Well, looks like Ive managed to avoid the Koei Tecmo ninjas thus far, but theyre
not giving up; as a matter of fact, theyve upped their threat with a combination of jail
time and a fine of up to 250,000 dollars.
Still, Ill continue my heinous crime of reviewing the Ninja Gaiden series, but please
know Im really sticking my neck out here for you guys.
So last time, we looked at Ninja Gaiden 1 from 2004, a critical and commercial success
when it came out, and I think it is still a certified banger, so it only makes sense
that, today, we're gonna find out about its sequel.
Oh... O-OK, thats a bit of a change of pace.
Released in 2008 for the Xbox 360, Ninja Gaiden II is like its predecessor, only ten times
more chaotic and ten times as bonkers.
So much so, actually, that it exploits specific strengths of the 360 hardware, and that its
port to the PlayStation 3 a year later, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, had to have parts of the gameplay
toned down to work.
That said, there are many design changes even beyond that, and in contrast to the Black
and Sigma editions of the first title, all these alterations make for two radically different
Rest assured though: we're covering both Ninja Gaiden II and Sigma 2 all the same, and just
for clarity: vanilla II has a gold UI at the top, while Sigma 2 has a silver one.
To start with the basics, however, the mechanics are largely the same between both versions,
and the core should be instantly familiar to you if youve played game one.
The controls and many of the animations -- from wall running to various attacks and combos
-- have carried over basically note for note, and feel as excellent as ever, which is not
to say changes havent been made -- quite the contrary, actually.
Overall gameplay speed is a bit faster in a good way: Ryus dodge roll is replaced
by a quicker dash, for example; instead of casually walking through doors he karate kicks
right through them now; climbing ropes and bars is sped up significantly and thats
much appreciated because it shows up more often here; you can adjust the rotation speed
of the camera to your liking, which used to be a tad slow -- and the visual and audio
feedback for hitting and destroying enemies is some of the most cathartic shit ever.
Team Ninja saw what the stronger hardware was capable of and took full advantage: the
sheer possess of effects and particles is next level -- just compare an Ultimate Technique
charge from Ninja Gaiden 1 to now to get the picture for that -- and the gore is cranked
up to 11 in vanilla II.
Blood and other juices splatter all over the place there; dead bodies and innards remain
on the floor for quite some time, all of which is reduced in Sigma 2, sadly.
Whether this was an effort to censor the game or to optimize performance for the PS3, the
Lord knows, really, but instead we get this dissipating mist, which is fine enough but
the impact does feel a little lesser.
What remains intact, however, is the new dismemberment system.
In the first game, heads would sometimes fly off when enemies die -- entirely for flare,
really -- but in the sequel, Ryu can also, I think at random (question mark), slice off
their arms and legs.
This obviously handicaps the opponent, but theyll continue to pose a threat; after
all, you dont need arms to continue fighting, right, and dudes without legs may even crawl
toward you in an attempt to suicide bomb on you.
Some foes can even pick up body parts from their fallen allies and toss em at you
-- everybodys out for the Dragon Ninjas fucking blood.
Now, where the benefit for the player comes in is that you can instantly execute delimbed
enemies; do a heavy attack when close to them and Ryu will perform one of his many vicious
These are simply brutal and one of the things that truly make you feel like an unstoppable
murder machine, plowing through forces of evil, with the staple swift, yet slick camera
cuts and zooms to add that final bit of bite.
The importance of getting these details right in an action title can not be understated,
and Team Ninja demonstrates a mastery of this craft.
I dont wanna think about the amount of work that must have gone into all the animation
Granted, a decent chunk of it is Ry-used, heh, but theres also so much new.
The returning Ultimate Techniques are the star of the show in this regard; they were
already cool in the previous title, but man did they get an upgrade.
Theyre unbelievably ridiculous and over-the-top, and each weapon, of course, gets its own unique
variant or sometimes even two.
Just look at this fully charged one for the True Dragon Sword; if thats not sick to
you then I dont know what is: Yup, were still going
OK, were finally done.
Unfortunately, for as impressive as the UTs are, they do get kind of old after a while.
Essence charges have not been reworked at all from last time, so theres still the
same issue of being able to chain them one after another, and since they are about twice
as long on average now, repeating them too often can start feeling more like youre
watching Ryu rather than playing him.
To clarify, I love the concept of Essence charging -- I really do -- but to me, UTs
are supposed to be your ultra-super moves.
They should be balanced as such: to limit the possibility of or otherwise disincentivize
constant spamming, and to add real tension and consequence to the decision every time.
There has to be a way to achieve that, and the sheer spectacle would also be all the
sweeter and more earned if the UTs didnt happen so goddamn frequently.
I'm somebody who will ignore or restrict use of resources and mechanics when I find doing
so leads to a more enjoyable and challenging experience, so I can manage somewhat, but
there is the idea of path of least resistance and how many players will opt to take it;
it is the designer's job to prevent there from being one as much as possible.
It's a little frustrating, to be honest, because they've enhanced and expanded the combat in
other areas beyond the aforementioned feedback and dismemberment.
Ninpo is still unremarkable and detached from the rest -- I mainly use it as a clutch attack
of sorts or if there is so much shit I can't be bothered to deal with that I'll whip out
a couple of devastating spells -- and the Phoenix magic is the only one that can be
used on the move, but it sucks anyway, because you cannot damage enemies that just got hit
by one of the birds.
Its pretty lame, not gonna lie, however, Ninpo aside, theres plenty of positives
to speak of.
I never brought this up in my video on Ninja Gaiden 1 because it didn't bother me enough,
but the Bow handled kinda poorly in first person there and 2 fixes this: the aiming
sensitivity is nicer and tweakable, there is an actual reticle, and you can zoom in
for greater accuracy.
