inFAMOUS - Review
By Dillon - July 21, 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360
It's bloody, but is that enough?
The original Ninja Gaiden appeared on the Xbox, was remade for the Xbox, and then remade once more for the PS3. While it had some flaws, it still remains one of the best action games ever made. Ninja Gaiden II for the 360 keeps all the action, but unfortunately it also keeps all the flaws and adds some new ones of its own. Fans of the original will still want to check out this sequel, but it's not nearly as genre defining as the first game.
The first Ninja Gaiden was one of the best looking games of the last generation and it really set the bar for the original Xbox. Ninja Gaiden II is a nice looking game but it won't set any standards like the original. In fact Ninja Gaiden II doesn't look any better than Ninja Gaiden Sigma, last years PS3 port of the original game. It even looks worse in some areas. The environments are very plain and while the art style is clean, it's also very boring. On the plus side, many of the effects have been improved from Sigma and the original. For example, charging your ninpo, or special attacks, now has much more flair to it. Blood was pretty mild in the original game, and in Sigma it got a little heavier. It would splatter on most objects in Sigma but the hit detection was pretty bad. The same goes for Ninja Gaiden II but it's definitely improved.
On the technical side NGII doesn't hold up nearly as well as one would hope. There are plenty of glitches and annoyances here and there. Some Boss battles don't initiate when they should for example. The Framerate is very up and down but for the most part it's bearable. Screen tearing is also another random issue. On some levels you'll never notice it, but on other levels you'll wonder if you're playing a game or watching a game getting sliced into pieces. As a whole, NGII has a boring art style with bland textures and some technical issues...but it still looks nice.
Everybody was Kung Fu fighting!
The Audio in NGII is very basic. You have your standard action music fare, and sound effects that just get the job done. Nothing spectacular but nothing terrible, aside from some pretty bad voice acting that is. Swords clashing, magic exploding, and running water is what you'll be hearing the most of. It all sounds fine and nothing will make your ears bleed. The voice acting is bad but it's not going to make you puke. The dialogue is the main problem, so really it seems the voice actors did their best at making their lines sound interesting. The music is not bad but it certainly won't impress you. It fits fine with all the carnage going on around you but you won't stop and listen to it or even try to notice it while running through the levels.
There really isn't anything in Ninja Gaiden II that resembles a story, plot or anything coherent in that fashion. The dialogue is ridiculous and random, the characters aren't very memorable, and the plot is non existent. The first Ninja Gaiden didn't make very much sense but II goes even further in the realm of abysmal storytelling. You'll find yourself saying either "What the hell?" or "I don't give a damn!" for most of the cutscenes. However, if you're playing Ninja Gaiden for an outstanding story, you're barking up the wrong tree. You play as Ryu Hayabusa and you're a ninja, that's all you need to know. Ninja Gaiden is all about the gameplay.
The Gameplay in Ninja Gaiden II remains largely the same as the original. It still has the best combat system around and it'll still hand you your own ass after chewing it up and spitting it out. There are some minor tweaks though and some help the game experience while others hamper it. First off the health and save system have both been improved. Whenever you take damage your health bar will go down, but you'll also notice that sometimes a red bar will show up on it. That's because your health will automatically refill after each encounter. The red bar represents injuries too serious to be refilled. In order to get rid of the red bar you need to use a health restoring item or get to a save point. This system makes the game far more forgiving then that last game but even on the lowest difficulty level it's still a brutal ride.
The bigger they are...
Blood and gore played minor roles in the previous games but in NG the gore takes a front seat role. Slicing off limbs becomes a new gameplay element that, while cool at first, quickly becomes repetitive. When you slice off certain enemies' legs for instance, they will continue to crawl toward you. The major problem with all this is that early in the game you learn you can press a single button once enemy's limbs are cut off and it will immediately finish them off. This makes the gore gimmicky and after a while all the flashy gory deaths become flat and boring.
While the combat engine is still one of the best, if not the best around, the fundamental flaws in this game are too big to overlook. First off, the camera is possibly the worst I've ever seen in a video game. It's almost impossible to deal with in tight quarters, and that brings me to the second flaw. Despite the camera not working in tight quarters, Team Ninja decided to design most of the levels in tight corridors and spaces. In the first game the camera was never perfect, but the bulk of the game took place in large areas, negating the issue somewhat. In II, the developers made the game work against its flaws rather then with its flaws. The levels are too small and the camera only makes it worse.
Not only are the levels a chore to navigate thanks to the camera, but they also lack interactivity. All the environments are pretty boring and unoriginal, and while they are varied enough, there's almost nothing to do in them. A few breakable pots and crates are the only interaction the player has with the environment and it makes going through all the levels uneventful. It feels very dated when compared to most current generation action titles and it hurts the game substantially.
There are some nice tweaks to the gameplay such as an in-game menu that gives you on the fly access to all your weapons and items, but other additions from the original's remakes don't show up. One example is Sigma's simplified water running. All you had to do was press forward on the analog stick to run on water, but now there's a bit more to it. Unlike before, you have to manually steer and press another button at the same time to stay afloat. It doesn't make much sense as to why Team Ninja would just complicate things.
The controls in NGII are pretty good, and left largely unchanged from the original game, however for some reason I found them to be a little less responsive then Sigma, Black, and the original game. While running around I noticed Ryu felt a bit clunkier then he did in his previous outings. You probably wont notice it after a few hours of play, but its worth noting.
Ninja Gaiden II will last you a good while but there's not much incentive to play through it multiple times. Higher difficulties and a leaderboard will entice hardcore fans to replay the game again and again, but other than that there's no multiplayer and/or bonus content to keep you hooked. This sequel is still a great action game but it's fundamentally flawed on many levels. The level design, camera, and story really hurt what is otherwise a worthwhile experience. The game is still fun for the most part and fans will get a great kick out of it. This is a definite rental for most 360 owners and fans of the series but I can't fully recommend a purchase.
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