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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
f there’s one thing to be said about “Ninja Gaiden II,” it’s that it’s not for the faint of heart. Combat is so bloody that you’ll feel like you’ve been teleported into the middle of the final fight sequence from “Kill Bill: Volume One” – complete with more decapitations and severed limbs than even a master ninja should be comfortable with. The game also isn’t for those with a tendency to break things when they get angry, because though the second installment isn’t quite as difficult as the original “Ninja Gaiden,” it’ll still drive you absolutely bonkers. Of course, if you’re neither one of these people, you might just think “Ninja Gaiden II” is one of the best hack-and-slash titles ever made.
Ninja extraordinaire Ryu Hayabusa jumps back into action when the Black Spider Ninja Clan steals the mystical Demon Statue and uses it to awaken a creature known as the Archfiend. But before he can do anything to stop it from destroying the world, he must first face off against his underlings – the Greater Fiends – from the four corners of the world. Slashing your way through an insurmountable army of ninjas, demons, ninja demons, and ninja demon dogs, the game is a pretty straightforward experience. Your basic combat options include a weak attack, a strong attack, a projectile attack (including Shuriken, arrows, and my personal favorite, Incendiary Shuriken), and a Ki-fueled magical blast called a Ninpo attack. Additionally, players have a variety of main weapons at their disposal, as well the Obliteration Technique (pick off injured enemies with a final blow) and the Ultimate Technique (charge your melee attack to create a more powerful combo).
As always, save points are plentiful, but because the first “Ninja Gaiden” was so openly criticized for its difficulty, Team Ninja has implemented a new health system that allows all temporary damage to be regenerated upon the completion of each room. Save points also completely regenerate your health bar, and Muramasa’s Shop (along with offering weapon upgrades) sells herbal remedies that can be used for healing. But when you’re facing off against one of the game’s bosses, it’s a moot point. Impossible to defeat with sheer talent, the boss battles are so frustrating that even the most patient gamer will find himself screaming at the TV.
It’s one thing to have to learn how to defeat a boss, but when you have to rely on pure luck to win, well, it’s simply unfair. Boss battles can go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds (even if you’re doing everything in your power to dodge an attack), and though each should increase in difficulty as you progress, every boss seems to be just as stubborn as the last. It doesn’t help, then, when the in-game camera is so jerky that you can't even see what you’re doing half the time. The never-ending army of ninjas may be easy to button mash your way through from the other side of the wall, but when the camera won’t even stay focused during a boss battle, it’s as good as over. In my mind, this is completely unacceptable, and though the graphics look amazing and the combat (although repetitive) is fun as hell, “Ninja Gaiden II” should have never been released with such a serious glitch.