I found the Bow somewhat more useful as a result.
Sigma 2 even lets you move in third person while shooting arrows with a controllable
It's a bit rough, admittedly, but welcome nevertheless.
An optional manual, hard lock-on for melee weapons and Shurikens still isnt in either
version, but more than ever you can seriously question if it would even be possible to keep
Occasional mishaps with the automated, loose lock-on is probably the best they realistically
could have done -- I only ever felt the jank when tossing explosive Shurikens from a distance
or when trying to activate an Obliteration Technique -- and in some ways its less
troublesome than before.
One reason is that Ryu will do Flying Swallow regardless of enemy presence now, so if you
aren't quite on the mark, at least he will still carry it out instead of substituting
it with some other shitty move; it's less annoying, and allows you to get a better feel
for what you're doing wrong and how to correct it.
And proceeding down the list of improvements, Flying Swallow doesn't strike me as too unbalanced
anymore, and similarly I found that jumping off of walls is no longer as abusable.
Now, the two havent been nerfed -- in fact, you can perform Flying Swallow a couple times
in a row here without touching the ground -- but it's more that enemies generally seem
better at dodging or countering these shenanigans, even on the standard Warrior difficulty.
I also inherently didnt feel as inclined and tempted to repeat these manoeuvres ad
nauseum considering how versatile Ryu has become.
Parrying, for instance, is something that was in game one, but I didnt utilize it
For the sequel, I found it more intuitive to grasp the timing of thanks to this little
animation they added; its a small detail, but as such, countering enemy attacks is a
technique I incorporated into my play loads more, and it can provide some new additional
crowd control due to the way Ryu dashes around in response.
Its just mighty satisfying when you start pulling it off with a big success rate, and
the spin attack and by extension your launch parries can now even be continued into aerial
moves, opening up the door for more combo strings.
In general, this is an aspect where Ninja Gaiden II proves to be a sizable leap forward.
I already complimented the weapons in the previous instalment, and most of the worthwhile
ones make their return with a respectable increase in the number of combos to their
name, and how those can be chained into each other.
Im keen on the air juggling stuff they added to the Vigoorian Flail in particular,
and theres a lot of room to flex your combo muscles with the Dragon Sword and Dual Katanas,
especially at Level 4 -- those things got a saucy pool of stunts to mess around with.
Moreover, half of the selection is entirely new and there's not one tool I don't like
using: the advertised Wolverine claws have a short range but are deadly and allow Ryu
to slide around; the Tonfas have an even shorter range but extremely rapid attacks with exquisite
physical punch; the Kurasi-Gama has fairly slow wind-ups but hella range, and can be
used to pull enemies toward you; and the Scythe is essentially the slowest, heavy duty hitter.
In total, that makes for eight reasonably distinct weapons with their own animations
and repertoire of attacks -- gone are the copy cats with two or three unique moves -- and
Sigma 2 even adds a ninth, which is the strongest by a mile and still relatively quick?
Yeah, this blade is overpowered, which actually sets the tone for a lot about Sigma 2.
I'm gonna be a greedy bastard, though, and say I do wish the weapons were set apart further
in a few places.
Button inputs and their outcomes can feel samey here and there -- most have the fabled
Izuna Drop, of course -- and none of 'em sport any special, more unconventional properties
like the Unlabored Flawlessness did, which would deal higher damage when you're low on
I'd enjoy more of such features, and Im also puzzled why switching weapons in the
middle of gameplay remains absent.
This was understandable for Ninja Gaiden 1, but with Devil May Cry 3 setting that standard
in 2005, it is disappointing not to see it implemented here, as mid-combo swapping only
could've elevated the variety and experimentation potential further.
Still, it's hard to complain too much with such a wide arsenal at your fingertips, and
at least the process of switching, as well as healing yourself and the like, has been
streamlined slightly with a quick select menu on the D-pad.
Well, it's hard to complain too much in vanilla II, that is; Sigma 2, on the other hand, makes
a baffling, detrimental change to the upgrade system.
Rather than being able to level up your shit as much as you can afford, like in vanilla
II, in Sigma 2 you can only level up one weapon of choice at a time, for free, at specific
This is just why?
Why would you make upgrading so rigid?
What happens in practice is that all your Essence is spent on Herbs and the like, making
it effortless to drip feed yourself through the adventure wholesale, and you're denied
out of combat intricacies you could've had access to by this point in vanilla II.
As if to add insult to injury, you're arbitrarily not even allowed to bring any weapon to Level
3 until you reach Chapter 10 out of 17.
I genuinely cant think of a single reason for any of this; what its meant to achieve.
Legit, I had everything maxed out basically as soon as I obtained the last weapon in vanilla
II, whereas in Sigma 2 I still did not by the very end, despite being absolutely stacked
in Yellow Essence.
To be fair, they do dish out all the weapons to you a little sooner, which softens the
blow, and both versions allow you to use everything, fully upgraded, anywhere after beating the
In vanilla II, there is New Game Plus, which carries over all your equipment and items;
the enemies and bosses arent any stronger here, so the challenge is totally broken,
but youve already conquered that difficulty to begin with, and its simple, mindless
fun as a power trip, as well as a way to more freely mess around with Ryus arsenal.
Sigma 2 has something even better: a Chapter Select where you can finally replay individual
Chapters as you see fit.
It keeps track of your ranks per difficulty -- yes, yes -- and thankfully all the weapons
are always maxed out too.
Good shit, Ninja Gaiden is starting to catch up on this front; now if only the Ranking
System was made more robust and intricate.
