Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (also known as Shadow Warriors II in Europe) is a side-scrolling platforming video game developed and published by Tecmo for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This is the second installment in the Ninja Gaiden trilogy for the NES and it was released in Japan on April 6, 1990, in North America in May 1990, and in Europe on October 27, 1994. The game was later released for the Commodore Amiga and DOS-based PCs by GameTek in 1991. It was then released for the Virtual Console North America service on October 15, 2007 for the Wii and on August 22, 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS.
The events in Ninja Gaiden II take place one year after the events in the first Ninja Gaiden game. It is about an evil emperor named Ashtar who, after hearing of Jaquio's defeat, devises a plan to take over the world and engulf it in darkness through an evil sword called the Dark Sword of Chaos. A U.S. Army agent named Robert T. Sturgeon recruits the game's main protagonist Ryu Hayabusa and tells him that he is the only person who can stop him. The game received positive praise in previews from Electronic Gaming Monthly and Nintendo Power and continued to receive high ratings and coverage, being nominated for several awards from Nintendo Power in 1991. Overall, reviewers have said that visuals and controls of Ninja Gaiden II improved over its predecessor while maintaining a high level of difficulty for players; the game was criticized for having a more generic and predictable plot. The game maintains lasting appeal among players, with one reviewer saying that Ninja Gaiden II is 'a challenging experience the likes of which gamers in the 8-bit era lived and died for'.
The story begins one year after the events of the first Ninja Gaiden game. The story opens in the Realm of Darkness as Ashtar, the evil lord who controlled Jaquio, is informed of Jaquio's defeat; he devises a plan to rule over Earth by opening the Gate of Darkness. A U.S. Army Special Intelligence unit member named Robert T. Sturgeon is sent to find Ryu to take out Ashtar. Robert informs Ryu that Irene Lew has been captured and that he must go to the Tower of Lahja to save her. After hopping on a freight train and then battling up the mountain in which the tower lies, he is ambushed by a figure who describes himself as a tribesman of the World of Chaos, led by the Emperor of Darkness Ashtar. After making it to the top of the tower, Ryu finds Irene, who has been captured by Ashtar. Ashtar then blasts Ryu with energy from his own sword; before Ashtar can finish off Ryu, Robert appears and shoots Ashtar in the back, stopping him. Robert orders Ashtar to hand over his sword and give up, but Ashtar escapes with Irene, telling Ryu to follow him into the Maze of Darkness.
After Ashtar escapes into the Maze of Darkness, Robert tells Ryu about Ashtar's plot to take over the world by using the full power of his sword, the Dark Sword of Chaos. Robert implores Ryu to stop Ashtar before his Dark Sword reaches full power. After battling through the Maze of Darkness and into the World of Chaos, Ryu hears echoes of Ashtar's plan in the distance. Ryu then catches up with Ashtar. He releases Irene, but immediately after releasing her he stabs her with the Dark Sword. Robert then shows up, only to find out that Irene has been mortally wounded; Ashtar then blasts Robert with energy from his Dark Sword and then challenges Ryu to battle. Ryu defeats Ashtar, and before he dies, he says that the forces of Darkness will soon awaken and implores the forces of Chaos to engulf the world into darkness. While he is saying this, the Dark Sword of Chaos vanishes into thin air. After Ashtar's death, Irene tells Ryu that an evil altar that Ashtar prepared to open the Gate of Darkness must be destroyed. Ryu then leaves Irene behind and tells Robert to take her and leave the World of Chaos.
As Ryu enters the World of Darkness to destroy the altar, Irene and Robert, while traveling back, are stopped by a shadowy figure that Irene has seen before. Meanwhile, after defeating a creature whom he noted he fought in his fight against Jaquio (in the previous Ninja Gaiden game), Ryu finds Robert on the ground and mortally wounded. He tells Ryu that Irene has been captured again and that he must prevent the Gate of Darkness from opening. Robert then tells Ryu to leave him behind while he fends off the demons. Ryu eventually makes it to the evil altar where he finds Irene and the shadowy figure who captured her; the figure reveals himself as Jaquio – the main antagonist from the first Ninja Gaiden installment – who was reborn after his first battle with Ryu.
Jaquio tells Ryu his master plan of using Ashtar as a pawn, used to awaken the true evil. He plans to use the Dark Sword of Chaos to use Irene's life force to open the Gate of Darkness and call up all the demons, while Ryu awakens them from their sleep. Jaquio then challenges Ryu to a showdown in which Ryu defeats him. Before Ryu and Irene can destroy the evil altar though, Jaquio's blood awakens the Dark Sword, which opens up the Gate of Darkness, shocks Irene and Ryu with its energy, and revives Jaquio himself. He then turns into a demonic wall, which Ryu, after borrowing strength from his Dragon Sword, defeats. The Dark Sword then breaks apart, the Gate of Darkness closes and disappears, and Ryu flees with Irene out of the temple just as it collapses. He then begins to mourn for Irene, who is presumed to be dead, when the power of the Dragon Sword revives her. Irene tells Ryu that she felt like she had been dreaming for a long time. Ryu tells her that the incident is over, and the game ends as the two watch the sun set.
As with the previous Ninja Gaiden game, the player controls Ryu Hayabusa through a series of platforming levels called 'Acts'. Players have the ability to jump and latch on and off walls and ladders. Two new abilities that Ryu can do in Ninja Gaiden II are climbing up and down walls and attacking with 'Power Boosting Items' while on walls and ladders. Ryu has a strength meter on top of the screen that decreases whenever he takes damage from enemies. The player loses a life if Ryu's strength meter runs out, Ryu falls off the screen or if the timer runs out; the game ends if players lose all their lives. The player can continue and restart the game from the beginning of the level in which they lost all their lives.
Players dispatch enemies by either thrusting at them with his Dragon Sword or by defeating them using Power Boosting Items. These special items consume Ryu's 'ninja power', also located on the top of the screen. Power Boosting Items include the following: shurikens; 'Windmill Throwing Stars' that move back and forth like a boomerang; 'The Art of the Fire Wheel' which hurls fireballs diagonally upwards; 'Fire Dragon Balls' which hurls fireballs diagonally downwards; and the 'Invincible Fire Wheel' that creates a barrier of three fireballs around Ryu, destroying any enemy that touches them. These items can be found in various crystal balls scattered throughout the levels, and they can be switched out by collecting another Power Boosting Item. The amount of ninja power used depends on the type of Power Boosting Item used. At the end of each Act Ryu fights a boss which has its own strength meter, located on the top of the screen. The boss's strength meter decreases every time the player damages it, and the boss is destroyed when the player completely depletes its strength meter.
Along the way, the player can collect items that are found in crystal balls scattered throughout the levels. These items include the following: items that increase Ryu's ninja power; bottles that increase the player's score; 'Scrolls of the Spirit of the Dragon' that increase Ryu's maximum ninja power; medicine that partially refills Ryu's strength meter; Power Boosting Items; and 1-ups. Another new feature in Ninja Gaiden II is the ability for Ryu to 'split his body' and clone himself when the player collects an orange ninja symbol. Collecting this symbol creates for Ryu an orange shadow of him that follows behind and copies every move Ryu makes, including climbing walls and ladders and attacking enemies. Using this technique, the player can strategically position Ryu and his clones to more easily defeat enemies and bosses.
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