On the Xbox, Ninja Gaiden 1 was a solid game; it married high quality visuals with a solid combat system and numerous upgrades. The enemies were fairly generic and the boss fights went from hard to blazingly hard in a few steps. The learning curve was steep and the hardcore gamers managed to complete it, demanded more and were given: Ninja Gaiden Black, an even more pumped version of the original with extra content and bone breaking difficulty settings that made the casual gamer weep.
Now Ninja Gaiden 2 bursts onto the 360 and brings with it the return of ninja, Ryu Hyabusa and the next-gen outing plans to try and oust the original from its throne of ninja glory. The story is convoluted with twists and plot turns that whilst not original and can be seen coming from a mile away, are there to entertain and move the story along. It all boils down to the fact that Ryuís dad is killed, a demon statue is stolen and the resurrection of the Arch Fiend is imminent. Armed with this knowledge Ryu sets off to kick some ass in the name of saving the world again.
Ninja Gaiden 2 is a bone-crunching blood-caked festival of violence that has a deep visceral combat system that isnít just about button mashing, you have numerous weapons and these can be upgraded, the special moves are incredibly powerful and it has just the same kind of learning curve as the first game, where it leapfrogs from one battle to the next where you feel as though youíve mastered the gameís awesome fighting moves, to feeling like youíre club fingered and canít even hit a single enemy without losing three quarters of your health bar.
Some of the biggest changes are in the move system itself; Ryu now has Obliteration techniques for each weapon that can be used against wounded enemies with a tap of the Y button. Over the top charged combat moves, Ultimate Techniques that can be powered up by holding the attack button down until the visual cue completes and you unleash seven thousand levels of hell on a group of enemies, who can still survive the onslaught. Youíll be thankful then for the self-healing health bar that refills after you take a breather or two, the only catch is that it refills up to the critical damage on the right hand side.
The red bar fills from right to left as you take damage after your defences are broken, whilst the blue bar drains from left to right as you take the initial damage. There are numerous defence moves and counter moves that Ryu can pull off and each weapon has a move set that can be powered up by levelling that weapon. Itís going to take some time to learn and master all of the weapons in the game and so far the Lunar Staff has been a firm favourite here.
There has been a significant upgrade in the number of enemies on screen, the effects have been souped up but in essence the game is running on the same engine and that means a lot of the problems that were in the original Ninja Gaiden are present in the console versions, not just on the Xbox 360 either. There are frequent slow downs when too much is happening on screen, usually shown in the challenge arenas of the game and not the actual core story levels. Lastly for the underwater swimming segments of the game Ryu has an infinite oxygen capacity so thereís no need to worry about drowning in the game, unlike a certain Lara Croft.
The camera has the typical and annoying habit of swinging around behind the player into a wall, blocking the view and generally being unhelpful as per usual in this kind of game. Enemies can often become stuck in certain areas and go into a repeated pattern of movement, allowing you to finish off some of the harder foes with ease especially in the water later on.