Ninja Gaiden 2 is Tomonobu Itagakiâ€™s Team Ninja swansong, as just after the initial launch he left Tecmo and filed a lawsuit against them citing unpaid bonuses for Dead or Alive 4. The first 3D Ninja Gaiden on Xbox was one of the hardest games in recent memory; it left beginners and veterans alike eating their pride and, if it were a ninja, would throw you in the air and kill you fifty times before you hit the ground.
Now, we have the sequel on Xbox 360 with glorious high definition visuals and enough polygons to render chests that would make Rachael from Ninja Gaiden envious. However, the original set a high benchmark for any sequel to follow; it had impressive bosses that, while a challenge, were beatable with the right strategy.
Fortunately, Ninja Gaiden 2 has more than lived up to the task. The story starts off as the well-endowed CIA agent Sonia gets kidnapped by the Black Spider clan, who - as revealed shortly after Ryu rescues her - are working for the fiends. Sonia informs Ryu that the fiends are trying to resurrect the arch-fiend and your real mission begins. Over the course of the game you will enhance your weapons, fight through bloody battles and take a variety of limbs of everything that opposes you.
As you may have guessed from that last line, we finally get an uncut version of Ninja Gaiden instead of a watered-down release. You can now slash limbs off any human or demon with a few taps of the X or Y buttons. Leaving blood-stained walls helps if you find yourself going the wrong way youâ€™ll know by the amount of body parts scattered around whether or not youâ€™ve been past that area.
The path in front of you, however, will almost always look impressive, whether youâ€™re running through a graveyard, a city, or on a boat. Ninja Gaiden 2 shows off the power of the 360, just as Ninja Gaiden showed off the Xbox and the PS3 in Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Everything is highly detailed: itâ€™s almost a shame when you have to paint a few things red with ninja blood.
Combat, while often a button mashing affair, allows for holding down the Y button for a super charged attack that will have the camera go off to the side as you watch Ryu open up on whoever is targeted.
Although Ninja Gaiden 2 follows the seriesâ€™ trend of challenging boss fights and scraps with large groups of smaller enemies, this time around staying alive is much easier thanks to an the Acolyte difficulty option. In Acolyte mode, every time you win a battle your life regenerates - whether youâ€™ve knocked some life orbs out of someone or not. On top of this, each time you save the game the save statue heals you completely. Ninja Gaiden 2 pulls its punches on beginners a lot more than the original, but maintains the challenge in a different way â€“ the camera.
One of the biggest gripes of Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox â€“ which was solved in a later remake on the PS3 â€“ was the camera: it didnâ€™t have analog stick control. Although in Ninja Gaiden 2 you can control the camera, itâ€™s a constant struggle as it tries to retain the default angle. An easy solution would have been to allow for a free camera and have the play resume the default position by pulling the right trigger.
When the limbs stop flying Ninja Gaiden 2 is a worthy swansong for Itagakiâ€™s time with Team Ninja and Tecmo, and an excellent follow up to Ninja Gaiden. This must buy for fans of the original.