Breaking Down the Best: Ninja Gaiden 2

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Well, I finally did it.  After buying Ninja Gaiden 2 the day it came out, I beat the game on Path of the Master Ninja, the hardest difficulty level possible.  As far as video game accomplishments go, I think that this one is particularly braggable, especially considering that the Ninja Gaiden franchise is known for its insane difficulty.  I put my time in and persevered, coming close to quitting many times but ultimately sacking up and obliterating the Archfiend.  Was it worth all the time and frustration?  Keep reading to find out:

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If the jump from Path of the Warrior difficulty to Path of the Mentor difficulty is like going from high school athletics to college, the gap between the Mentor and Master Ninja difficulty levels is analogous to the gap between college and the pros.  In Path of the Master Ninja, enemies attack in waves, and after completing a standard, non-boss battle, I felt like I needed a cigarette.  Enemies are more aggressive than ever, spam projectiles at a constant rate, and deal massive amounts of damage with every attack you fail to block or dodge.  It’s friggin’ impossible.  Thankfully, there are a couple of techniques that can help you get through the game and still retain part of your sanity.

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The most important technique – and I really can’t stress this enough – is essence farming.  Once enemies are killed, they stay dead, except for in about three or four points in the game.  I took advantage of this and essence farmed: I killed the enemies, absorbed their essence, and then returned to do it again and again and again and again.  The spot I picked was in Chapter 1, after crossing the bridge and defeating the ninja archers that appear at the top of a set of stairs.  With a ton of essence (about 250,000), I could power up my weapons and buy healing items, helping to level the field a bit.  I’ve read that even the top players essence farm on Path of the Master Ninja, and to defeat the game on that difficulty without doing so seems unfathomable.

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The other technique I employed was taking advantage of invincibility frames (or I-frames).  There are certain moves and attacks that grant Ryu invincibility during their animations, such as the flying swallow technique, the guillotine throw, and best of all, the easy-to-execute Blood Rain combo with the Eclipse Scythe (jump, then XXYYY).  By sticking with these moves in crowded areas, you can minimize the chances of an attack damaging Ryu.  The invincibility only lasts for a second or two at most, so while the techniques do help, by no means are they an alternative to skill and determination.

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Those techniques helped a lot, but I still had to continue at least hundreds of times.  Boss battles become frustrating to the point that punching holes in your wall seems like a better way to spend your time, and the sheer number of enemies the game throws at you is almost always overwhelming.  Eventually, though, you figure out attack patterns and which weapons are optimal in certain situations, and parts of the game you never thought you’d pass suddenly don’t seem so tough anymore.

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So back to my original question – was it all worth it?  Absolutely.  Few games are very challenging anymore, and finishing a game of this difficulty at the hardest level possible gave me a sense of satisfaction I haven’t felt since the days of the 8-bit NES.  I took everything the creators of a notoriously hard franchise threw at me and hacked it to bits with my sword, scythe, and falcon’s talons.  Admittedly, the cut scenes aren’t much, the plot is a little silly, and the music quality is inconsistent, but if you’re playing Ninja Gaiden 2 for anything other than an incredibly difficult action game, you’re playing for the wrong reasons.  Ninja Gaiden 2 is graphically a gorgeous – and crazy violent – game, and if you’re up for a hell of a challenge, try beating it on the Path of the Master Ninja.  And don’t say you weren’t warned about how frustrated it made you.

If you’ve played and/or beaten this game, let me know your thoughts.


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  • Austin

    I’m on mentor now, and this has got to be the best action game of all time. Something about the limbs and heads arcing off in different directions and the insanely brilliant AI just gives me a huge gaming boner. I do find my self aspiring to beat master difficulty, but that day is far away, and it shall come.

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  • Scorpio

    I am on the mentor difficulty and it is pretty hard… haha. got any advice on how to beat it? mostly it’s the flying exploding knife things. Those kill my wayy too fast.

  • Madison

    @ Scorpio

    Two things:

    1. You should probably be farming for essence. Definitely a necessity for Master Ninja level difficulty.

    2. As for the incendiary knives/shurikens thrown by the enemies, you should ALWAYS be blocking or dodging. If one is embedded into you and is going to explode, hold down the block button to minimize the damage. You can also try timing a guillotine throw (X + A) as they explode, as you’ll be invincible for a second while executing this move.

    Hope this helps.

