RELEASED: April 1990
AVAILABLE ON: Amiga, NES, PC, Wii Virtual Console
Behind every good game, there's a potential sequel. Sometimes this sequel, even while praised by critics, just gets bulldozed by bad promotion. Take Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, for example. This sequel to Tecmo's 1988 megahit was released in early 1990 in both Japan and the U.S., but got caught in a limbo for a total of four years, and wasn't released in Europe until the very final days of the Nintendo Entertainment System's lifespan, which means that the game is virtually unknown in this part of the world. So, this review is dedicated to my fellow Europeans. Ladies and gentlemen, Ninja Gaiden II - is it worth the search? Sure, but for more than just to please your curiosity? Depends on how much shit you can handle.
Too damn easy to die dead enough
One year after the defeat of Jaquio at the hands of the Ninja Dragon Ryu Hayabusa, a new evil overlord named Ashtar emerges from the Realm of Darkness with a plan for world domination. A member of the U.S. Army Special Intelligence Unit seeks out Ryu and tells him to travel to the Tower of Lahja, where Ashtar resides and is keeping Irene hostage.
|Go back to bother Link.|
Since I pretty much voiced out my opinion on changing the title and the cover art of the game the last time around, this time I can purely concentrate on the game, and deliver you a relatively short and sweet (?) review on this curiosity item. I was ecstatic about this game, as I had never played it before and I had just (kinda) finished the first Ninja Gaiden, which I consider one of the finest games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. What I had heard was that Ninja Gaiden II was a really great, obviously overlooked game, and considering my factual knowledge on better gameplay mechanics and all-around smoother output, I was expecting a lot out of this game. Yeah, it's good - but if the old magic's truly there, and if the game's higher-than-life difficulty level smacks the player with anything else besides utter frustration almost half the time, I'm missing something.
The cutscenes are a bit different - somewhat more generic, all the way to Ryu's close-up model that's half blacked out by a shadow; altogether it seems like Tecmo attempted to steer players' attention away from fancy cinematics by toning down on dramatic camera and sound effects. In turn, they focused on level and character design. The enemies function a little less like robots, Ryu moves a bit differently, and there are many level-specific stipulations for one to conquer, for example wind. Let me say at this point that if there's any natural element that annoys me in a platformer almost as bad as ice, it's wind. The second level in this game is perhaps the worst case of it I've ever suffered from. The music is all right, I guess, but in comparison to the first game's best tunes, I must say we're taking a trip well below par here.
|This might be the first game to have a moving |
train for a level. Certainly not the last one.
You see, the worst thing about Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is that it has such a high difficulty level it's simply not fun in this basic format anymore. The game doesn't give you more than one single level to train the basics - the first act is perhaps too easy, and pretty much a more multi-layered version of the first level in the first game, at that. Even the boss and the cutscenes pay tribute to the first game, as you will see. The second act's latter part and everything there on out is hell on God's pixelated green Earth. There's shit flying towards you from all directions, from balls of flame to those birds that were put into the first game as some sort of a misplaced joke - they're far from funny this time around. Narrow ways filled with things that will hurt you, and the hazard of getting stuck onto a wall as easy prey for everything, as well as the prominent hazard of the level itself, be it constantly flicking lights or wind. Extremely fast movement by bastards on the ground, or a firing rate that makes at least one out of three bullets impossible to dodge. You have to be on the move, constantly, or you won't last much more than ten minutes in the world of Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos.
|How do you make the game look less like |
Castlevania? Well, certainly not by putting in
a level that's got Castlevania written all over it.
The game's got kind of a hollow, subpar plot in comparison to the first game's elaborate story, the cinematics are not as good and although the gameplay mechanics are admittedly better, the game gives anti-compensation in the form of some really frustrating sequences, even whole acts, from the very beginning. Still, I can't help but to recommend this game to everyone who loves the first Ninja Gaiden as much as I do; if for not much else, it's good for broadening your horizons and general knowledge.
+ Improved basic mechanics
+ Improved level and character design
+ Retains the first game's benefits of unlimited continues and relatively fair checkpoints
+ The game's English is even better
- Downgrading the cinematics is easily comparable to Koji Igarashi deliberately downgrading the quality of the soundtrack in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance; it eats away on some of the most important magic in the franchise, the magic that originally made it stand out perhaps more than anything else
- Although there are musical moments worthy of hearing, the soundtrack in general is disappointing and stale
- Simply crazy environments for which this improvement in mechanics is not nearly enough
- The game gets ultra-difficult way too fast for its own or the player's good
- Luck > skill, times ten
< 7.6 >