Ninja Gaiden 2

Ryu's back - and this time he's brought his scythe...

Team Ninja's figurehead Tomonobu Itagaki knows how to work an audience, but we'll forgive him for his cryptic, controversial and occasionally downright bizarre media snippets because this fella also knows how to create the best fighting games on the planet. Welcome to the 360 exclusive that's going to rip out PS3 Ninja Gaiden Sigma's throat.

Undoubted genius that he is; it's Itagaki's immense ego and maddening desire for everyone else to be as darn super at beat-'em-ups as he is that resulted in Xbox classic Ninja Gaiden being so freaking difficult most gamers never got the opportunity to appreciate its manifold brilliance. We mean, Alma? What a bitch.


Alma Mater
Thankfully, after Team Ninja's slightly more forgiving 'ninja dog' difficulty option patronised as many gamers as it appeased in Gaiden Black, Itagaki has learned his lesson, promising this sequel will retain the series' edge while at the same time welcoming amateurs.

Case in point: a regenerating health bar - though you will have to dispose of every enemy before that meter will start to up again.
Another para, another gripe - but as much satisfaction as we gleaned from the unique combination of careful blocking, dodging and rapid fire combos that victory in Gaiden 1 demanded, there was never enough of a visual reward for our efforts. After all, disappearing corpses in this day and age frankly isn't acceptable.

Not any more though, friends. How's about being drenched in arterial spray, lopping limbs off like sheaves of ripe corn and disembowelling your foes to the extent that you'll be able to tell just what the SOBs had for brekkie? These mothers don't die, they explode - covering Ryu in giblets and turning our furrowed brows into beaming grins. Ace.

PVC Party
Moving at a much faster, slicker pace than its predecessor, our ten minute encounter with Gaiden 2 passed by fairly breathlessly as our PVC-clad hero scythed and razor-clawed (changing weapons is now mapped to the D-pad - yay!) his way in joyous 60fps through the winding streets, waterways and markets of Venice (referred to here as, er, 'Aqua Capital').

The overall aesthetic was achingly beautiful and strikingly reminiscent of Devil May Cry 4's awesome architecture as Hayabusa tore his enemies asunder - although that pesky camera still hid enemies at times; a problem we hope will get sorted.

Ryu's also got new moves, like devastating hurricane and fire Ninpos that alternatively toss/torch bad guys if they dare to back him into a corner. As Hayabusa continued to lop off heads with his gigantic scythe, we couldn't help but gape at the sheer visceral nature of the carnage - even God of War isn't this sick and that's saying something...