Ninja Gaiden II is the sequel to Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox 360, released on June 3, 2008 in North America and June 6, 2008 in Europe. It is developed by Team Ninja and published by Microsoft Game Studios exclusively for the Xbox 360. This is the first time Team Ninja developed game and did not have it published by Tecmo. The game will not be released in Germany, due to lack of a USK rating, and is a Mature rated title under the ESRB.
Ninja Gaiden II keeps most of the core elements of its predecessor, Ninja Gaiden. Protagonist Ryu Hayabusa (voiced by Josh Keaton) engages the world in a Third-person perspective, beginning the game with basic, low-level abilities and weapons that can be upgraded as he progresses by discovering or buying items. Ryu can interact with the game environment by running along and jumping off walls, swinging from pole to pole, or running across water. Ryu travels around the world, ranging from New York, Tokyo, the familiar Hayabusa Village, the Aqua Capital (with an environment similar to the canals of Venice), and regions of non-human origins, such as the Northern Purgatory, Lifeblood Shrine and Niflheim.
In-game cut scenes serve as the narrative to the story, and Japanese dragon sculptures (Earth Dragon statues) can be used to save player progress, permitting game play to be resumed at a later time, it also one time only restores Ryus health. The player can record films of gameplay and upload the videos onto Xbox LIVE for users to download and watch. Ninja Gaiden II uses the same scoring system, based on the player's speed in clearing encounters, the number of kills achieved, the number of unused ninpo's remaining at the end, and the amount of essence collected. Players can compare their scores on online Leader-boards.
The Story Mode for Ninja Gaiden II consists of four difficulties: Path Of The Acolyte being the easiest, followed by Path Of The Warrior, Path Of The Mentor, and Path Of The Master Ninja being the hardest.
The combat system of Ninja Gaiden II allows Ryu to decapitate his enemies, severing their limbs and tearing their bodies apart. Compared to Ninja Gaiden, the sequel contains much more gore and graphic violence. Dismemberment will weaken or immobilize an enemy, depending on if an arm or leg is severed, but not necessarily kill them. In fact, an injured enemy will be able to use suicide tactics such as pinning you down and planting an Incendiary Shuriken on you, forcing the player to quickly finish off his opponents using new, brutal Obliteration techniques before they can get the upper hand. Unlike previous games and Ninja Gaiden Sigma II human and some fiend enemies such as werewolves will leave behind dismembered limbs, bloodstains and corpses, however there is a limit for remaining limbs and bodies in an area such as the Test of Valor arena. Unlike human enemies the corpses and limbs of demonic enemies will disappear after you killed them, but their bloodstains will remain.
Aside from his standard melee techniques, Ryu can absorb nearby 'essence' in combat. These colored globes of energy are released from the bodies of enemies, and absorbed into Ryu's body when he comes into proximity with them. Essence have an important role within game play, acting to heal Ryu (blue), restore his ki (red), or use as currency (yellow). However, in combat the player can cause Ryu to deliberately draw in essence by holding down the Y button, to unleash powerful attacks known as Ultimate Techniques (UTs). These can also be peformed by holding down the Y button without any essence floating nearby. There is a new command called 'Obliteration Techniques' (OTs) which allows Ryu to excecute enemies, killing them instantly, but can only be used when an enemy is de-limbed.
Ryu will use his signature Dragon Sword in combat, and new weapons, which includes the Eclipse Scythe, Tonfas, Kusari-Gama and the Falcon's Talons. Ryu's new magical spells, in the form of ninpo, includes the Art of the Flame Phoenix and Art of the Piercing Void. However, previous weapons and ninpo from Ninja Gaiden return, some of which are the Lunar Staff, the Vigoorian Flails and the Windmill Shuriken. The Fiend's Bane Bow can now use UTs for more powerful shots.
A demo for the game was released on Xbox Live in Japan on May 31, 2008 and other regions on June 3, 2008. The Demo is the beginning of the first chapter and will only be playable up to the half way point. Four fully upgraded weapons are available (Although Dragon Sword was on level 3, not level 4).
Initial screenshots of Ninja Gaiden II surfaced on the Japanese official Xbox 360 website, but were removed within a matter of hours in October 2007. Aside from new weapons shown, new locations were revealed, though they were of a more Eastern origin than the previous game. Ninja Gaiden II was officially shown at the Tokyo Game Show, with the first released trailer. It was previewed at Microsoft's Tokyo Game Show Press Conference and was confirmed as an Xbox 360 Exclusive. Director Tomonobu Itagaki was quoted during the event as saying "Now please enjoy the world's best action game, running on the world's best hardware.
