cry a little.
Ninja Gaiden 2 (Xbox 360)
Developer: Team Ninja
Rating: Mature 17+