Sequels. We look forward to them in hopes that they’ll bring us more of what we love and then some. We all have expectations for sequels. Some have astronomical ones which will never be met, but we can all agree that at the very least, the fundamentals which made the original so great remain intact. Team Ninja’s, sequel to the original, Ninja Gaiden 2 excels in some areas, but takes a couple of steps back in others. What are those areas and why are they so important? Allow me to elaborate.
I’m going to go ahead and say it out right: it’s the technical issues which hurt Ninja Gaiden 2 the most. Having played Ninja Gaiden: Sigma (remake of the re-release of the original), the differences in technical issues is startling. Understandable issues, but startling nonetheless. Anytime the framerate drops or screen tears, it’s simply because there are too many enemies on the screen. Adding more enemies is great and I welcome it, but don’t sacrifice the snappy fluidity of the game for it. As with Sigma, the game will occasionally take a moment of your time to load some data throughout the level. Unlike, Sigma, NG2 likes to do this without rhyme or reason during fights. It’s not repeatable either; there will be sessions where I would load and then there will be sessions where I’m left uninterrupted. It’s not game breaking, but it is annoying. There are a few benign bugs which rear their ugly heads, but since a dismembered limb floating in thin air is always good for a laugh, I won’t hold it against them.
Sigma gave a nice glimpse of what a next-gen Ninja Gaiden game could look, however we were all waiting patiently to see what the true sequel would bring. The final result is a mixed bag. On a strict technical level, nearly every aspect of the game’s visuals was enhanced over Sigma’s. Textures were in a higher resolution, the anti-aliasing created an incredibly smooth picture and everything in the world was given noticeble bump in polygon count. I found Ryu Hayabusa’s movements to be smooth in Sigma, but his NG2 incarnation easily trounces it — it’s like some form of ninja ballet.
What I didn’t find particularly endearing were the environments. Some were alright, but a handful of them assaulted the eyes with their unnatural saturation and gloss. Just like its predecessors, the levels served as meaningless backdrops with little to no interaction within them. The invisible walls are still rampant and it just reeks of laziness. The same goes for the flat blood textures and their inability to blend with the level’s geometry. On the bright side, they did manage to churn out wider array of locales and eliminated the need for backtracking.
What else did they fall short with? How about the story? It’s worse than the original. At least the original had revenge as a driving force, but NG2’s story isn’t even worth talking about. It’s still being conveyed through short cutscenes and diary entries strewn throughout the levels. Who knew that so many ninjas kept diaries? As for notable new characters? Sonia, the newly introduced CIA agent, served as Rachel’s replacement as the big breasted blonde beauty. She’s not playable which should satisfy the ‘playable Rachel’ haters. I’d like to note that I did enjoy how Team Ninja brought us back to Hayabusa village. Playing the nostalgia card tastefully always scores some points with me.