Ninja Gaiden II Review

Get ready boys and girls… Unlike my usual reviews, this is one from the full game! That’s right kids – NOT THE DEMO!

Now even though in typical Bush Mackel form this game came out eons ago, I’m just getting around to it now because I was clued into a sweet deal on Circuit City where you could get the game and a 1600 Microsoft Points card all for $40.

And if there’s a deal on a game – You know I’m there.

The Modern Ninja Gaiden Franchise
So if you don’t know anything about the modern day Ninja Gaiden here’s the story in a nutshell – You are Ryu Hayabusa, the quintessential ninja bada$$. You come from a long line of bada$$ ninjas and you basically rid the world of demonic creatures called fiends. In the old Nintendo games, I guess Ninja Gaiden was as “graphic” as you could get with 8 bits to work with. These days, the modern consoles afford Ryu with everything he needs to get his Ninja on including very VERY violent combat gameplay. The first Ninja Gaiden was violent, but things have been pushed even further in II with TONS of dismemberments. Now you can chop of arms and legs and the enemy will live on to do battle until he is finally put in the ground by a beating, beheading or the olllllllllll slice in half.

So How’s the Game?
Much like Gears of War, the gameplay and graphics in this game completely make up for the terrible story (if you want to even call it that). And what’s so interesting about NG II is that before you play the game, you’re just not excited about it… Because you think of it just as a button masher with all the gore as kind of a gimmick to get the impressionable kids to play it (or at least so I thought) and basically NG II the same game as the original. But seriously, the combat and difficulty of the game are so phenomenal – You can’t help but love it.

I Learned I Like Chopping People Up
In my opinion, there are three things that make the combat in Ninja Gaiden really stand out :

    1. Awesome Weapons
    2. Awesome Combos
    3. Leveling of Weapons
    4. Level of Gore

The weapons you find in the game are very different from one another and thankfully they play that way too. For instance, your main weapon is called the Dragon Sword and while it handles very smoothly – It may not be the most useful when fighting off 8 enemies at a time since it seems to focus on one thing at a time. In situations like that, you’d probably want to whip out the Kusagirama which doesn’t seem to deal out as much damage, but basically hits everything around you.

And thankfully, the move list you have for every weapon is deep enough that you’re not always pressing XXX or YYY or XYX either. These two things by themselves keep the game feeling very fresh almost every minute. Finally, I always like a game where you feel like your character is growing stronger throughout it and that’s what you get here when you upgrade your weapons making them more damaging and unlocking even more combos and attacks with them as you go on.

This Game is Hard as Hell
Much like the first, the Ninja Gaiden II difficulty is certainly the hallmark of the game. When you start a new game of Ninja Gaiden II, you can select between two difficulties – Acolyte and Warrior. Now I just recently started playing through on Acolyte (after beating Warrior) and I can tell you the difference is night and day. In Acolyte, the game is really a button masher where you really never have to block and you really never have to use health items (or at least I didn’t). In Warrior – I can tell you that I had to continue more than 100 times to beat the game. The regular enemies are hard, (some would say cheap at times), the bosses are hard (often w/o revealing weaknesses in intros) and the end bosses and levels are very very VERY difficult. But that’s fine because this difficulty is just perfect in delivering the ideal Ninja Gaiden II experience forcing you to constantly think about how you purchase your upgrades, what weapons to use, and what attacks to employ. But WAIT – There’s more!

Much like the original Ninja Gaiden, this game REALLY prides itself on being difficult so once you beat the game on Warrior, you can play the much (and I mean MUCH) harder difficulty of Mentor. I started that difficulty about a week ago, and I JUST finished Chapter 1 after continuing probably (no lie) 75 times. I just kept dying and dying… The AI is BRUTAL, upgrades cost more, and there are NO easy enemy encounters as they throw in the worst (and again some may say cheapest) enemies every chance they get. Now if I ever finish THIS level of difficulty I get the choice to play through the final one – Master Ninja which I have to imagine is IMPOSSIBLE. My friend played through the first one on this difficulty and there were times where things got ugly. And by ugly I mean I thought he was just going to destroy the Xbox and then throw himself in front of a moving vehicle.

Ninja Gaiden 2 Achievements
If I have ANY gripe about this game, it probably comes on the achievement side of the ball. If you play through the game on Warrior you’ll basically get 720 points. (200 combined come from the difficulty of the game). So if I eventually beat the game on Master Ninja (yeah right) I’ll get 200 more for the Master Ninja level and Mentor. Are you with me? So where are those other achievements coming from? How about from beating the game only using ONE item!!! There’s like 6 or 7 weapons in the game and the achievements are only 5 pts each!!! I love working for challenging achievements as much as the next guy but playing through 15 chapters using only one weapon for 5 achievement points!? To me, it really seems like these last achievements were just shoe horned in ’cause they couldn’t think of anything better. BUT, they’re not online achievements (which I hate) so I guess I shouldn’t be grumbling too much.

