majormitch's Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360) review

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Ninjas are badass

Ninja Gaiden II is a bloody mess. And I mean that in the best way possible. Practically the entire time you'll spend playing the game is filled with flying limbs, and geysers of blood. But the mess is all just for show. And while it's a good show indeed, the real heart and soul of Ninja Gaiden II lies in the same place it has with every other entry to this long-running franchise- its awesome action.

Ninja Gaiden II is an action game, and it takes the meaning of the word "action" extremely literally. Ninja Gaiden II constantly puts you in the heat of combat- the entire game is practically one action packed fight after the other. And it works well, thanks to the fluidity and variety of the action. The game's diverse set of balanced weapons (the weapons are more diverse and balanced than they were in the 2004 Ninja Gaiden) each have their own set of sweet combos that can be viewed from the menu, and they are a ton of fun to pull off in combat. Movement is also smooth, as Ryu can dodge and jump with great precision. This makes each and every encounter a combination of avoiding enemy attacks, and unleashing your own devastating attacks- which, of course, is what action games do in general. What helps Ninja Gaiden II stand above most of its would-be competitors is how satisfying it makes all of these actions. The responsiveness of the controls combined with the brutality of your own moves allow for some of the most hardcore, adrenaline pumping battles action games have ever seen.

The game's difficulty only adds to its hardcore nature, as Ninja Gaiden II is definitely a stiff challenge. Ninja Gaiden veterans might not be overwhelmed at first (at least on the lower difficulties), but newcomers will almost surely struggle right out of the gate, which can be a little frustrating. And it doesn't really help that the game has a dozen or so enemies that just feel downright cheap and annoying. Ninja Gaiden II's sweet controls help alleviate this frustration, as does the fact that enemy limbs fly through the air after you land a good combo. Combine that with the new Obliteration Techniques, which are over the top, gory finishing moves, and finishing off those particularly annoying and/or tough enemies becomes super satisfying. It also helps battles to be engaging from start to finish, as the end of a tough encounter is almost always a treat- especially when you survey the battlefield afterward and see it littered with all sorts of detached body parts. Ninja Gaiden II can be as rewarding of a game as any, and even past its frustrations it goes to great lengths to make you feel like a badass ninja during the entire course of the game.

That's not to say Ninja Gaiden II is perfect. Lazy camera controls combined with a downgraded adventure component (when compared to the 2004 Ninja Gaiden) are things I wasn't happy to see. The game's extreme focus on action is one that might be off-putting to some gamers as well, and makes it a game that is not easily recommended to everyone. At the same time, not many action games do action this well. The fluidity of the controls, the great variety of weapons, moves, and enemies, and the rewarding challenge are all hallmarks of a good action game. All of this makes Ninja Gaiden II one of the premier action games of this generation, and easily recommendable to fans of the genre.
 
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