  • i beat it on master ninja and im ranked in the 700s

  • You nailed it with this article. Completely apt descriptions.
    I had reached the end of chapter 3 the other week with growing confidence as the difficulty led to me leveling my game up a dozenfold simply to pass the waves of enemies in stride, then was allured by the challenge of the 1st test of valor — which is really fun as far as learning how to cope with the master ninja characteristics. I haven’t tried so hard to simply get to the end of it as much as to jump right into the thick of it and aim for untouchability.
    Pretty bleeding hard if i might agitatedly note, as i have yet to find a way to counter suicide grabs.. or even the normal grabs which still remove over half Ryu’s basic life bar. If i could find out how, i imagine i got this game figured; if not, i accept it as ultimately cheap (what with the cosmic joke of a camera and its tendency to uphold Murphey’s law)

  • Madison

    @ Cheruben

    The suicide grabs are SO cheap. My advice is whenever fighting (especially human ninjas), CONSTANTLY be on the movie, and spam the hell out of the guillotine throw.

  • beanhoc

    Don’t know why, but I got the urge to finally complete master ninja a couple of months ago. I have to say, aside from the constant barrage of incendiaries and the number of times I saw that damn game over screen, I actually enjoyed it.

    The best part is learning when to use the different weapons, something you don’t really need to learn on other levels of difficulty. For example, the lunar staff is simply awesome against van gelfs, and the dctf ut beats the crap out of werewolves and other large opponents.

    I’m now going through a second time. Currently stuck on TOV 1. Mages are arguably the worst bastards on the game, in groups anyway.

  • fknhard

    love the game especialy the last1. This1 has a shit story but im a loyal ninja gaiden fan so i over shadowed that with the fact that i suck at it. Ok finnished the game on mentor and by the time i finnished i was sweating shit. I AM a cheap cheater cos i used the invinsibility trick. The 1 where u press up and then choose a diff wep and press a+b at the same time. U can only use the gillotine throw and all other moves and weps r disabled. U just simply choose another wep to get bak to normal. Bak to my problem i rly need held with master so if som1 is kind enough to mail me plz do so. Ifoundanaccountname@gmail.com. Oh and a lot of ppl say that they finnished the game on master and it was super easy and that the rest of us r shit players, well thats bullshit i tell u.

  • fknhard

    yeah i just finnished it and it was super frustrating. There were times when i nearly chucked the controler at the tv. Any ways here r some tips. Upgrade to lvl 3 the following weps: lunar staff, kasuri gama, eclipse scythe and the dual katana if u want. A lot of ppl go for the falcons but i didnt use it once and it didnt cause me a problem. The most hardest boss for me was the skeleton 1 in chapter 5, alexei in chap 13 and genshin in chap 14. And farm. Guys trust me u need to farm. I had a lot of problems in the beggining cos i didnt farm. If ur having a lot of trouble go on youtube and watch the ‘reims ninja gaiden 2 master ninja commentary series’ reim is like the most helpful guy out there. Bcos of him today i finnished it. And never give up, i know it sounds cliched but trust me dont and u will be rewarded. The gamer pic awesome btw

  • Rodger

    @ fknhard could yu try show me a gamerpicturee

  • Rodger

    Could any1 give me some tips to beat the last boss because im on path of the mentor and i really want to beat it so i can go on to the path of the master ninja.cheers!

  • Cheruben

    Rodger, look up the weak spot near his (to him) right foot in final form. You can stand there and usually not get hit.

  • hello friends this is my gameplay video

  • Grey

    I’m one of the apparently very few people that plays Ninja Gaiden for the fun of slicing up stuff with badass ninja moves and sharp pointy things, as opposed to everyone else who seems to enjoy a challenge. I don’t enjoy challenges. I like everything to be relatively easy. I don’t want to die in a game unless I messed up or did something stupid. I actually like the Ninja Gaiden stories, but mostly it’s the cool stuff I get to slice up in badass ways.

    I stick to the warrior difficulty, but I commend everyone who beats the snot out of Master Ninja, and I love watching their vids on youtube. But you won’t find mine on there, lol…

  • andile

    Almost two years of owning it, only today 20013-01-04 @ 14:09 South African time I beat Mentor Mode. But had my ass handed to me in Master Mode. The leopard leotard looks a bit Village People though. I love this game, but @ times it has me screaming murder. Can’t wait for Dead Space 3, GTA V and Splinter Cell Blacklist

  • Tony

    Hey
    I finished the game a while ago. It’s crazy how this game is still talked about in 2013 ^^ I personally loved it. It’s the game that I had been dreaming about when I was a kid. Ryu is the ninja that I interpreted on the play yard. Team Ninja really nailed ever ninja fan’s hopes and even made it better then I ever imagined. Now about the frustrating part… Yes!! It took me already a lot of patience to finish it on mentor. But oh my god ‘Path of the Master Ninja’!!! Probably took me twice the time I spend finishing the game on Acolyte, Warrior and Mentor combined! And 75% of the time includes me dying ^^ Finishing that game on the hardest difficulty was the most satisfying feeling I’ve ever experienced (in a game of course ^^).