If you’re an Xbox 360 owner, you’re in for a treat this summer as a slew of blockbuster titles have already shipped to your console! One of those titles is the highly anticipated sequel, Ninja Gaiden II. Fresh out of the box, we had to crack our necks to prepare for the grueling challenges we have to face in the game. If past experience with the last Ninja Gaiden has taught us anything, it’s that Tecmo has set a difficulty bar pretty high and Ninja Gaiden II is no exception. So far the latest installment offers tons of exciting features but also a few letdowns. Still, this is Ninja Gaiden in its best visual! No other version has come close to the use of smart yet gruesome visual effects to such great lengths than this one has.

The traditional combat in this game has changed a bit, and the underworld entities you’ll face are even more pernicious! Nevertheless, you still play as the most badass ninja in video games, Ryu Hayabusa. And it’s good that Ryu is such as a ruthless “executioner” because the demons that lie in your wake are unforgiving. The stage is set for an all-out war against the legion of Archfiends, who manage to return to power after eons of being in hell by the Dragons, an ancient force that vow to protect the human world from evil. As the modern descedant of Dragon Lineage, Ryu finds himself in the path of his ancestors as he now battles the same Archfiends using an intensive arsenal of weapons and amazing combinations of swordplay.

Each level of the game is action packed! You hack, slash, and decapitate your way through a multitude of vicious enemies and powerful bosses. What makes the action so satisfying is how quick and brutal these encounters are. Thanks to a touch of gore, all that slashing and acrobatic artistries look remarkably intense in real time; they keep you engaged and immersed in battles. But don’t let your eyes settle on that detail alone. The gameplay itself is quite deep. Besides the standard set of strikes, you are given Obliteration Techniques, which allow you to finish off opponents in devastating effect. The gameplay is also accentuated by a new auto-healing system that offers semi-permanent damage restored at save points. Unlike before, it was nearly impossible to stay poised as your lives in stock suddenly dwindle down to zero.

During fight scenes, the game maintains an incredibly smooth frame rate; even if there is large amounts of metal clashing going on at the same time. Though the action is right on target, some of the camera angles are not. There are a number of blind spots in the game where it’s tough to see what’s hitting you behind those shaded areas; you feel trap sometimes! As you struggle to regain some momentary views of your field, you have already lost a life. As you deal with these camera issues, it doesn’t help that the game’s difficulty feels like it has been set to expert by default. If you don’t play smart, several other wraithlike assailants can easily overpower you with their assault. In addition, they are surprisingly adaptive to your patterns of attack, ready to set up counters with their own dose of cheap shots. The early stages may seem manageable at first glance, but the later chapters will quickly pit you in grueling battles. I supposed that it was our sheer luck that got us through those intimidating levels.

Graphically, the game looks fantastic from top to bottom! The action is not only a lot flashier but a lot bloodier as well. Pulling off those elaborate ninja moves is an awesome display, with great particle effects and blazing swordplay. What’s more is that, disposing your enemy is a visual feat itself, thanks to the introduction of Obliteration Techniques that showcase an over-the-top fatality. This is the best ninja action we have seen to date! The lighting effects are incredible, the character designs are excellent, the animation is fluid, and many of the background settings look polished. Tecmo also did a good job in the audio department. The sounds of the swords pounding on each other are nicely fused into the fight scene. The blade slashing through an enemy’s body is delivered with a convincing degree of sickness. Explosion that suicidal baddies create after defeating them compounds to a deadly result.

Ninja Gaiden II is a remarkable 3D action adventure overall. It is as impressive as the previous version, offering a more flamboyant swordplay and incredibly gruesome special effects. However, it’s still as difficult as the last Ninja Gaiden. With some restrictive camera angles, the game is even more of a challenge! Despite that experience, we still had fun gutting out hordes of otherworldly beings. And we never got tired of performing those insane wall jumps and other high-flying maneuvers. The levels are still big in scale, offering continuous hours ninja action and slicing frenzy. Sure, you can easily grasp the controls but mastering the game will definitely take some time, which has been the trademark of the Ninja Gaiden franchise. For years, the Ninja Gaiden games tend to work for hardcore action adventurers; but if you’re ready for some satisfying ninja actions, Ninja Gaiden II certainly awaits your call.