I think the bosses will be the sticking point for a lot of people. They are do-able (just), but – blimey – they’re hard work. At times you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of such a brutal and remorseless wave of attacks that you’ll barely have time to use a health potion. On occasion, you’ll spend thirty minutes or more desperately trying to work out how you can make the next attempt successful when your opponent seems to offer no realistic opportunity for defeating them. It can be hugely dispiriting, not least because these are some of the most brilliantly designed and impressively fiendish bosses we’ve seen outside Devil May Cry 4. But is it a good thing that they leave you wanting to throw in the towel?
And there are times when Ninja Gaiden 2 just doesn’t play fair; times when you enter a new area to be immediately and unavoidably set upon by a bunch of thugs who wipe out half your health bar in an instant; times when enemies come seemingly from nowhere to open a can of whup-ass on you, without any hope of evading or hitting them beforehand. These problems are made worse by an infuriating camera that does its best to ensure that you can’t see the guy who’s pounding on you or the archer who’s shooting at you or the three huge demons who’re just about to grab you and try you as a snack. The boss battles are again, the low points here. For instance, is it too much to ask that when I run away from a boss then turn swiftly towards him, hoping to aim one of my arrows, the camera actually point in the direction I’m facing and not in the direction opposite? Talk about making a difficult task nigh impossible.
What’s more, some of the gameplay is surprisingly old-fashioned. The path through levels is shockingly linear, ludicrously artificial barriers are everywhere, and there’s little in the way of adaptive gameplay or real enemy intelligence. It’s a bigger, bolder Ninja Gaiden, but is it a noticeable step forward from the first? Not from what I’ve seen.