Game Review: Ninja Gaiden II
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

Ninja Gaiden Title Screen

  • Publisher: Tecmo
  • Developer: Tecmo
  • Released: May 1990
  • Game Type: Action
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-NG-USA
  • Rarity: C- (Borderline Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Ninja Gaiden II Screen 1 Ninja Gaiden II Screen 2

    As you can guess this is the second game in the ninjatastic Ninja Gaiden series. The first game was a hit with NES gamers, but there was still some issues, notably the high difficulty. Fortunately Tecmo addressed those issues when they brought out NG2, and the result is a game pak that not only improves on the original formula but also turns out to be one of the best action titles on the NES.

    This second chapter in the Ninja Gaiden saga puts you back into the shoes of Ryu Hayabusa. In the last game Ryu was successful in defeating the evil Jaquio and saving the world, while avenging his father's defeat in the process. A year later, he learns from an informant that his friend, CIA agent Irene Lew, has been captured by an evil warlord named Ashtar, who was the real mastermind behind the events in the last adventure. Plus Ashtar is out to cover the world in darkness by opening a gateway to the Realm of Chaos with the aid of the Sword of Chaos, the evil twin of Ryu's Dragon Sword. So Ryu must once again challenge the forces of darkness to save his friend and the world.

    The game plays just like the original, with many new additions. This time there are seven acts with two or three levels each, and once again Ryu has to make it to the end of each stage within a given time limit. Ryu is again armed with the Dragon Sowrd which he uses to dispatch enemies and slash at crystals containing power-ups. This time around Ryu has some new abilities. He can still cling to walls like Spiderman but now can climb up and down any wall, whether it features a ladder or not. Ryu can still call upon his trusty Ninja Arts, and can now even use them while holding onto a wall. The Ninja Arts feature the regular shruiken, the Windmill Throwing Star, and the Fire Wheel, as well as the new Dragon Fireballs, which launch a fire attack in a downward angle. Plus the Invincible Fire Wheel, which was a one-time-use item in NG1, is now a selectable attack and can be used several times. The special attacks still use ninja points, and this time you have a maximum of how many points you can accumulate, but the limit can be extended by finding scrolls. Finally one more new feature is the ability to create Phantom Doubles, invincible ghosts who mimic Ryu's every move. Ryu can have up to two at a time and they attack at the same time Ryu does, even using Ninja Arts for three times the firepower. As usual, at the end of each act you have to swuare off with a monster boss, and once defeat it you're rewarded with a cinema scene that shows what happens next in the story.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are very good, miles better than the original Ninja Gaiden. Compared to the first game everything is clearer and brighter, from the stages to the sprites. Again the stages feature an pseudo-3D effect which still works pretty well, and some of the levels have nice background effects such as the blinking city lights in the first stage, the lightning in Stage 3-1, and the raging fire in 4-1. The cut scenes are just as good as the original; the chareacters are very detailed, most of the scenes sport some nice parallax scrolling, and there's even some cool effects like Ashtar's warping out trick.

    The game's audio is also first rate. Each background tune fits each level pretty well, setting the mood for the stage. The sound effects are also good, such as the slash of your sword and the explosions enemies make when they're defeated.

    The controls work pretty good. Ryu is pretty responsive and for the most part jumping is no problem. One annoying thing is sometimes when you try to turn around and jump you end jumping backwards, usually into your death. Also the improved climbing controls are a big help. However Ryu still can't climb over the top of walls; if there's no wall to jump back and forth, you have to jump off the wall while holding Right on the controller to try and steer yourself onto the top, which can be too hard at times.

    Challenge & Playability:
    Ninja Gaiden II does an excellent job of keeping up the exciting platform action of the original. While the frantic pace of the previous game may seem a tad toned-down at times, it still features plenty of the addicting non-stop ninja action that the series is known for. Some of the stages even feature some nifty challenges, like the wind in Stage 2-2 or how Stage 3-1 is in total darkness until lightning flashes to light it up. Just like NG1, the game's story is nicely done with some interesting plot twists.

    This game also improved in the difficulty level. While the game is still pretty challenging and will take more than a few tries, it's not as mind-numbingly frustrating as the original. The endlessly respawning points are done away with (dead enemies still reappear if you scroll the screen back and forth, they just don't constantly appear while you're standing in one spot) and health-restoring medicene is more plentiful. There's still a few spots that might try you, and the annoying bird enemies are still lurking around, but for the most part you won't be throwing your controller across the room as often as the first game. The new abilities and unlimited continues are a definete help.

    The bottom line is Ninja Gaiden II is the best game in the trilogy and one of the finest side-scrollers on the NES. Most everything about this game is top-notch, and the addicting action and compelling story will keep you playing. While some Ninja Gaiden vets may lament the loss of the blistering difficuty of the original, most everyone will will agree that is a game you can't miss. This ninja game definetly earns a black belt.

    - Review posted on August 24, 2007