Ninja Gaiden II is a REALLY fun and challenging game that will certainly take up a good bit of your time. And while the story isn’t anything memorable, the gameplay is fantastic and the cut scenes and graphics will leave you doing backflips at how good they look. So if you’re like me and love to pick up games after they’ve come down in price a bit – Check out Ninja Gaiden II, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

My New Pioneer Receivers!

As I eluded to sometime ago, I’ve upped my home theater game in several different areas. The part that I did something about was my receiver.

I had been rocking the Pioneer VSX-D812-K and while it has been a “loyal friend and true” for quite sometime, not having HDMI inputs or decoding for HD audio was starting to grate on me a bit. Honestly though, I never really made up my mind to change up the receiver but while I was at Worst Buy, I happened upon a receiver that made me cock an eyebrow.

The Pioneer VSX-90TXV
So this receiver was sitting out on a table of “Manager’s Specials” and was listed at $323 I believe. Immediately, the look of it caught my eye as do most of the receivers in the Pioneer Elite lineup. And of course being me the first thing I do is turn it around so I can drool over the connections in the back. Certainly it puts my old receiver to shame but I still had enough restraint to do some research that night at home to check out what it decodes and what it can do. I won’t hit them all up here, but if you’re curious click the link to go to Pioneer’s VSX-90TXV stats.

Pioneer VSX-90TXV

Fast forward to the next day and I went back to Best Buy and basically fought off another customer to get the receiver. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear thinking I got something that looked really attractive and was indeed really special. That is… UNTIL I hooked my stuff up to it including my 360 and projector… How about – I COULDN’T GET ANY SOUND OUT OF THE RECEIVER. What gives you may ask? Well after many many minutes of research on the big G and forums I found out that if this receiver doesn’t pull audio for HDMI connections, it just passes it through (to say your TV).

I found this out and was just ticked off. What’s the point of having a receiver with HDMI connections if it can’t parse the audio!? The manual says that if you want digital audio, you have to make ANOTHER connection using an optical cord or something… AND SO I needed to find a new receiver.

Enter the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K!
Over on the AVS Forums, I found out that people who didn’t especially like the 90-TXV went over to the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K. Sure it doesn’t look AS nice, but the features are really spectacular for its price point. (And I think I managed to snag it at $4-$500 w/ an employee discount). Again, hit the jump to check out all the VSX-1018AH-K specs but some highlights are HD Audio decoding, HDMI connections, and *drumroll* video upconversion!!! That last one is huge because I wasn’t feeling running tons of cables to my projector so being able to put everything through on ONE HDMI cord was pretty choice.

Pioneer VSX-1018-AH-K

Since hooking things up, I’ve been very happy with the receiver. Things look just great on it and sound even better. Unfortunately, I didn’t take in to account the fact that I live in a townhouse with slotted stairs… Yeah you guessed it, the sound just travels throughout the whole place COMPLETELY unabated. So.. If the wife is sleeping, I can’t crank it too much, but even when it’s on a little it sounds FAB U LOUS.

New Blogger Chad Dukes Puts it Out There

Those of you that subscribe to this blog PROBABLY don’t know of The War Machine a.k.a. Bradley Fukes a.k.a. Chad Dukes. But you probably should as he’s one half of the radio team “Big O and Dukes” which have a radio show here in the Washington DC area. But that’s neither here nor there at the moment…

Chadwick has recently started a blog called The Fukerton where he talks about several things you’ll find on his show including video games, girls, comics… Basically whatever is worth a decent discussion. Well after a little while of plugging away at his blog trying to make a buck, yesterday he said this over the air…

Chad Dukes (podcast from Segment 10 [10/16]) –

This website thing is just eating me alive dude like just trying to learn everything about like running a website is so time consuming and I have so much more respect for like people that actually do it for a living that like Tyler Durden and all these blogs that we go to like superficial and deadspin and bloody elbow and all these blogs..

I get a feeling that a lot of people think the Internet is like a goldmine and it’s just a way that you can just make a quick buck and become famous real quick… It is A LOT of F’ing work – I got like 3 guys helping me out and it’s just… I just have a lot of respect for people that do that for a living at this point.

It’s such an unbelievable amount of work and really, I’ve earned a great deal of respect for people that do it now just trying to do my little low rent thing. So, I dunno… If that’s the way that you can make a living doing that then more power to you. That’s a hustle like no other. That’s like selling cans. You know the people who collect cans and sell them? Like to me, that’s what blogging is like. It’s just like selling cans where you know you make so little money…

And it goes on from there. My advice for the guy (coming where I am with my site now) is try and figure out really WHY you’re doing the blog and WHAT you want to do with it. I think we’ve all been where Chad has been but for all of us (and I’m thinking Chad included), our blogs are a labor of love and if we’re lucky enough to make some side money from it that’s just a bonus.