At the 2008 Game Developer's Conference, new characters and more weapons were introduced, as well as the return of previous weapons from Ninja Gaiden. On March 27, the official website announced exclusive content will be released on April 15, however it was delayed until April 22. The demo was officially announced by Itagaki to be released on the same day as the game itself, on June 3.
Early plot details differ greatly to the final game> The original story focused more on human created bioweapons, where the military created fused humans with monsters, granting them partial immortality. This is similar to the plots of Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, Ninja Ryukenden and Ninja Gaiden 3. Some of these early story concepts can still be seen in various character designs and concept art.
- Ryu Hayabusa
- Ryu Hayabusa in the main character and the character you play as, is the wielder of the Dragon Sword.
- only to be injured in one of his many battles against the forces of evil.
- Joe Hayabusa
- The father of Ryu Hayabusa, Joe has returned from training in the sacred wilderness and resumed his duties as the leader of the Hayabusa Village.
- Overlord of the Black Spider Ninja Clan, Genshin's lust for power is matched only by his hatred of the Dragon lineage. Hoping to gain an upper hand in the struggle for ninja superiority, Genshin enters into an uneasy allegiance with the Fiends. He will stop at nothing to destroy Ryu and put an end to their clans' centuries-old feud once and for all.
- A CIA agent, Sonia is searching for Ryu to help her stop the Black Spider Ninja Clan from obtaining the Demon Statue, in possession of the Hayabusa Ninja Clan, to resurrect the Archfiend.
- A legendary blacksmith, Muramasa returns from Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword to aid Ryu by providing weapons, items and upgrades in person or via statues of himself. Muramasa himself is aware of the events surrounding the Archfiend and personally joins the fight against the Black Spider Ninja Clan and the Fiends. Despite his old age, Muramasa is shown to be a master swordsman who can dispatch a group of ninjas with no harm to himself.
- The Ruler of Blood and Queen of the Greater Fiends, Elizébet is tasked with retrieving an important ancient artifact from the ancestral Hayabusa Village, setting into motion the events that threatens the very existence of mankind.
- The Ruler of Storms and one of the Four Greater Fiends, Volf is a vicious, four-armed warrior who seeks an opponent worthy of himself. He and his Lycanthrope underlings have taken over the canal-lined streets of the tranquil Aqua Capital, as he sits on his throne in the castle above, waiting for the one who can defeat him. In his battles with Ryu, he wields a large two-handed scythe.
- The Ruler of Lightning and one of the Four Greater Fiends, Alexei's hatred for humankind knows no bounds. He has taken the city of New York in his evil grasp and waits perched atop the Statue of Liberty, challenging Ryu Hayabusa to come and face him.
- The Ruler of Flame and one of the four Greater Fiends, Zedonius has nothing but contempt for human life, often addressing them as "apes" and "monkeys". He descends upon the capital of a once-great military superpower, threatening humanity with an ultimatum: submit to the will of the Fiends or die. Ryu must ascend the city's clock tower to put an end to his fearsome reign. According to Zedonius, it was he who bestowed the gift of fire upon humans centuries ago.
- Dagra Dai
- Originally a human philosopher, Dagra Dai gazed into the eyes of the Archfiend Vazdah and became a Fiend himself. Now known as the Infernal High Priest, he has taken leadership of the Greater Fiends and waits patiently for the Demon Statue he needs to resurrect the Archfiend.
- Archfiend Vazdah
- One of the ancient and calamitous Archfiends, Vazdah and its Greater Fiends were sealed beneath the earth by the Dragons millenia ago. Now, with the aid of its servant Dagra Dai, the destructive creature stirs beneath sacred Mount Fuji. In-game texts suggest Vazdah is somehow related to Vigoor.
