The fiends are up to no good once again. Working with the Black Spider Clan, they steal the Demon Statue from the Hyabusa village, and go off to reawaken the four greater fiends, such that they may reawaken the all powerful Archfiend. Hence the Dragon Ninja clan heir Ryu, with the assistance of CIA agent Sonia, kunoichi Ayane, miko Momiji, and fiend huntress Rachel, must defeat the fiends wherever they sprout up all over the world, defeat the Black Spider clan, and prevent the destruction of humanity.
Ninja Gaiden 2 is an improvement over its predecessor in a lot of areas, though it does have a number of new issues as well. One of the biggest differences is in how the game flows. Instead of there being one large world with many branches and paths,there are instead a number of completely different mostly linear locations. Each of these have their own style of art, design, etc. and were interesting in their own way. There’s a pretty large diversity in the locations: the skyscrapers of Tokyo, the village of the Hyabusa clan, the streets of New York, the canals and castles of a city similar to Venice, the air ship of the Black Spider clan, a warzone in East Europe, the swamps and temples of South America, and ultimately the underworld itself. There was little reuse of locations beyond the chapters featuring the various other characters, and even those featured new areas in those locations, so for the most part there was always the feeling of exploring somewhere new, no location felt like it got old, even though there wasn’t all that much to explore. The exception to that is the last quarter of the game that takes place in the underworld, which dragged on a bit too long and felt a bit repetitive thematically, but not tremendously. Overall, this led to a very different approach to the story, wherein in the previous game there was still a bit of the feeling of being a ninja, here it abandons all pretense in Ryu being an action hero. It also has a much more heroic style, with there being much less of a focus on the story, and an even stronger focus on just showing Ryu being badass. Combined these lead to the atmosphere being completely different, much less dreary, and in my opinion an improvement. Along those lines another improvement is that it overall felt a lot less rough. The visuals and soundtrack were definitely improved and also played into the new atmosphere.
What also contributes to the improvement in how the game flows is that the game play is ultimately much more stream lined. As explained, there are now a number of completely separate linear locations. And hence there was very little back tracking. Furthermore, it very clearly told you where exactly you had to go so there was never any issues in that regard. The loss of freedom of exploration was a lot less damaging than I expected it to be, and honestly I didn’t really miss it much. The platforming, which I found very annoying in the previous game, has been made easier, and is overall has far less of a presence. The normal difficulty combat is definitely far easier than the normal difficulty combat in the previous game. Health regenerates after each battle to a certain point, and the save points also completely restore health, so this makes the game vastly less punishing. The check point system is also a lot nicer. However, despite all of this making the game far easier, ultimately I felt the combat was just as satisfying in this game as the previous, as this game does a much better job of explaining how combat works, and has a much more even skill curve. Hence, despite it being easier, I felt I got a lot better playing this than its predecessor. And ultimately the harder difficulties are ridiculously difficult so overall complaints about ease are nonsensical. There were some other issues, such as a very large amount of the bosses feeling very similar to other bosses, and the weirdness of the invisible walls after how open the previous game was, but overall, I felt the game play was definitely an improvement. I should note that I did not play the team missions, and from that perspective I would have liked to see more of the side characters in the main story as well.
I view the change in tone as a definite improvement, and the stream lined game play to be just as good, and hence I judge this as a solid improvement over its predecessor.