It still overly rewards performing Ultimate Techniques and now also the new Obliteration
Techniques, so if youre gunning to achieve Master Ninja ranks across the board, then
be ready to disregard like 80% of the wonderful combat in favor of doing the same actions
over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over -- its so dumb,
I dont get it.
Using recovery items and dying still doesnt penalize you at all either, so the whole thing
falls flat to me.
Sonic Adventure 2 got it right in 2001 and thats a dang platformer, lmao.
I really wish the Ranking System was overhauled from the ground up -- it wouldve added
immense replay value -- especially when you take into account Ninja Gaiden II is even
more combat focused than its predecessor.
This already reflects in something as simple as the music:
The first title certainy has its energetic pieces, but theres also a lot of atmospheric and slower, more laid back
material in there.
While the sequel does have its share of that too:
...the overall directions leans a bit more toward bombastic.
As such, the soundtrack perhaps isnt as diversified and quite as melodically memorable,
but its certainly no generic orchestra that you cannot hum or wont want to pump
outside of the game at all:
In its own right, the score is really high quality stuff, worthy of praise, and the instrumentation is magnificent.
It hits a certain way and sounds hype as hell when youre embodying the Master Ninja himself,
yknow, whoopin ass and surviving the utter chaos that could end up swallowing you whole:
To further accommodate the shift, progression and level design has been simplified as well;
you get a bunch of linear Chapters that each take place somewhere else altogether: from
not Moscow to New York City, and from aboard the villain's large aircraft to the depths
of Hell, literally.
To their credit, the environmental design is, for a good chunk of it anyway, pretty
nice; Ninja Gaiden 1 has its neat locations like the Monastery and Tairon itself, but
for every one of those there would be something fairly uninspired like some underground catacomb
2 isnt devoid of that, no, but among others you get a huge, ancient castle to explore,
a jungle far removed from civilization, and I think the renditions of various real world
cities are attractive.
The Tokyo landscape that kick starts the journey, especially, makes a striking first impression.
You even revisit the secret Ninja Fortress and Hayabusa Village, looking richer than
before thanks to the more powerful hardware; the increase in scope and detail here over
what was possible on the original Xbox shines through.
Vanilla II and Sigma 2 are obviously closer to each other in visual fidelity than Black
and Sigma 1 were, but I think Sigma 2 takes the cake again with a more colorful appearance,
superior lighting, and a sharper image because of its native 720p resolution instead of whatever
sub standard pixel count the 360 version outputs.
Outside of its painfully increased load times, Sigma 2 is kind of a technical marvel to be
With this streamlined approach to progression and level design, though, a hub with interconnected
areas and the resulting backtracking is a thing of the past.
This isnt inherently positive or negative; its a pretty subjective preference, but
I do miss this component somewhat.
I thought it was handled well in the first title, and it paced out the adventure with
stretches to recollect yourself from combat, and break up the monotony.
By themselves, the stages in Ninja II have also ditched that Metroidvania-esque layout
where you would collect items to open previously inaccessible parts of the stage.
Dont misunderstand, there are still moments of down time and nooks and crannies to look
out for for upgrades and what not -- there is exploration to be had -- but the structure
is more point A to point B; you can check out small diversions to the side, but youll
be back on the main path shortly.
The absence of a map feature this time around sums it up, really.
Puzzles dont see a return at all, which, oh yeaah, Im extremely upset about, but
platforming is utilized a little less as well, I wanna say, and I was actually hoping they
would tap into that more the second go around.
The clock tower climb in Submit, or Die! is probably the most extensive
woohoo jumpy segment and its an awesome set piece -- you can even lure enemies in
between two cogwheels, killing them instantly -- however, in terms of actual complexity,
its nothing to really write home about.
More consistently challenging and imaginative platforming is definitely something I wouldve
liked to see, just to inject an extra spice of variety, but I should also highlight the
way in which the level design has seen improvement.
In Ninja Gaiden 1, combat encounters could only take place in their designated area;
enemies had to be fought where they spawn, as youd have to go through a door or something
to move elsewhere, deloading the previous room.
In 2, there are no rooms, if you will, and enemies are going to chase you down as far
ahead or back as the stage allows.
This adds a surprisingly cool layer of strategy to combat: if youre fighting a bunch of
terribly aggressive ninjas in an open space, it might work better to return to that narrow
cave you came from half a minute ago, so theyre grouped in a row and you can kill multiple
with one string of attacks; if dragons in the sky are shooting fireballs at you while
youre taking on already large, dangerous enemies, its probably a worthwhile idea
to backtrack to the inside of the building where you can isolate the grounded enemies;
if youre being bombarded by a stationary, missile spamming dickhead in the middle of
a battle, notice there is a bit of an angled wall here you can sneak behind to get out
of harms way and continue your battle with the rest -- etc, etc.
At the same time, the plan in your head could end up not working out too well in practice
and actually lead to your demise; especially if it involves proceeding further into the
level, its often risky business because more foes are likely to join in and swarm
The game doesnt fucking care either; even if the engine has to slow down to a crawl
to facilitate everything, it will not buckle down and youll have to deal with every
single enemy youve called upon yourself -- simultaneously.
I gotta say I commend that dedication, and overall I think this is a marked improvement
over the level design of the first instalment.
I wish the combat and environmental hazards got more opportunities to interact with each
other, like how you can shoot explosive barrels to blow up targets from afar in certain sections,
for example, but nevertheless I am pretty content with the level design... up to about
The Temple of Sacrifice.
The last third of the game or so is where the Chapters gradually devolve more and more
into corridors littered with enemies and little else; much of the exploration and creativity
fades away, and it makes the final hours kind of a slog I wanna get done and over with -- it
approaches Final Hallway XIII territory.
