This superior sequel picks up where its predecessor left off.
GENRE: Action platformer
RELEASE DATE: April 1990
Ninja Gaiden didn’t hold back. From the cut-scenes (or “Cinema Display system” as Tecmo liked to call it) to the non-stop action to the rage-a-holic difficulty, nothing Ninja Gaiden presented to the player was subtle. Ninja Gaiden II continues in this aggressive tradition. Ryu moves as quickly as ever, with new moves that keep him lighter on his feet. Enemies are plentiful and aggressive, unwavering in their hatred for Ryu. New moves and secondary weapons, dynamic environments, and a neverending healthy frustration all propel Ryu’s second quest above the first.
Irene’s missing. A new villain, Ashtar, rises out of Jaquio’s ashes. Robert, a mysterious ally, emerges from shadows. This is the genesis of The Dark Sword of Chaos. Whereas Ninja Gaiden I was a personal revenge tale, Ninja Gaiden II feels more like a summer blockbuster. The story brings back elements from the previous game, while adding more action and surprises. Ryu’s environments are more dynamic, as well. Stage 2-1 sticks you on a moving train, while stage 2-2 changes the direction of the wind and snow intermittently, forcing you to consider the timing of your jumps. Stage 3-1 is covered in darkness, until spurts of lightning show you your path. These little environmental flourishes enliven Ryu’s world, and bring a sense of urgency to his adventure.
Ryu’s new abilities are a welcome addition to his repertoire. In the first game, Ryu was limited to one place while clinging to a wall. In Ninja Gaiden II, Ryu can climb up and down walls and release secondary weapons while clinging to a wall. Ryu can also have two orange clones follow him and copy his exact moves; collect the “Orange Ninja Heads” found in the red orbs scattered throughout each level. There are arguments that these clones make the game easier, and that their orange color is distracting to the eye. I personally enjoy them, but I acknowledge that they probably make the game less of a challenge. If you’re a purist, don’t use them. Simple as that.
Ninja Gaiden II was my first experience with a Ninja Gaiden game, and I loved it. It felt so dark and different compared to other games on the Nintendo. The cinema scenes blew my mind, and frankly, freaked me out as a child. The scene in the opening credits where Ashtar is standing on a wall and looking out at a dark purple sky will be forever emblazoned in my memory. Because I grew up with Ninja Gaiden II, I definitely prefer it over the original; it’s hard to disassemble childhood memories objectively for just about anyone, I feel. Ninja Gaiden‘s story had more emotional weight and impact, while Ninja Gaiden II refined the gameplay and brought the series into its own, away from all the Castlevania comparisons. A personal favorite.