Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
17 June 2008
Ninja Gaiden II Can't Take Care of Itself

If you ask me, gamers are a notoriously fickle bunch that hop around whatever niche fad is currently popular at any given time, flicking aimlessly around their singular objective like a moth to a flame - only this moth will threaten to kill you and make some sort of racist remark because you said whatever franchise he's currently cherishing isn't necessarily a divine blessing. This leads to some games being revered above and beyond the merit which caused their popularity in the first place. I would quite comfortably lump the original Ninja Gaiden into this category: a thumb-aching, testosterone-fuelled misogynistic charge that you'll enjoy playing but feel terribly embarrassed if a (hypothetically, as this is unlikely to happen to any of us) girl walked into the room when you were watching a cutscene.

The trouble is, Ninja Gaiden II has recently arrived and has reminded us that at the end of the day it's all just a game. People aren't happy with this.

There's lots of bandying around the word "cheap" to describe the whole affair. To some extent, this is true. Ninja Gaiden II is a victim of its own progress; in an attempt to appeal to the current trend of regenerating life bars and a greater sense of not dying every six seconds, your average encounter will end with your life bar filling up to a fair amount of its capacity. How, then, do Tecmo infuse their concoction with a sense of difficulty? By upping the amount of damage you'll be taking, and also turning the speed of the game all the way up to eleven. Things will fly at you in this game, and they'll take your life with it. But it's okay, you'll recover. Think Bruce Willis in Die Hard donning a skin-tight black ninja suit and you're in the right area. There's other things to consider, too. Money is now so easy to come by it's likely being fed intravenously into the game from the bank of Nintendo. There's also enough weaponry in the game that, come the denouement, you'll have enough stock to take on the in-game merchant at his own business.

All this adds up to create a different game from the Ninja Gaiden that came before. You can't blitz through a level without taking any damage and you can't cling onto your healing items like they're family heirlooms. You're going to be forced to use them. Maybe this takes some of the finesse away, but it creates a rougher, more brutal experience. Considering that limbs get lopped off in this game quicker I'll get killed in a game of Halo 3 online I can safety say that brutal is what the developers were aiming for. Every weapon and item in your arsenal is valuable and you're going to need to employ it all. There's also enough video evidence on the Ninja Cinema mode to prove that skill and tactics are still part of the game. The biggest flaw to Ninja Gaiden II is that, because of associations with its predecessor, it will be punished for trying out something new. That, and the Armadillo boss is a real sod.

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--Martin at 23:30
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