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Title: Ninja Gaiden 2
Rom Player: NESticle
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: As we left our hero from the first Ninja Gaiden, Ryu Hayabusa, he had defeated that most despicable, flying, fireball-shooting weirdo, Jaquio, slain the demon that arose from the two statues, and escaped persecution by the CIA. I hope I havenít spoiled too much for you, the reader, but you knew what you were getting into when you looked at this review instead of playing the first Ninja Gaiden through. Anyway, a year later, the evil puppet master who was behind Jaquioís equally evil plan decides to hatch another, slightly more evil plan than the first evil plan. If you watch the opening cut scene, youíll know this guy to be Ashtar, whom youíll get to know quite well through a series of close-ups on his messed up-looking face. Unfortunately, Ryu doesnít get to find this out until a little ways into the game. Much like in the first one, he winds up getting attacked by a large group of thugs in the city, and is prodded in the right direction by a mysterious stranger. Thatís all youíre getting, though, the rest of the plot is just as juicy as the first, if not more so.

The cut scene system remains pretty much the same from the original. A little bit more detail is put into each one, though, and that is a definite plus. As in the first one, each time you reach the end of a stage, or begin a new one in some cases, you get some form of a cut scene that helps further the plot and show you who youíll be fighting next. There are a couple of extra cut scenes in some of the levels that are placed roughly in the middle, as in the first one. The greater emphasis on detail, however, is the clincher.

Now, in some game series, the character wonít evolve at all, or gain any nifty new abilities. Such is not the case for our dear Ryu. In the first one, all he could do for ascending walls was to jump back and forth between two walls, or slowly skip up the wall. Now, you can climb up those walls in the same way that you could climb up ladders in the first one, which makes traversing the treacherous pit-filled levels, reminiscent of the levels from the first one, much easier. Even better than that is that now, instead of starting with jack squat in terms of special weapons, he now comes equipped with the shuriken, weak though it may be, it is still better than nothing. Plus, Ryu has learned how to give himself a slightly longer invulnerability time after being hit. Speaking of invulnerability, He has also figured out a way to use that Invincible Fire Wheel power from the first one as a special weapon, rather than a cumbersome, one-use powerup. The only downside to this vast improvement is that now, I hold all game characters to this awesome standard.

Of course, your abilities arenít the only things that have been boosted, as you now have a couple new toys as well. Instead of them appearing in little bugs and lanterns that you have to pluck out of the air, they now come in one standard floating red sphere. From the top, you have your default shuriken, which sort of works against normal enemies, but actually bounces off of the bosses. Next, you have the classic windmill throwing-star, which can still be dodged in the same manner as in the first game so as to keep it going. Also making another appearance is the Art of Fire Wheel, though instead of three wheels of fire, each usage only shells out one. One of the new weapons is the Fire Dragon Balls. Even though the name suggests that they are fiery in nature, the manual states that they are actually little balls of lightning, which you throw at a downward angle from yourself. It only does one at a time, though, like the Art of Fire Wheel. The second of the new weapons is the Invincible Fire Wheel. When you activate this one, a typical wheel of fire comes up from the bottom of the screen and orbits you for about four seconds, rendering you temporarily invincible. Itís the little things, like the new weapons, that make me proud to play a game as a ninja.

With those new weapons, there are some new powerups. Unlike the first game, your ninja power only goes up to forty points in the beginning, and not every weapon costs five points to use. The game has been adjusted accordingly, though. Now, the blue energy boosts from the first game give you ten points, and the red ones completely max out your energy. Though your ninja power is limited at first, some of the red spheres contain a scroll that, once collected, will permanently boost your total amount by ten. You can only grab these scrolls once per occurrence. After those, there are the health potion, the bonus point bags, and the 1-ups, all of which remained unchanged. The new, and extraordinarily useful, powerup is an orange version of the 1-up that causes you to ďsplit your body.Ē What this does is it makes an orange duplicate of yourself that follows your every move, attacks when you attack, and allow you to throw extra Shurikens, Windmill Throwing-Stars, Fire Dragon Balls, and Fire Wheels at no extra cost to your ninja energy. You can only have two of these duplicates at once, but each one lasts until you die, and with three guys throwing three identical projectiles, it will be difficult for any enemy to kill you on their own.

If the pits donít get you, the bad guys just might, or they might just nudge you into the pit, stillÖ Anyway, Itís the same formula for enemies as in the first game: there are a handful of enemies with original patterns, and the rest are just the same patterns, but with different appearances. The horrible, horrible death birds from the first one have also returned, though the have been made slightly larger, and thus easier to hit. Plus, some levels contain enemies that behave and look like bosses from the first Ninja Gaiden. One or two good slices will put them down, though, so itís all good. The actual bosses for this installment are new and tricky. In the first one, each boss had an unaltered movement pattern, but the ones in this one will do things like avoid you to attack from a distance, go to a defensive position when hit, and all sorts of cool new stuff that was as close as you could get to AI in the early 90ís. Thatís not too shabby, if you ask me.

The music, oh how I love the music. Itís original and flowing, without any out-of-place beeps and such. The little ditty that youíd hear when you died in the first one, and I did hear it quite a bit, has been kept and used as the song for declaring game over. The boss music from the first one has been carried over and fine-tuned as well. The sound effects have been done in a manner more befitting such a great game as this, and are no longer the same brutal electronic noises from the first, possibly as a result of Ryuís secret ninja training.

In case you hadnít figured it out by now, this game is a winner. Many ninja games out there rely on very little to get them going, but this series manages to successfully blend a good story with great action. Itís a formula that equals much honor for Tecmo.

Best Cheats: Infinite health - At the title screen, quickly press up, up, up, down, down, down, a, b, a, b, select, start. If you're not fast enough, the code won't work. If you did it right, the game will make a chime. Now, press right, left, right, left, b, a. A word will come up saying INVINCIBLE.

Game Play: 10
Graphics: 9
Music/Sound: 10
Originality: 9
Overall Rating: 10

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