NINJA GAIDEN 2 / Gametek / PC

So, back in the 80s and early 90s the idea of "diluting a brand" apparently hadn't occured to anybody yet, or at least it hadn't occurred to the video game industry. Publishers who made a hit game for the arcades or a console would frequently farm the rights to it out to some third-party group of randoms to do the PC port. Action games on the PC were precarious at best at this time, and that was with the most skilled programmers handling them ... scrub-made action games were uniformly terrible, and so went most of these ports. Ninja Gaiden II is yet another.

The only thing that saves it from a 0 is that the gameplay kinda, sorta, *a little* feels like the NES game. It has unique hinks, like enemies knocking you back and plowing into you again since you don't have the same period of invincibility, but they clearly made an effort to make the thing look and feel like the original. It's just that their effort wasn't anywhere near up to snuff.

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Credit to the designers for really trying to stick to the source material in not just the gameplay but in the cut scenes and music, but they just had no idea how to replicate the effects and tight programming of the original on the PC. To be fair to them, it may not have even been technically possible at the time. Whatever the case, the game comes out feeling like it's a fan-made hackjob port by some random 13-year-olds working from their basement. The enthusiasm for the source material is there, but the skill is not. Instead of smoothly scrolling in and out, text is just kinda dumped in Powerpoint style in the cutscenes (which also lack a lot of the animation and fine detail of the original). The music all sounds like "off" copies of the original, like the crappy old MIDI files of game music that people used to make by ear in the days before bandwidth allowed easy distribution of MP3s. And all the colors have been weirdly adjusted for some reason, with Ryu sporting a yellow outfit in cutscenes and being dressed in red in gameplay.

The one main point of interest here is that the game uses 256-color VGA graphics. Sadly, both the detail level and the fluidity of animation are nowhere near the same as they are on the NES, so the increased color palette is pretty much totally wasted. In addition, the static backdrops seem to be trimmed directly from the NES game with no added color or detail. And even Roland MT-32 support can't save the hackish recreations of the music. In some cases, they couldn't even begin to figure out how to emulate the effects of certain tunes -- for example, the awesome music from the 2-1 train level is gone, replaced by the boss battle music of all things.

Surprisingly, the game did pick up my gamepad through DOSBox, though I don't know if DOSBox has some added juju for doing that with the Xbox 360 pad. Might be stuck with Z,X and the arrow keys as your best setup if you're playing an actual copy of this on an old computer.

Videos :

* Gameplay Videos