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Monday, June 2, 2008

Ninja Gaiden 2: First Impressions

posted by on June 2 at 14:45 PM

Last week, MTV’s Multiplayer blog posted a game reviewer’s bill of rights. It coincided with some recent, “exclusive” game reviews that had gone up days before the competition, which were either rushed reviews or done with early, unfinished product. Movie critics don’t review partial edits, and music critics don’t tackle unmastered records, so I agree that it’s dumb for games sites to get stoked about claiming first dibs. Other than that, do readers really need to be hit over the head with the fact that some reviews aren’t up to snuff? Have these people never picked up SPIN or seen a movie review on Good Morning America?


But if I’d gotten the idea to write a game review bill of rights, it’d have one rule: Games that are frustratingly, yell-at-your-TV difficult on the “easiest” setting should go straight into the toilet. That rule is brought to you by Ninja Gaiden 2, which hits stores tomorrow; I’m only six or seven hours into the game on its easiest difficulty, so don’t call this a review. I’d be further in the game, but I got sick of playing it.

This is not the Contra-meets-throwing-stars of Ninja Gaiden from the ‘80s. The series came back years ago in 3D as a Devil May Cry-style slasher; run around and kill beasties with swords. Unlike many button-mashers, you’ll die if you don’t block, but otherwise, you’re still pretty much slapping buttons as you tear through dozens of creatures at a time. NG2 is more expansion than sequel, because it plays almost exactly the same as the last one. More weapons, that’s about it. Still, if you’re a glutton for silly violence, NG2 works harder than its bloody precursor. Since each of the eight weapons has its own huge (and impressive-looking) set of kill moves, you have to wonder what sick sonuvabitch was hired to motion-capture zillions of death shots. And there’s no question whether or not your enemies are actually dead: cut limbs off of aliens Black Knight-style, then finish them by crushing your foot on one half of their body and your sword on the other. Also, in the so-stupid-it’s-awesome category, I’ve already had to fight a dog with knives attached to its legs and a sword gripped between its teeth. Man is no longer the deadliest game.

But I can’t see what’s happening half of the time. If the game tore buildings’ roofs off and held the camera birds-eye style (like God of War), I might know what’s attacking me from all directions. As it stands, NG2 has a thing for tight corridors, which means this game’s difficulty often comes from manually adjusting the camera and wondering who’s hitting me from where. Stupid. You’re asking us to not question why we’re playing a barely updated sequel; obscuring my view with bad camera angles doesn’t help your cause.

On the easiest difficulty, most of the fights are tolerably challenging—an improvement over the last one’s punishment (now you auto-heal between fights, for example, which is welcome). But this morning, I spent nearly an hour fighting a boss over and over and over; not because figuring out how to kill the thing was hard, but because it would mow me down with instant-kill moves all of the time, which I might’ve avoided if, again, I could see what was going on. This kind of “challenge” is not worth $60. To be fair, there’s a gaming core that loves this sort of violent, difficult, done-to-death material, and I don’t think camera issues will kill it for them. Me, I still prefer God of War’s mix of shameless violence, high production values, well-scaled challenge, and decent attempts at plot. I’ll soldier on and post updated NG2 impressions next week—does the challenge eventually even out? Does the dumbass plot, complete with an androgynous Edward Scissorhands who likes to stroke the Statue of Liberty, become less dumbass? My guesses so far: No, no.

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Ninja Gaiden has always been incredibly difficult. I never could beat the final boss in the old NES version (although not for lack of perseverance). We are all Itagaki's bitch.

Posted by kid icarus | June 2, 2008 2:56 PM

I could never beat it on the original box. I recall a lot of yelling, controller throwing, and loads of "fuck this"'s. I made a pathetic attempt when it came out again for the PS3, but had no interest after an hour (even though it felt easier).

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 2, 2008 2:58 PM

i'd rather play Tenchu.

Posted by josh bomb | June 2, 2008 3:34 PM


Dang, I had such high hopes.

Oh, well, now it's Animal Farm III and Dog Park for me ... plus that Wii Fit game that lets you snowboard.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 2, 2008 3:41 PM

Like #1 said. Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 on the NES were stupidly difficult. I remember one particular level: numerous pits + wind + sudden darkness. Even by cheating on an emulator I had a real hard time finishing the game.

Posted by Sirkowski | June 2, 2008 4:14 PM

Lego Indiana Jones FTW!

Posted by Mike of Renton | June 2, 2008 4:41 PM

Yeah, but that's multi-platform, MoR.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 2, 2008 5:29 PM

dude, if you go about NG games like you do the GoW games, no wonder you get your ass handed to you!. Although the game may appear to be a GoW or a DMC game, its like comparing Mario Kart to Gran Turismo. Fighting in NG is alot closer to Virtua Fighter or SoulCalibur than to a pure action button masher, approach it like that and its a dream to play.

Posted by Wurm | June 3, 2008 7:57 AM

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