Blood. Guts. Decapitations. There was a time, not so long ago, that such things caused a huge uproar and even a political interest in the world of video games. The mere mention of a blood splattered fatality in Mortal Kombat made governments twitch, critics sweat and gamers salivate. There was a time, you younger gamers you, that blood and violence were the very darkest corner of the home console, one which few talked about but which slowly encroached upon the mainstream.
Come 2008 and the focus for frowned upon content has switched; some of the focus is still upon violence but has now zeroed in upon gun–related crimes with the true enemy of moral campaigners shifting towards sexual themes (see GTA 4 as an example) leaving good–old– fashioned bloody hell a relatively free reign. And when you load up Ninja Gaiden 2, you’ll be glad we live in such an opened–minded world.
Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox was one of the most acclaimed and treasured action games of all time, sitting alongside God of War and the Chronicles of Riddick as the very pinnacle of the previous generation’s achievements in the action genre. A tight control system and great stylised violence allow a deep narrative to be layered upon the ultimate icon in the action world — the ninja.
With such a legacy to follow up on, Ninja Gaiden 2 was up against it from the get go. Fans of the original game would be looking for more of the same, only with the power of the Xbox 360 to fuel greater, and more innovative graphical and gameplay achievements, while the critical press would be looking for the game to expand the concept of the original to a whole new level.
And luckily enough, Ninja Gaiden 2 caters to both fervent camps….mostly.
Ninja Gaiden 2 again follows the exploits of the famed “super ninja” Ryu Hayabusa and his seemingly endless fight against the Black Ninja Gang and their various other worldly powers. To anyone who played NinjaGaiden Sigma on the Playstation 3, the game will look very familiar in terms of presentation, the same graphics engine responsible for the great look of the PS3 game seems to be in charge of Ninja Gaiden 2.
One of the first things gamers will notice when getting into the action of the sequel is the amount of carnage that can be caused by a mere tap of a button, limbs are chopped off faster than you can say bonsai and multiple finishing moves become second nature as you progress through the 14 progressively more difficult stages.
There is a storyline hidden underneath the stylish action and fountains of blood, but it’s just about as relevant as buttons on shoes, or a storyline in the previous Ninja Gaiden games. What is important here is the fluency and power of the action. Not many games can produce such vicious and staggering attacks as Ryu literally carves his way through the opposing forces; combos can be built to decimate opponents in such a way that despite their limbs flying off, they’ll still attempt to attack, now that’s commitment.
It’s not all roses in Ninja Gaiden 2 though, the graphics engine might have been sharp when Sigma was released last year on the Playstation 3, but has been surpassed totally by games like Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted and is need for an upgrade to really show how badass ninjas can be. And for those of you who like a little substance with the style, best to look the other way while the majority of gamers out there enjoy Ninja Gaiden 2. The game can also be staggeringly hard at times, with dozens of enemies making combat impossible to manage due to the sheer difficulty to even see Ryu, let alone control him.
But any minor quibbles really are just that, minor. Ninja Gaiden 2 knows its audience like the back of its shiny ninja hand. Fast, gory and with an emotional resonance few games can even come close to, Ninja Gaiden 2 is a fine and deserving sequel to the original and something that we can all look forward to in the near future