The combat mechanics are suitably expanded from 1, and the fact they manage to carry
the end game well speaks to how fleshed out they are, but in spite of that burnout is
certainly a problem one can experience with either release of 2.
Not only is it a few hours longer on average -- and 1 was already quite lengthy -- Im
also willing to bet youve defeated at least five times the number of enemies by the time
the curtain closes, and thats an estimate based on Sigma 2.
So, out of every facet, where Sigma 2 tinkers the most is with the enemies.
I recall many spots where straight up nobody shows up, even though they do in vanilla II,
and Im not necessarily against that.
Like I said, stages feeling like they overstay their welcome somewhat is a complaint that
can be leveled at this game, so cutting down on the frequency of battles, especially ones
similar in setup, can alleviate this.
The issue, frankly, is that it sometimes leans too far in the other direction; the Tempered
Gravestone Chapter is a fantastic example, where there are long stretches of absolutely
nothing to fight, and it leaves the level feeling eerily empty.
Sigma 2 also removes any and all enemies and hazards you would run into on the water.
For the combat, I get why it does so: you cannot defend yourself on the water, and Ryus
turning radius as he hops around is not the best, so its pretty awkward fighting.
The far superior approach in vanilla II is always whipping out the water gun thing and
tearing stuff to shreds, which literally boils down to button mashing -- not great.
On the flip side, what I dont get is why Sigma 2 takes out the submerged mines, because
attentive players can notice them and path themselves around em; I really dont
see how they are cheap or problematic.
End result, though, certain on-water portions are devoid of danger entirely in Sigma 2,
so they, again, feel pointless and out of place.
I think the most ideal solution here wouldve been if the water combat was improved, so
that no cuts had to be made and you keep the variety in encounter design that it provides
in vanilla II.
That being said, by far the most impactful change in Sigma 2 is the decreased quantity
of enemies in any given scenario.
Now, from the research Ive done, I gather that the 360 is faster at rendering large
polygon counts than the PS3, so part of this outcome can be attributed to that.
Even on the 360, its no secret particularly busy scenes will cause the game to physically
run at a slower speed, which is charming in a few select set pieces, but an unwelcome
stain on the action everywhere else.
Dialing back for performance reasons on PS3 is valid, but nevertheless Im fairly convinced
a lot of it is also artistically motivated.
Sigma 2 is not shy about reducing the games difficulty in more ways than we've already
discussed; enemy compositions tend to be altered -- a section where you fight a handful of
the same mini bosses in a row in vanilla II, for example, might now only have a group of
smaller, much less threatening Fiends -- and up to about ten enemies or so seems like something
the PS3 should be able to handle with sufficient stability.
Whatever the cause and reasoning, more importantly, Ninja Gaiden IIs mechanics were designed
with the large crowds of vanilla II in mind, which is most evident with the Obliteration
When youre severely outnumbered and trying to survive a massive scuffle, gaining the
ability to instantly finish off an opponent is a small step toward getting the situation
more under control.
This doesnt translate to Sigma 2 that well, because when the game is inherently easier
already and youre up against less enemies, as well, the OTs feel unbalanced and almost
like a cheap shortcut to winning battles.
Delimbing is more inconsistent in Sigma 2 than vanilla II, as well, with big dragon
monsters and other Fiends typically losing a body part after a few slashes, whereas I
recall regular human ninjas sometimes refusing to become vulnerable to OTs at all.
What further widens that gap, to compensate for the loss in numbers, enemies are buffed
with much increased health pools, so those dudes with a low chance of getting dismembered?
You can crush em into the pavement, jam a pole up their ass, squash their ballsack
-- they just dont give a shit.
While that can make group fights harder, as probably intended, when theyre by themselves
its obnoxious and ungratifying more than anything, and of course this is only exacerbated
the further you climb up the difficulty settings ladder.
Man, the higher difficulty modes, I am conflicted about these compared to what we saw in Black
and Sigma 1, I tell ya.
I should preface that I didnt play either version of 2 on Master Ninja -- I was pretty
full up after finishing both on Warrior and Mentor, sorry -- but I can say vanilla II
and Sigma 2 have their own shortcomings based on Mentor alone.
Ninja Gaiden 1 had such elegant difficulty modes, because each successive one sported
new and/or enhanced enemies that were more aggressive and dangerous in their actual behavior.
For the sequel, I dont recall much getting replaced, with the exception of the common
Black Spider Ninja fellas.
In Sigma 2, these replacements didnt give me noticeably more grief, honestly; what did
really stand out to me, however, is the aforementioned health buffs all foes receive, and the high
amounts of damage you take.
Grabs in particular can instantly eat away an astonishing chunk of energy -- especially
in the early Chapters with a relatively small bar, some attacks are on the edge of being
one-hit KOs -- so thats the kind of challenge youre signing up for with Sigma 2 beyond
Certainly, I was greeted with the Game Over screen more frequently as a result, but I
should let you know that I opted to use very minimal healing items for this playthrough.
Had I not restricted myself, perhaps I still wouldnt have died a single time because
all currency can be dumped into restorative items.
Obviously, this doesnt apply to vanilla II, since it doesnt have that alien weapon
upgrading system, and past that Mentor in vanilla II is infinitely tougher than in Sigma
2 to begin with; its pretty transformative for the experience as a whole, if you ask
There are more enemies on the whole, and as a collective they are the most relentless
Ive ever seen them so far in a Ninja Gaiden title.
I was fighting for my fucking life, so many battles you can think of, and it pushed the
level design and mechanics in a way I hadnt seen before.
It wasnt even until now that I thought to move forward or backward in stages to gain
a tactical advantage, and nowhere did the Obliteration Technique make as much sense
as here; they were only ever a relief, and felt paramount to the balance of combat encounters.
