Save for the most recent installment, the modern-day Ninja Gaiden series has been held in high regard among critics and the gaming populous. Despite the positive word-of-mouth, I hadn’t played a Ninja Gaiden game since the Ninja Gaiden II on the NES. I’ll never forget how brutally hard the NES games were, and I heard the new games were equally challenging. As someone who isn’t much of a masochist when it comes to video games, this just didn’t sound like something up my alley.
However, when I came across Ninja Gaiden II for dirt cheap at a Blockbuster closing down sale, I decided to outside of my comfort zone to give this one a shot.
As a means of nipping my difficulty concerns in the bud, I immediately switched the difficulty to easy. For the first three chapters of the game, it was challenging, yet fun. I really dig the combat system, which does not reward mindless button-mashing. You need to fight every opponent with respect in order to win. Though it wasn’t as complicated as say, a fighting game, it definitely scratched that itch.
The game had some issues, but I was willing to work through them based on the initial satisfaction I was having with the experience. The combination of a bad camera and numerous confined spaces mad navigating the world and fighting enemies more clunky than they should be. I also experienced some weird design issues in the third level revolving around a tightrope. Ryu was to traverse across it, but he was getting pummeled with enemy fire from flying demons and archer ninjas from the other side of the rope. He’d fall off if he took any sort of damage, which meant I’d have to dispatch everyone. I ran out of arrows before I could kill the archers, so I thought I was screwed. Before just giving up, I randomly decided to save my game and go back to the rope. To my surprise, the archers disappeared. My gain, I guess.
What I couldn’t deal with though, was the boss fight on that same level. After battling your way through a demon-riddled New York City, you find yourself going head-to-head against a giant silver dragon in a cramped subway tunnel. It’s at this point where the game’s issues brought me to a screeching halt. Because the area is so confined, it’s really hard to keep your view lined up where you want it to. Worse, depending on where the boss is and where you are, the camera angle will do an instant 180, which will immediately cause you to run the wrong way and lose your orientation. The dragon will shoot tons of projectiles at you, which do a ton of damage and are seemingly unavoidable. Worst of all, even if you’ve got an eagle eye with your bow and arrow, you’re going to have to land a lot of shots in to take it down. I lost a good dozen times and just gave up. After watching a video of someone else beating it, yet still struggling with the same issues I listed above. It’s one thing to deal with a challenge, but this didn’t feel reasonable or fun. Also, if I’m struggling this much on level 3 of 14 on the easiest difficulty setting, I was in for a rough ride.
I’m glad that I got to try this series out. There’s definitely aspects of this experience to like, but I was ultimately turned off by some of it’s gameplay design choices and technical failings.