Ninja Gaiden 2

XBOX 360
Tecmo Games

Get ready to have your tender little bum cheeks handed to you on a paper plate. Ninja Gaiden 2 is one of the most difficult video games i have ever, ever played. Chances are that many of you will have stopped reading already, but for those curious little button bashing rascals who are still with me, sit back and i’ll tell you exactly why.If you’ve started the game on Warrior mode – NG2’s ‘normal’ setting – you’ll die at least ten times in the opening level. There are therefore a few things you’ll need if you intend on seeing this hugely anticipated sequel through to its conclusion – dexterity, perserverance, patience, and a desire to be challenged.

The ninjas and creatures lurking within the disc know you know what Ninja Gaiden is all about, and they’re here to put your cocky nuances to the test. As a measure of its delicately implemented difficulty curve, the game unnoticeably ups the ante until its closing stages; which will see you regularly outnumbered and overpowered by large groups of vicious enemies, many of whom could pass as bosses in their own right. Many of the game’s actual end-of-chapter guardians are near insurmountable – you will quickly learn to dread the large open arenas which precede them – and feature occasionally cheap attacks which canleave your life bar in tatters after a few seconds of battle. The camera system is fiddly; whether it’s obscuring off screen enemies, hugging Ryu like a long-lost Australian grandson, or getting caught behind walls.

There’s more – the developers have seen fit to include a few ‘surprises’ – most notably an exploding boss, but hidden explosives, surprise attacks and unexpected instant death moments all make themselves apparent at various points throughout the game. The enemies know all your little tricks – standing and blocking is no longer an option. You’ll need to combine blocks with constant movement, gauging enemy distances, numbers and strengths with cat-like efficiency. Save points are often positioned long after a heated battle, making backtracking a particularly gruelling affair. Enemies with projectiles will hit you nearly every time. You’ll be sliced, diced, pounded, grabbed, bitten, slashed, dashed, and thrashed around the levelslike a rag doll if you’re not up to the task; the temptation to slide the cursor over to ‘NO’ following another game over becoming all too intense.

All that said, Ninja Gaiden 2 is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying videogame if you’re prepared to overlook the flaws. The combat system is at stark odds with the kind of free form expression offered by the likes of Devil May Cry or God Hand, but still offers a considerable move set and a shed load of attractive weaponry. Although there is a temptation to spam the most powerful attacks and charges when in a tight spot, the more accomplished players will want to delve into each weapon and entice out the strengths and weaknesses of each – there’s certainly ample room to do so.

The game’s enhanced graphics mean there’s more reason to do so as well, with each weapon capable of doling out numerous ‘execution’ attacks which occur when Ryu attacks a dismembered enemy. Blood spurts out of every enemy orifice, coating the walls, floor and ceiling. The sight of Ryu flicking the gore off his claws or sword after a bloodbath is a marvellous touch,and representative of the general quality of the animation on offer. The environments are varied and occasionally awe inspiring – there is some great use of lighting and texture on display – and the bosses are typically well presented.

Critically, Team Ninja’s anticipated sequel will not disappoint those who have been waiting. It’s not suitable for everyone – despite what it says on the back of the box- and has to be one of the most exhausting, stressful, high-octane and downright cruel videogames ever created. Chances are you know that anyway, and have already finished the game twice over. For those who have yet to dive in, however – Ninja Gaiden 2 is sitting on shelves across the country, beckoning you over with a blood stained claw. I think it just called your Mum a slag.

Jon Beach
7/10