There was a profound sense of satisfaction in overcoming many sections, often by the
skin of my teeth, however Mentor in vanilla II is, sadly, also where the games uglier
side is most blatantly exposed.
The whole vision that makes the game so exhilarating and addicting at its finest -- the die
slower than your opponents vision -- is also its downfall for me at times.
With such an unrestrained design approach, youre riding a thin line where things can
easily tip over into feeling haphazard or unfair, and where that line is, is probably
a very subjective matter and dependent on player tolerance and skill, as well.
Unfortunately, I did find vanilla II crosses that line at various moments.
Not nearly always -- in fact, I dont really mind the much hated rocket launcher soldiers,
for example, because they usually remain stationary and are relatively easy to track otherwise
-- but whenever theres a million sticky explosive shurikens getting tossed onto you,
or when the devs throw more of the kitchens sink at you than you can imagine, I kinda
roll my eyes.
Unless youre some NG God, it's practically impossible to engage with sometimes; that
is, besides railroading yourself into abusing anything that grants invincibility frames,
and finding ways to stay in them as much as possible.
I wont deny, there can be a certain thrill to that in its own right, but that also equates
to a major bias toward performing Izuna Drops, Obliteration Techniques and Ultimate Techniques,
as well as spamming a bunch of Ninpo, over everything else, and Ive ranted about that
Another reality is that, with action as hardcore as this, the camera can also be a bitch and
pushed beyond its limits.
Off screen ambushes, mainly projectile based ones, can be incredibly toxic; many attacks
are so powerful they will crush right through your block now, so Ryus defense isnt
as helpful anymore, and neither are the audio cues for that matter.
Focusing on and placing them is a demanding task when everything is asking for your attention
already, and projectiles fire so mad fast that you cannot react to them, if you hear
them from larger distances at all.
Banning off screen attacks would dramatically change the game, so Im not advocating for
that, but Im missing some kind of visual indicator that warns you of enemies winding
up to ambush or shoot you and from where.
This would help considerably; think of Bayonetta 2 and how it highlights the ground under you
in such situations.
Enemies and the scenery itself can also physically obstruct the camera, which isnt a new issue,
but the more excessive nature of 2 only makes it worse; the big demons with their wings
are especially guilty when it comes to this.
This couldve been mitigated somewhat by rendering objects in front of the camera transparent,
allowing you to still see the enemy in question, as well as whats happening in your surroundings.
I hate to bring up Devil May Cry again, but remember how the pillars would go transparent
when fighting Phantom?
Granted, actively babysitting NG2s camera with the re-center trigger and right analog
stick, particularly with quicker turning speed configured, can alleviate some of the above,
but that doesnt negate the fact Team Ninja shouldve done a better job minimizing blindsides
and obscured views.
So yeah, Mentor in vanilla II?
Best described as a rollercoaster that brings out both the best and worst of the game.
I'll repeat: the problems are inherent to the overall design, but they rear their ugly
head on Mentor by far the most; thanks to the more manageable difficulty of Warrior,
I didnt find them to be as actively frustrating, ya feel me?
For the most part, Sigma 2 altogether is also on a bit of a different wavelength in this
regard, and instead has its own unique issues Ive already gone over.
Out of the four playthroughs, if I had to pick one that felt the most well rounded and
balanced to me its Warrior in vanilla II, but in sum neither version quite displays
the quality and finesse in their encounters, on any difficulty, that Ninja Gaiden 1 did.
For as flawed as Ninja Gaiden II is, however, in reference to both releases, it's worth
mentioning that it's actually surprisingly generous in some respects.
It teaches the controls and mechanics waaay better than its predecessor, for one thing,
with on screen button prompts and optional video tutorials demonstrating techniques,
and the revamped health system is quite forgiving.
You see, with every hit you take, your bar will become increasingly more red on the right;
when the current wave of enemies are defeated, then, all of the bar that is grey up until
the red will be refilled.
This means you can get a decent amount of health back after overcoming a battle without
resorting to any items, but you can, of course, use those to make more of the bar blue again,
and save points now also fully heal you once when you first trigger them.
Areas that youve cleared of foes will stay cleared forever, too -- there are no spots
where enemies can respawn at all, unlike game one -- and so, as far as the stage allows
it, you can always travel back to a save point to lock in any encounter progress youve
booked before reaching the next save point.
Call these band-aid solutions for vanilla II, but I can muster up more good will toward
a game where taking damage is an intended inevitability when its appropriately lenient
with health restores and checkpoints.
Lastly, theres a pre-boss fight checkpoint now, allowing you to try again instantly after
dying, although vanilla II does not have a post-boss fight checkpoint, which is just
cruel if its intentional, or a shockingly glaring oversight if not.
Thankfully, Sigma 2 does have a post-boss fight checkpoint, so thumbs up for that.
Sigma 2 also has the courtesy of removing minions from boss battles on Warrior with,
like, one or two exceptions, and I approve of that.
They show up a bit more again on Mentor, which, fuck, but it's nothing as crazy as in vanilla
There, they appear pretty frequently, even on Warrior difficulty, and on Mentor it's
off the damn hook.
I suppose this falls in line with the rest of the game's mentality, but how they handle
bosses with minions here leans toward the bullshit side of things for me.
Not only are the bosses a lot more on the offense than in Ninja Gaiden 1, so are the
enemies, and there are more of them.
An intricate and complex encounter like a boss just does not gel too well with distractions
or an assload of explosive shurikens being thrown onto you, though there are tools available
to make it somewhat more realistic and palatable.
Stockpiling Ki and letting loose tons of Inferno Ninpo gets you far, and in vanilla II you
can actually toggle the cameras focus between loose and tracking the boss.