- Falcon's Talons - [ Ninja Claws. ]
- Dragon Sword - [ A Legendary Katana, carved from the Fang of a Dragon and passed down through the Dragon Lineage. ]
- Eclipse Scythe - [ A huge scythe passed down through the Lycanthrope Tribe of Fiends. ]
- Tonfas - [ Large wooden, steel enforced melee sticks - it is what the nightstick is based off of. ]
- Lunar Staff - [ Large staff with spike weights attached by chains to the staff, said to harbor the powers of the Moon. ]
- Dragon's Claw and Tiger's Fang - [ Large Katanas, wielded as a pair. ]
- Kusari gama - [ Sickle with a weight attached by a chain. ]
- Vigoorian Flail - [ Bladed Nunchaku that are extremely fast. ]
- Blade of the Archfiend - [ The Cursed Blade of the Archfiend, wielded by Genshin, Leader of the Black Spider Clan. ]
- Fiend's Bane Bow - [ Large, chargeable bow, capable of firing super-strong arrows. ]
- Shuriken - [ Standard Ninja throwing stars. ]
- Windmill Shuriken - [ Large, fold-able Shuriken, can be charged. ]
- Incendiary Shuriken - [ A Shuriken resembling a Kunai with an explosive attached. ]
- Gatling Spear Gun - [ An underwater spear gun that fires like a Gatling gun, must be cranked. ]
- Art of the Inferno - [ Flames similar to those of a Dragons ]
- Art of the Wind Blades - [ Sharp vacuum waves created by fast motions ]
- Art of the Flame Phoenix - [ Guardian Phoenix Spirits ]
- Art of the Piercing Void - [ A deadly Black Hole ]
One year after Ninja Gaiden, master blacksmith Muramasa is setting up shop in Tokyo. A CIA agent named Sonia enters the place and asks for Ryu Hayabusa's whereabouts, until members of the Black Spider Ninja Clan attack the shop and kidnap her. Enter the Dragon Ninja Ryu, who fails to stop Sonia's kidnapping and makes haste around the Tokyo skyscrapers and rescues the agent, who informs him of an attack on the Hayabusa Village by the Black Spider Ninjas, who wish to steal the Demon Statue they possess and protect.
Ryu returns to his home and finds his father, Joe Hayabusa dueling with Genshin, leader of the Black Spider Ninja Clan. Unfortunately, the Demon Statue is taken away by Queen of the Greater Fiends and the Ruler of Blood, Elizébet, and Joe urges his son to retrieve the statue at all costs. Ryu travels around the world with Sonia, in pursuit of Elizébet and the Demon Statue, while encountering legions of Black Spider Ninjas, Fiends, and three other Greater Fiends: Alexei, the Graceful Ruler of Lightning; Volf, the Invincible Ruler of Storms; and Zedonius, the Malevolent Ruler of Flame.
Ryu tracks Elizébet down to South America, where she offers the Demon Statue to Infernal High Priest Dagra Dai, in order to resurrect the ancient Archfiend, Vazdah. Elizébet duels with Ryu and he defeats her, but Elizébet proclaims her return. An overlooking Genshin explains the Archfiend will emerge from Mount Fuji back in Japan and states that is the place where Ryu shall die. Ryu returns home, cautioning Sonia not to follow him.
As Ryu overlooks the fire-brimming Mount Fuji, Ayane enters with the Eye of the Dragon, a gift from Joe Hayabusa, and Ryu equips the relic onto his Dragon Sword, forming the True Dragon Sword again. Heading to the mountain's summit, Ryu finds Genshin waiting for him at the crater's entrance and the two ninjas fight to the death. Genshin falls and Ryu leaps into Mount Fuji.
Ryu fights past hordes of Fiends and singlehandedly defeats Zedonius, Volf, and Alexei, and rescues a captured Sonia. He instructs her to stay put and to not move. Ryu heads into another room and finds a resurrected Genshin, transformed into a Fiend, and dispatches him. The mortally wounded Genshin hands him the cursed Blade of the Archfiend to use, and dies without regret for having allied with the Fiends. A furious Elizébet appears, and chastises the Black Spider Ninja for losing, even with his power. Ryu finishes her off, claiming the overlord had more to live for than she ever will.
Traveling deeper into the Underworld, Ryu confronts Dagra Dai, who is nearly finished with the Archfiend's resurrection, and defeats him. As a last resort, the Infernal High Priest offers his life to Vazdah, and the Archfiend is reborn. Ryu takes down the monstrosity and heads to the surface with Sonia, but a drop of his blood from an open wound accidentally spills onto the fiend and revitalizes Vazdah, who ascends to the summit in its true form. Amidst an erupting Mount Fuji, Ryu squares off with the Archfiend in a climatic duel to decide humanity's fate and wins. Sonia and Ryu reunite and climb to the top of the mountain, sharing the sunrise together.
In a post-credits scene, amongst a field with countless number of blades embedded into the ground, Ryu plants Genshin's Blade of the Archfiend into the ground and bows in respect for the Black Spider Ninja. The Dragon Ninja takes one last look before taking off into the fog.
Initial reception of the game has been met with mixed but generally positive reviews. Some of the most common complaints include an inconsistent framerate and an awkward camera that is worse than previous Ninja Gaiden games. The difficulty in the latter levels has also been criticized for being "cheap", regardless of player talent. A review by TeamXbox confirmed that loading issues were not present in the retail build of the game, as they were in the review build.