Review: Ninja Gaiden II

Matthew Olcese | 26 Jun 2008 21:00
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Games have shifted from a challenge to an experience. Today, players will beat most games they purchase and also enjoy a cinematic, story-telling experience. In the younger days of consoles, games were all about the challenge: there was no guarantee any one player could or would complete a game they had spent hard-earned money on. In fact, it often seemed that developers had a sadistic streak in them where players were concerned. Infuriation, not immersion, seemed to be more the norm.

This is neither me waxing nostalgic, nor condemning the industry today, just observing what has changed and introducing Ninja Gaiden 2 as a title eager to bring back a sense of challenge to a generation of gamers who may have gotten a bit lazy since the introduction of the quicksave.

While not as difficult as its predecessor for the original Xbox, Ninja Gaiden 2 is arguably one of the most challenging games available for the Xbox 360. It's certainly the hardest game I own. Changes have been made to the formula of the first game with a more casual gamer in mind (save points scattered throughout the level, automatic healing after a fight), which is all well and good, but do not hide or make up for the fact that even the easiest difficulty setting (Acolyte) will leave seasoned players hitting the continue button more than the attack button.

As off-putting as the challenge may be to some players, it's also the most rewarding aspect of Ninja Gaiden 2; which wouldn't be the same game without. The hardest difficulty, Master Ninja, is the ultimate challenge to players of the game. The easier (I use that term loosely) three difficulty levels are just practice for that main event. The game is not cheap with its difficulty, small comfort for sure, but it does mean that any challenge can be done, given the proper application of skill.

A boon of the higher difficulty is the sense of accomplishment players can feel after clearing out certain sections of the game, beating a particularly difficult boss fight, or finally, exhaustedly, closing the book on the Master Ninja difficulty. It'll be a feat the player has accomplished, not by memorizing an attack pattern or by getting lucky, but by careful application of combo attacks or timing a counter attack perfectly and making mincemeat of enemy ninja.

Bottom Line: Ninja Gaiden 2 is a fantastic game, a next-gen application of a tired-and-true brawler formula executed with deft hand, brilliant design, and serious talent. The game breaks little new ground, sticks to a road mostly paved by games before, but stands as a sterling example of the genre.

Recommendation: Try it: It's imperative to get a sense of the gameplay and challenge before spending 60 dollars on a game that leaves you stuck at level two on the easiest difficulty setting.

Matthew Olcese is a miscreant who talked his way into an IT job with a BA and (soon-to-be) MA in literature. That's all you need to know.

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