Neither are ever ideal, but you get at least some degree of control and flexibility, and
it makes it sort of viable to take out minions first and then focus on the boss -- a silver
lining, if you will.
That said, even without minions, the camera occasionally struggles to follow bosses correctly,
notably when around edges of the arena.
The snafu is usually fixed by refocusing a couple times, yet those short intervals can
mean life or death.
Zedonius is a good example: I always use when he turns orange as a visual cue to dash jump
out of the way of his incredibly strict crash down from midair, but if the camera at a given
moment is aligned weirdly, hell reach out of view as he launches himself, making it
more difficult to dodge consistently.
I will say, outside of that, Zedonius fights are good and strong contenders for best in
the game, as hes one of those that truly punishes mindlessly whaling on him.
Slashing him during many of his attacks wont always cause him to flinch, enabling him to
grab and beat you up badly, so youll have to experiment and study closely what his safe
punish windows are where hell get stunned 100% of the time, and how long that stun lasts,
and how much damage you can get in; input even one button press too many by accident
and you may pay the price dearly.
At first he may seem erratically bullshit, but on his own I think he is fair.
I enjoy fighting Alexei for similar qualities; he has a lighting quick charge forward thatll
grab you if it lands, and the fun of that attack is gauging if, in the moment, you should
move out of the way altogether, or if you can predict where he will land and place a
dash just close enough away where you can sneak in some hits.
His moveset even expands halfway or so, with the ability to charge forward successively
in a row, and hell use this to be cheeky and fake you out.
Suffice it to say, any boss that operates akin to the above I probably liked; while
I wish he were a bit more complex, Genshin to name one, and even the spider in the first
Chapter is cool.
I was also on board for two of the boss fights that revolved around the Bow; they arent
terribly deep but I would argue more than the tank and helicopter in the previous title,
and they create a different sort of dynamic and pace.
The last one has a hint of spectacle to it, too, as you periodically have to ascend the
area; when used sparingly and done decently, I welcome these for the variety alone.
Unfortunately, theres also a noticeable amount of weaker or straight up horrible bosses
in Ninja Gaiden II.
In the former camp, we have something like Volf, whos got promise since he blocks
many of your attacks from the front, but once youve figured out how to get behind him
most of the challenge is gone.
Elizbet is mad tricky and has an attack that can absorb your health, which nobody
else can do and I think its interesting; surely, she would be a solid fight if not
for how so many of my fucking hits would inexplicably refuse to register.
Her hitbox seems broken and its kinda aggravating.
Still, OK enough battles, but then we get to the bottom of the barrel: GigaDeath in
the tunnel with these faces and this big face it summons that I seriously cannot figure
out how to dodge reliably without abusing Ninpo; the Water Dragon where youve only
got this tiny pillar to manoeuvre, charge arrows and dodge a few attacks; and of course
the tunnel worm thing where all you do is sit in one of these openings, charge a UT,
and release when you hear the worm rushing in closer.
These are simply awful, and combined with the minions nuisance, the full selection just
averages out to a very mixed bag for me.
Repeat bosses are common too; you face off against each of the four Greater Fiends twice,
and while many of them do upgrade on the second go, Genshin is just inexcusable since you
duel him four times and only on the fourth go do I spot any differences.
I wouldve been perfectly content with less bosses, you know.
The worst is when they take the shitty armadillo guy, and escalate it into this double armadillo
hellhole later with atrocious visibility.
Its dreadful, and I couldnt get past this with any considered measures; the only
approach that worked was hacking away until I got lucky.
Sigma 2 rightfully got rid of this abomination, and as youd expect, in general, it adds
and subtracts in the boss department.
The most egregious trash like the worm was put on the chopping board entirely, and they
replaced the multiple dragons in Chapter 9, for example, with this one dragon thats
more of a traditional, albeit solid fight.
Theres also the new big statue boss, which is never the most compelling in concept, but
I think the simplicity works well so early in the adventure; we just didnt need three
variants of it in the span of like two hours, is my grievance there.
If you ask me, not a bad set of changes though; really, the main fights they screwed up are
the ones centered around the Bow.
Theyre fundamentally botched in Sigma 2, since arrow charging as a mechanic was removed;
the bosses werent altered to accommodate this, however, and take as much damage from
a normal, spammable arrow shot as a fully charged shot in vanilla II -- you can see
the problem with that.
Overall, its kind of ironic and sad that one of the most enjoyable bosses for me, across
both versions, was the repurposed demon guy from the first game, only now you fight him
as Rachel: the minions are manageable, he himself has a moderate variety in attacks
and patterns and punishes greedy players, and you cannot cheese the fight with stronger
weapons, which you can do for many of Ryus bosses if you so choose.
This was a highlight from Sigma 2 in my eyes, and Rachel sporting a firearm to integrate
into combos together with her hammer actually makes her stand out a little more.
Credit due where credits due.
Past the above, though, Sigma 2s inclusion of three chick Chapters, again, comes across
as tacky and obtrusive.
Listen, Momiji is one spicy senorita -- Im a fan and Ill let her Izuna Drop me into
the ground any day of the week -- but she, as well as Ayane, just arent that different
Momiji has a double jump as a combo extender, I guess, and Ayanes rocking the explosive
Shurikens, which were taken away from Ryu in Sigma 2 specifically; I was confused about
why before, but they couldnt have done that to arbitrarily give Ayane a unique selling
point, could they?
I hope not.
Anyway, all three characters even have wall running acrobatics, so I wonder what the point
really is other than eye candy?
I think I just answered my own question.
Theyre plopped into previous stages with a few new sections stitched on -- admittedly
a slight step up from Sigma 1 -- and two of their three bosses, Ryu encounters later on
in Sigma 2, so those arent even fully exclusive.
