Ryu Hayabusa is back, and this time he brings his dad along for the ride. Well, not really, that was Indiana Jones, wasn’t it? The storyline is largely irrelevant; the point is this series features Ninja action, and therefore a sequel was inevitable. What we really want to know is how this Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos compares to the original NES game, which was excellent for its time.
Thankfully this sequel manages to surpass the original with better level design, a less frustrating difficulty curve and improved graphics. Ryu now has the ability to climb walls instead of relying on fiddly wall jumps, which were often imprecise; there are also new power-ups, including ghost Ninjas that follow your every move and are a big help for taking down any troublesome end-of-level Guardians.
The Ninja Gaiden series on the NES is unusual for the era in that the story is told through cutscenes; the quality of the artwork still impresses and makes progress in the game all the more enjoyable as the story unfolds. The levels, importantly, are also enjoyable and have a lot of variety; for instance there is an ice themed stage where you slide across the ice, and a snowy mountaintop which features wind that will blow you in one direction then the other.
True to form this game is no walk in the park. At times it may make you want to chuck your Wii Remote or Classic Controller at the television set! The difficulty level is, however, much more balanced than in the original game. Yes, it is hard, but it is fair – practice makes perfect. Unfortunately there is no password system built into this game so you will have to play it all the way from the start every time.
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is not for the faint of heart. Great skill and practice will be required to master this title. Yet it's a must for action/platform fans, and even if you’ve never played one of the games in the series this is probably the best place to start — you won’t find many action games of this calibre, and it definitely has to be experienced at least once for your life to be considered complete.