Title: Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: Virtual Console
NA Availability: Digital
EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage: 62
Ninja Gaiden is somewhat special to me. It’s probably due to the fact that the original Ninja Gaiden is one of the first games I ever played. My first console was an NES and the first games I had for it were Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, Double Dribble, and Ninja Gaiden. So, I started my gaming career with one of the hardest platformers to grace the NES and was trying to tackle the game when I was only 5 or 6 years old. Granted, I never finished it back then, but I did get a good halfway through it, when the story starts mentioning Ryu’s father.
That was my initial reason for starting my Virtual Console reviews with Ninja Gaiden back last month. To continue my NES VC Review Library, I’m continuing on with the franchise. There were three NES Ninja Gaiden titles, all in the same style, and all the furthest in the overall timeline of the franchise. So, let’s get started with it. Here is my Retro Review of Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos!
Ninja Gaiden II is actually the most recent chronological game in the series, with its sequel taking place after the original game and before this game. Though I’ll go into more detail on that when I review that game.
One year after the events of the first Ninja Gaiden, a dark sorcerer named Ashtar kidnaps Irene Lew, major character of the entire trilogy and Ryu Hayabusa’s love interest. Upon learning of this, Ryu heads after him, not realizing the scope of the adventure he’s throwing himself into. It is revealed in the prologue that the first game’s events were only the tip of the ice berg.
The story, itself, is interesting enough, but all in all, I felt the game’s finale was a little unintuitive compared to the other games. I cannot say why because of spoilers, but I’m sure you’ll understand once you play and reach the final boss. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I was expecting a bit more from it, especially considering how the game leads up to it.
The gameplay of this game is identical to the original game. You are side-scrolling and platforming while fighting off enemies in intricate stages that require précising jumps and timing. In short, it’s a 2D action game, just like the first game of the series.
With all sequels, the gameplay has been enhanced quite a bit. One of the most notable additions make to The Dark Sword of Chaos is the fact that Ryu can now climb up walls instead of just clinging to them and trying to make angled jumps. Climbing up and down is useful for preparing jumps as well as dodging incoming fire from enemies.
The other major addition to the gameplay system is the inclusion of doubles. When you pick up certain power-ups, doubles of Ryu will appear and follow behind him, doing everything he does, but a little space behind. This is useful as these doubles will jump and attack just like Ryu does. Enemies cannot damage them, but they can damage enemies.
Level design is virtually the same as before. You move across 2D environments platforming and fighting off enemies. There are power-ups you can find, and many of those from the previous game have been enhanced along with new ones appearing. Each level ends in a boss room, where you have to fight a boss after learning their attack patterns. Once you complete a stage, your health will be refilled and you’ll get some story scenes to see the advancement of the plot.
One thing I’ll say is about the difficulty. The Ninja Gaiden NES Trilogy is considered hard as nails in general, but it’s worth noting that I found Ninja Gaiden II to be considerably harder than Ninja Gaiden. Even with the Virtual Console Restore-Point system to bypass hours of retries, it’s not an easy journey. Just like the original, there are intricate jumps that must be performed and some levels are just plain brutal. Ninja Gaiden was tough, but this game is tougher.
Finally, we can talk about length. Ninja Gaiden II has 7 stages to go through, one more than the original game had. While the How-Long-to-Beat web site says you can beat the game in 1-2 hours, I personal would call them on exaggerating. Even if you’ve learned all the stages fairly well, I’d put the game at a pace of 3-4 hours. It’s longer than the original game, with boss fights and level design in general.
The controls are very simple, just as they are for the first game. You can move with the Circle Pad or D-Pad, jump with the A button, and attack with the B or X buttons. If you’re a newbie to these games, it’s also worth mentioning that pressing up and the B/X button or attacking while clinging to a wall will attack with your sub-weapon.
As you’d expect, it’s a very easy control scheme. Granted, the NES didn’t have the tutorials of today, so you have to figure it out on your own. But still, it’s not very hard to get used to.
The first Ninja Gaiden had some pretty weird color-distorting problems on the 3DS. Ninja Gaiden II doesn’t suffer from that, though it does suffer from many background environments having a noticeable blur whenever you’re moving. This isn’t a problem with Virtual Console, but an issue with the game in general. This blur was there on the NES. It’s pretty annoying, but it’s not anything new to the VC release.
Otherwise, presentation is fine. There are no noticeable problems with the audio or the loading sequences. It should be noted that, of the NES trilogy, this is the only game with actual titles to its soundtrack. It is considered the fan favorite as far as music is concerned, and a lot of it isn’t bad to listen to. For 8-bit music, at least. There’s a lot of variety in styles here.
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is for fans of Ninja Gaiden and challenging themselves. The game does have a few setbacks with the blurring and the story’s finale. Despite this, it’s a fun game that will appease series fans both in gameplay and the brutal challenge it presents us with