Retro gaming fans surely enjoyed the first Ninja Karakuri Den (as it's known outside of Japan), playing like a cutsey combination of Ninja Jajamaru Kun and Mappy. This sequel is pretty much the same game with a few tweaks to the formula, as with the other G.G. Series sequels we've seen thus far, continuing the impression that Suzak still have the magic 8-bit touch.
All the improvements seen in the other G.G. sequels are here: you can now re-map your controls, so if you prefer sword swipes and shuriken throws swapped, that dream can be made a reality. There are also three levels of difficulty, though Easy definitely isn't and we cannot imagine what the Hard level will be like — if we ever manage to complete the first two! Finally you have a choice of playstyles, though in this case there are two different characters to choose from: the blue-clad ninja from the first game, Hanzō, is back, and he's joined by a blonde female ninja named Miyabi.
The two characters have the same actions available, but they come with a couple of differences that change the gameplay. Hanzō can execute a sword combo with an extra button press, making short work of the cogwheels and is also very effective against the bosses that appear every four levels. Miyabi can charge her shuriken by holding the appropriate button down, throwing a massive one that will eliminate any normal enemy in one hit when released — great for taking out those pesky spear-wielders from afar. She can also do the "dash" move in any direction unlike Hanzō, meaning she can recover from a poorly-timed jump rather than drop off the screen into oblivion.
As with the other two G.G. sequels you'll see new enemies not far into your first play session: baddies holding spinning blades, dropping bombs and throwing daggers will block your path as you try to destroy all the cogwheels to open a door to the next level. The bosses also show more variety with each one having a different special attack; unlike the first game where they were essentially more powerful versions of your character until later encounters.
The level design is pretty much the same, though there are a couple of new twists to add jeopardy. Every other normal stage has forced scrolling: rather than breaking cogs you're just trying to get past enemies and make your way to the exit with the screen moving steadily to push you along. This same forced scrolling appears in the bonus stages that follow the boss fight making it more of a challenge to collect all the tokens and introducing a greater element of danger.
High scores are tracked separately for the two characters and for each level of difficulty, so score attack junkies will always have something to shoot for. It's definitely a worthy follow-up that feels fresh due to the changes made and if more action games from the original G.G. Series get this treatment we certainly won't complain.