Theres also an argument to be made that Rachels segments in Sigma 1 at least have
some degree of plot relevance with Alma, but besides Ayanes retrieval of the Eye of
the Dragon, Momiji and Rachel are never even seen or mentioned in vanilla II, and their
Chapters here are totally random detours that interrupt the main story.
Oh right, I almost forgot: Ninja Gaiden II has a story.
It's a rather shallow one. Really, it can be summed up as such: four Greater Fiends are awakened, Ryu travels across
the globe to put em to bed, and ultimately he confronts the successor to the Vigoor Emperor,
Vazdah, or however you pronounce it, after a trip through Hell.
To an extent you can reduce any plot like this, but I'm not really reducing it -- at
least not whats present in cutscenes.
You see, you can actually gather quite some lore from journals; theres humorous diaries
to sift through from fallen foes, fairly extensive history about the origins of the Fiends -- and
thats admirable; shows they had a vision for this universe.
The thing is, I dont think a game like this is necessarily suited to stopping minutes
on end to read paragraphs of text that contain context.
Call me a lazy bum, I guess, but I feel more of this could have been incorporated into
the cutscenes, because the actual material therein has little depth and no twists of
It's inoffensive; it isn't bad -- just a bare bones good versus evil tale where none of
the characters seem to have compelling personal stakes or motivations, if any at all, beyond
The four Greater Fiends?
They're forgettable, cant sugarcoat it: Alexei is the least bland one, since he is
a creepy pervert to any female including the Statue of Liberty:
Alexei: ''Trapped in a cage.''
Sonia: ''Stop it!''
Alexei: ''Oh, yes... That's it, yes!''
''Sing for me.''
''Sing again! And AGAIN!''
...but Volf is running out of entertainment with his gladiator battles and seeks a worthy adversary -- I actually
got more of a laugh out of seeing all his subordinates cheering and going apeshit, it
just looks so goofy and silly; Zedonius views humans as ungrateful apes because he bestowed
them with the gift of fire or whatever; and, no joke, all I remember about Elizbet, the
Queen of the Greater Fiends, is tits and cake covered in blood.
Riveting stuff, truly, and its a bummer; its not as if Team Ninja doesnt have
Like, Genshin, leader of the Black Spider Ninja Clan and essentially your equal rival,
apparently hates the Dragon Lineage because Murai, who used to be a part of the Hayabusa
Clan in the past, killed Gamov, and as it turns out Gamov was actually Genshins younger
That sounds intriguing, but the only reason I am aware of this background is because I
forced myself to read all of the fucking journals for the sake of review.
How is this, I assume, important part of Genshins drive not integrated into the main narrative
in any fashion?
He doesnt even bring it up when he has a short heart to heart with Ryu in his dying
breath, which is admittedly a cool moment, with the two being able to relate to each
other through their extreme dedication to protect and honor their clan.
Now imagine how it couldve been an even cooler moment if the Gamov detail was revealed,
and how that reframes Genshin in a slightly familiar light.
Yknow, I was hoping the writers would give us more to chew on this time around, but if
anything its less.
Sure, the execution was far from stellar in Ninja Gaiden 1, however there was the final
plot twist, the whole avenging Hayabusa Village setup, and Rachel, for as superficial as she
was, did have a clear, empathetic reason for becoming a hunter, a reason that coincidentally
gave her the shared goal with Ryu to hunt down Doku.
Her replacement in 2, Sonia, might as well be a Barbie doll; the only thing I know about
her is that she works for the CIA, and Im confident thats not on me because even
her character description on the Ninja Gaiden Wiki is far shorter than Rachels.
Its implied Ryu has a romantic interest in Sonia in the ending, which doesnt register
To him, what makes Sonia different from Rachel?
Theres equally little chemistry and development between the two, so is he just thirsty for
some and simping?
Youre a chad first class, Ryu.
You dont have to stoop to this level.
The man himself is still a stone face, as well, though he is a bit more talkative now
and I find his new actor is better.
I sort of warmed up to Ryu a little here, actually; not that his character has changed
substantially, but something about his dead serious and unfazed attitude creates an amusing
contrast to all the wackos and absurd circumstances he encounters.
Zedonius: ''Yet your ancestors and the Dragon Lineage tried to extinguish that flame!''
''Do you not think that foolish?''
Ryu: ''I don't care.''
There's this event where wolves break out in Venice, tearing apart a bunch of civilians on the streets, and mere
seconds later Ryu strolls around the corner, vibin like its yet another regular day
on the job as a Dragon Ninja.
If were not having a comedic or bold protagonist, then I can appreciate the developers showing
self-awareness through whats happening around Ryu and his reaction or lack thereof.
Dumb, campy shit like this and action-oriented setpieces are when the cinematics are at their
most entertaining: the old black smith showing he still got it by single-handedly wiping
out a group of Black Spider Ninjas, Sonia blowing up an entire colosseum of Fiends with
helicopter missiles, her and Ryu escaping from a crashing airship on a motorcycle -- and
while I wish there were more of these elements, Im glad theyre there at all.
The cutscenes boast some slick presentation, too, and hold up well with great voice acting,
animation, English lip synch and cinematography, so at least I can wrap up my thoughts on the
story on a positive note.
Joe: ''Your embrace of the evil way has consumed you.''
Genshin: ''Evil? Hm.''
''The ninja way knows not a good nor evil.''
Speaking of wrapping up, we're nearing the conclusion of the video here, but first I should
shoehorn in talk about the returning Mission Mode, because I couldnt figure out where else to do so.
For vanilla II, it's actually DLC you have to buy, and it's a very lackluster pack.
There's only 16 Missions, a third of which are just fighting bosses from the campaign
but in a different setting, and much of the rest are undercooked enemy gauntlets.
