Ninja Gaiden 2 is one of the most frustrating games we’ve played in a long time. Not because we found it too difficult. We didn’t.
In fact, the frustration isn’t borne out of something entirely negative either. The trouble with Ninja Gaiden 2 is that, up to a point, it was easily the most brainless fun we’ve had all year: the problem was that the game suddenly turned round at chapter eight and stuck both it’s fingers up at us.
The premise of Ninja Gaiden 2, for the uninitiated, is to slash your way through hordes of enemies, racking up as many combos as you can and dismembering as many limbs as possible in the process. There isn’t that much more to it. That doesn’t make the game boring however: far from it, in fact.
Ninja Gaiden 2 really has nailed the “30 seconds of fun” adage Bungie coined all those years ago. For hours on end we had grins on our faces as we twirled our Lunar Staff, obliterating everyone that crossed our path. Who could ever get bored of being surrounded by up to five enemies, motion-blurred and gilded with blood, especially when emerging victorious with body parts lying all over the place and red goo splattered over the walls and floor? We didn’t.
The problem is that Ninja Gaiden 2 does. Around two thirds of the way through, the game suddenly removes those 30 seconds and forces you to attack from range. All of a sudden the close-quarter combat, which is what makes the whole experience so damn good, is removed. Instead, you find yourself dodging heat-seeking rockets from across the other side of the game map and fighting mechs while being bombarded with bombs you can do nothing to block.
The first Ninja Gaiden was just hard. We’ve got no qualms in admitting we couldn’t complete it. It was too much for us. We enjoyed it while it lasted but we simply couldn’t do it. The hardcore among us laughed as they beat the game on every difficulty and racked up as many Karma Points as possible in order to gloat. Ninja Gaiden 2, however, has all that: depth of moves, loads of weapons, many difficulty levels (at last one we can progress on), but from the eighth chapter onwards, those Karma Points and combos that many of you will be striving to attain won’t be down to the fact the you are any good at the game. It all comes down to luck.
Example: we turn down an alley-way and instantly are knocked back from a rocket. We looked around, can’t see anything. Get hit again. Run forward a bit, desperately looking for the origin. We get hit again. So we start to zig-zag, hoping whoever it bloody is that’s firing us will eventually miss. Get hit again. Finally get to the other side of the alleyway to find there are around six rocket-bearing ninjas who’ve all fired their rockets at the same time. Dead. Yes. Fun? No.
Should this irritant completely dominate your buying decision? We don’t think so. Hang on to the fact that we said that up until that point Ninja Gaiden 2 is the most fun we’ve had this year, because we weren’t lying. However, the reason we’re focusing so much on the negative is because the positive was so positive. We’d been taken from starry-eyed gamers to moany old cynics within minutes and we’d prefer the former, thanks very much.
Ninja Gaiden 2 is its own worst enemy. A few minor camera issues aside, the game up until that point was brilliant. The graphics were a little dated but the character models, particle effects and animations are top notch. For the first eight to ten hours you’ll have nothing but fun, and that’s more value for money than most games these days. However, instead of forcing you to actually become better at the game – as Acolyte (Easy) difficulty really doesn’t push the player that hard – it simply becomes unfair. And what’s worse, those 30 seconds of fun occur much less frequently. What a shame.
By Mike Bowden
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