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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (NES) artwork

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (NES) review

"Reader, I have played “Ninja Gaiden II”, and now I’m here to warn you before it’s too late. Before writing this review, I commented that this game was better than its predecessor, the execrable “Ninja Gaiden I”. I was under much pressure, defending my review from people who said I didn’t devote enough sentences to that game’s story. This game has a story too, told through such dialogue as “What’s going?”, “Who are you?”, “What the…” and my personal favorite “You have to hurry!” The villain is a ..."

Reader, I have played “Ninja Gaiden II”, and now I’m here to warn you before it’s too late. Before writing this review, I commented that this game was better than its predecessor, the execrable “Ninja Gaiden I”. I was under much pressure, defending my review from people who said I didn’t devote enough sentences to that game’s story. This game has a story too, told through such dialogue as “What’s going?”, “Who are you?”, “What the…” and my personal favorite “You have to hurry!” The villain is a fellow named Ashtar, and the pre-title cinema tells us that his ambitions are not very nice. His henchman exclaims “What about the Ninja Dragon?” Ashtar says something to the effect of “He can’t stop us now.” Also, lest I forget, “HA HA HA…”

Back to the things people care about. Even though I said this game was better than the previous one, I must now admit that it isn’t too much better. One thing that has improved is the titular ninja’s ability to scale walls. Before, he had to bounce against them like a pinball. In this game, the programmers were considerate it enough to let us use “up” or “down” to move vertically while sticking. The “one-handed climb”, as I called it, is still necessary if you want to pull yourself over a ledge you’re climbing, but evolution takes time I suppose.

Our first glimpse of “Ninja Gaiden II” is very promising. Our character Ryu Hayabusa lands on a roof top, a nocturnal city skyline behind him. The music isn’t just a cacophony of “beeps” and “blips”. It has a nice, driving rhythm that compels us to charge forward. That is the extent of this game’s pleasantness.

Not too shortly afterward, we are confronted with the same brainless enemies. Some of them shuffle back and forth, as if their strategy for defeating you is to merely show up. Some look like tiny fleas, and they leisurely stroll toward you, confident that you’ll be too busy dealing with bats and ninja stars to notice little old them. Oh yes, you will be attacked by anything and everything and from every angle. Better games confront you with tricky enemies. Games like “Ninja Gaiden II” throw lots of mindless obstacles at you, preferring to let the forces of statistical probability work their magic. The guiding vision of this game: if 100 objects are thrown at something, chances are one of them will hit their target.

At the end of this first level is a boss, tall enough that you can’t quite leap over him. He has the ability to charge at you. That is all he has. He doesn’t know how to use this skill. You could be breathing down his neck, and he wouldn’t think to so much as swipe at you. He has this little timer in his head. When it ticks to zero, he charges at you. We know this. We expect it. So we leap onto wall and jump over his mindless attack. We mash the attack button until his life meter depletes to zero. Yawn.

After a critical plot development (“If you want to save the girl, do this! And hurry!”) we are inexplicably on the roof of a train. No explanation for this, folks, but we play along. Would you be shocked if I said there were more brain-dead enemies, including ones that blindly charge forward from the edge of the screen? The music is now “tootity-tootity-bleep-do-bleep”. But, boy, is this train neat. Gosh, look at how the background scrolls, like if the locomotive is *gasp* actually moving! Sorry, but in a game like this, you have to find some sort of wonder to marvel at.

Okay, when we make to the end of the train, we arrive at…a mountain side? Does coherence mean anything to the people who made this game? What’s next, Disneyland? The International Space Station? Toon Town? Oh, bother. Now there’s wind. Double bother. It seems the gimmick of this level is (brace yourself) fighting against the elements!

Marvel! As Ryu Hayabusa struggles to make heads or tail of Mother Nature herself. Thrill! As her winds push you backward, causing that same stupid and annoying enemy to appear out of no where again! Observe! The eighth wonder of the world, a boss man who tosses spiders and jumps on and off a platform!

It can’t get worse, can it? But it does, reader. But it does. Where else does stage three start but in a pitch black river, lit up only by lightning? Which begs the question: what happens to video game characters in these kinds of situations when there isn’t lightning? Don’t they ever carry a flashlight or a torch? What kind of government-employed ninja doesn’t have a set of night-vision goggles? Maybe Uncle Sam should have turned to Sam Fisher.

There are those who would say, Spaceworlder, lots of video games have these lapses in logic. They’d be right, and my response would be: maybe I wouldn’t be dwelling on “Ninja Gaiden II’s” lack of rationality if I were caught up in how fun it was? But there’s no fun to get caught up in. Ryu is relentlessly attacked from all sides, on buildings, on trains, on gusty mountains, on dark cliffs, and many other places. Forgive me if I don’t ask “Where will I be relentlessly attacked next?!” The rogues gallery isn’t driven by quality, but quantity. There is no coherence of vision.

Fans, this is the game you deserve. Readers, this is the review I owe you as an honest gamer.

P.S. The power-ups are shit. That includes the ninja clones.

P.S.S. The music is shit, too.

P.S.S.S. Maybe you kind of surmised this, but the story is a real stinker. Michael Bay movies have shown more humanity.

P.S.S.S.S. This review is a rant.

Rating: 2/10

joseph_valencia's avatar
Community review by joseph_valencia (July 06, 2009)

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drella posted July 06, 2009:

This would be a good review without all the irrational anger. Your talking points are better illustrated for sure, even if some are direct rebuttals to message board posts, so nice progress.

"Better games confront you with tricky enemies."

This would be a great place for an example of a better pre-NGII game that has enemies more along the lines of what you like/expected. I'm trying to figure out why you're so dismayed by the enemies (the respawns suck, but I don't think there's a fundamental difference between NGII's drones and Contra's or Castlevania's or Super Mario Bros') and I can't quite understand from either review. Getting this point across to the reader more effectively would make both stronger.
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drella posted July 06, 2009:

Also, have you ever played Ninja Spirit? I think it's something you'd like a lot more than the Ninja Gaiden trilogy, even if similar in concept.
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zigfried posted July 06, 2009:

The writing quality is shabbier, and the tone is so dismissive that it's hard to consider this a credible opinion (deriding NES music as "beeps and blips" is lame), but the few arguments you do make are fundamentally stronger.

Even with the "I wouldn't care if it were fun" disclaimer, incohence of levels is normally a weak argument (how many 8 and 16 bit games weren't incoherent?) but since you talk about the story -- and even mix a bit of it into the middle -- it's understandable for someone to expect a degree of coherence. Otherwise, why bother having a story? That's an example of completeness helping to support your case.

Although personally I think the progression from city to train to mountains makes sense. He caught the train at the edge of town and rode it all the way to the mountains. But hey, that's just my take on it.

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randxian posted July 07, 2009:

My biggest problem is how this is obviously a continuation of the other thread.

I think transferring fights and disagreements from message board forums onto reviews is just silly.

Otherwise, I do enjoy the edgy humor. I think you could build on that if you didn't make this all about getting back at the people who "trashed" your original review.

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