Many of the Missions are jarringly short; there's only a small handful that are decently
long and challenging, primarily the ones where you have to defeat 100 enemies, but it all
feels cash grab-y regardless.
There are no new environments or foes or anything; it's all stuff from the main game -- nothing
new to see -- and none of it is remixed or rethought in clever ways.
This falls short of the Mission Modes in Black and Sigma 1, which had more content, were
generally more interesting, and didn't cost any extra.
Sigma 2's Team Missions, on the other hand, are pretty solid.
They're all included in the base product, for starters, and the number of Missions has
more than doubled with a total of 35.
These are divided into various difficulties, and from Mentor onwards they certainly become
Ultimate Ninja is so ridiculous that you'll be fighting, like, three bosses simultaneously,
which is brutally bullshit, but that was the intention and I can see the value in optional
bonus content that will bring even the absolute best players to their knees.
Not for me, though.
On the face of it, the Missions aren't much more exciting than vanilla II's, but the key
difference is that Sigma 2's are co-op.
You can play solo with an AI-controlled partner, but they constantly kick the bucket past Warrior
Missions, so you really wanna invite a buddy to get the most out of this.
Local multiplayer is not supported, so I got ExoParadigmGamer, from Dithers Everywhere
fame, to record some footage with me and--
Oh... Oh no
This is worse than Smash Ultimate's online!
Yeah, so pro tip, for you zero people out there who are trying this mode on the PS3
today, make sure you're both using an Ethernet cable because it resolved nearly all the lag
for us, and funnily enough the game became more playable than Ultimate's online -- how
It's not flawless with the input delay, still, but perfectly functional.
Anyway, it's pretty fun to play Ninja Gaiden together with somebody else, and there is
some interactivity; if you're fast enough, you can bring each other back to life -- however,
the health you gain back gradually decreases -- and by activating both of your Ninpos around
the same time, you get this giant screen nuke that basically kills anything present at the
current moment with the exception of bosses.
Naturally, bosses with minions also work now and don't feel so overwhelming, so there is
a moderate amount of strategy involved there, too, yknow, figuring out each player's
strengths and weaknesses.
Another cool feature is that you can play as the babes, so you've got some choice in
characters, and you bet I was a happy man when I saw two Momijis bouncing around on
the battlefield together.
Long story short, the Team Missions aren't earth shattering, but I appreciate them for
the novelty alone, and it makes me long for the ability to play through the main campaign
in co-op with different characters.
Sure, it would probably be broken, but with tweaks here and there that seems like it could've
been incredibly enjoyable.
Ultimately, Sigma 2 isnt some disaster; taken by itself without context, its a
good action title for the PS3 with quite a bit of content, and it undeniably tidies up
and smooths over certain aspects of vanilla II.
For that reason I think its also understandable and reasonable for people to like Sigma 2
more, especially since its very beginner friendly.
This is not a bad place to start as a Ninja Gaiden novice.
By the same token, Sigma 2 makes its share of unnecessary, poor changes, is a neutered
experience overall, and as far as Im concerned it doesnt really come into its own with
a proper sense of balance; its one mans vision layered over the foundation of somebody
elses, and so by nature its easy to see why Sigma 2 is so controversial.
With that being said, whats perhaps most disheartening to me is that it misses the
opportunity to finish what wasnt properly finished.
Its well documented that vanilla II had a stressful, strained development, with director
Tomonobu Itagaki having a fall out with the higher ups of Koei Tecmo.
This echoes through some of the lackluster to plain bad parts that crop up at various
points, as well as the various glitches that can happen.
Sigma 2 released 16 months later, yet it still doesnt feel super polished when it comes
to weird technical hiccups, and by and large it simply cuts out the most blatantly unfinished
content; none of the weaker Chapters or individual sections are rebuilt or re-imagined or anything,
and instead the shiny new exclusive content included for the campaign is fap fodder.
*sigh* I wouldve loved for Sigma 2 to stay faithful to the spirit and direction of vanilla
II as best as the PS3 allowed, while bringing the needed mechanical, balancing and level
design improvements, to deliver the complete, definitive Ninja Gaiden II package.
All things considered, then, which do I prefer between Sigma 2 and vanilla II?
Well, I can only answer with the latter, simply because its the original where the mechanics
and overall design work most in tandem with each other.
The game is not as tight and consistent as its predecessor -- Ninja Gaiden 1 has aged
like fine wine; its the perennial classic most folks can appreciate -- whereas vanilla
II, holistically, is not as refined and meticulous.
Its so uncompromising in its goal to be the most batshit insane entry in the genre
despite a problematic development, that it cant help but periodically lay out the
cracks bare in front of you.
When I get screwed by some off screen projectile for the tenth time on Mentor
or run into that shameless, abysmal dual armadillo fight, its racing through my mind how rough
and rushed some of the design can be -- theres just no denying it -- but yet, at the end
of the day, Id be lying if I said I didnt enjoy myself a great deal as well.
Dont get me wrong, I 100% wish the lows were ironed out -- no apologism from me -- but
I do believe the highs outweigh the lows, and the highest highs are indeed high -- higher
than Ninja Gaiden 1.
The combat and feedback are in a class of their own, and all those moments when the
action is coming together correctly -- where youre weaving in and out the madness surrounding
you; finding chances to trim down the opposition that severely outnumbers you, one by one -- it
is a bloody beautiful sensation.
For better or worse, Ninja Gaiden II is truly one of a kind, and whenever its better
its hard not to love.
Hellooo, I hope you enjoyed the video!
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consider becoming a Patron.
It would help me out a ton and I operate on a Per Video basis, so you can be safe in the
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I appreciate you watching and listening, and peace out.