So anyone else have any advice for Chad a new blogger? And BTW, if you want to check out his show, you can listen to a live stream from from 10:20ish to 3pm (EST) or check out his podcasts that you can also get from WJFK!

Circuit City Closing?

Filed under : “No, REALLY?” it would seem that the big US Electronics store Circuit City might be facing bankruptcy early next year.

I say “No, REALLY” because if you’ve ever been to Circuit City, you know it has paled in comparison to Best Buy ever since Best Buy came into inception basically. The store is dark inside, even more woefully staffed than Best Buy, and just sucks in comparison. (At least on the brick and mortal side of things).

As far as the programs they offer, I tend to like Circuit City more than Best Buy. Their 10% gamer club is pretty good, and them giving you a gift card if they don’t have new release games on the wall is pretty awesome too. Unfortunately, I think these programs have been overlooked by consumers for Best Buy’s Reward Zone where you earn $5 in GC for ever $250 you spend… Even though CC’s gamer club is far better, consumers just think they do better at Best Buy. (an example of genius marketing I guess)

But, maybe all this is neither here or nor there. I think if anyone heard this news (if it actually becomes a reality) that it won’t come as a surprise, though I’m a bit fearful to think of where WORST Buy will go when it faces no decent competition. Maybe us East Coasters will get lucky and we’ll start to get some Fry’s out here. For more

Tim's New Blog!

In the early days of this blog (yes, earlier than now) I became friends with Tim over at I can’t really believe it but a little over a year ago, Tim left his site because he thought he was too busy to maintain it and started writing over at Connected Internet.

When it happened I couldn’t really believe it, but now having a couple more blogging months under my belt – I can completely understand why he did what he did. In fact, I think giving a concrete “I won’t be writing anymore for a while” post on his main blog was a very thoughtful thing to do for all of his readers.

If we fast forward to today… I bring to you news that Tim has found a new blog to call his own, The Windows Fix! So do me a favor and go over and check his new site out and drop a comment for him while you’re there. (#):)

How YOU Doing?

It’s Friday, and it looks like I’m leaving work early today to pick up some custom orthodics to hopefully and FINALLY get me back on the road to recovery. A Friday can’t get much better in my book.

In other news, Ninja Gaiden is still taking up most of my time at the moment and I’m really enjoying it. The story is abysmal but the graphics and gameplay more than make up for it.

And that’s all I got.

What’s up with you? (#):)

Introducing the Poor and Married Home Theater!

Not saying that I do it a lot, but when I find myself in a new place the first thing I have to do to feel at home is setup my home theater. So when I bought the new place, first on my list of priorities was to get my home theater stuff up and running!

But then it came to my attention (by way of some friendly wifely reminders) that apparently I was married and had a new kid on the way, so the home theater work became very hurried.

Still, I got SOMETHING done. (#):)

If I Could Start at the Beginning…
I bought my first home theater system from a box for about $300. It was a nice 5.1 system and thankfully the receiver that came with it wasn’t one of those cheap dvd/receiver combos. And over the years as better jobs have afforded me to do so, I’ve updated the system here in there a piece at a time. First it was the receiver that got the upgrade, and then it was the speakers. The last piece that was upgraded was changing my sub from an unpowered to a powered sub.

The Newest Upgrades
Well after moving into the house, I decided to give a big upgrade to two different components of my home theater system, one of which I had never upgraded before. The first one was the receiver. Even though my old one was just fine, it didn’t have HDMI inputs nor did it have support of HD Audio sources. The not having HDMI inputs anywhere has been KILLING me for a LONG long time. The second was, *drumroll* THE DISPLAY! And would you believe it?, I went with a projector! There were a lot of things that went into this decision and rest assured I’ll clue you in on them soon.

The Other Biggie
Not saying that it’s absolutely needed, but one of things that always intrigued me about so called “professional” home theaters was how they often had their audio components in a special place like a closet or something. And so, I went out to build myself my own home theater enclosure! And along the way for this part of the project, I learned a TON that will certainly serve me well in other like minded projects.

Coming Up
I purposefully have not provided much detail about anything here because as I wrote this post, I learned that a single post really couldn’t do any of the above subjects its due justice. So in the next couple of posts I’m hoping to really give some nice detail and pictures about all this stuff. To say it a different way, if you’re a fan of home theater and electronics, some good posts are coming your way! Stay tuned true believers!

The New XBox 360 Microsoft Points Card!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever said so, but it’s a pretty fair bet that the most popular post I’ve ever written on here was the one detailing when I scratched away my Microsoft points on a 1600 XBox Live card.

I should’ve done my homework on that post (and on this one) and tried to write it with some keywords in mind to attract some more ppl from Google, but these days that’s really not my focus on here. And you know what? – This is not even the point of this post.


I recently bought a new Microsoft XBox card! WHICH, is exciting in its own right because that means more Live games for yours truly. But it’s also exciting because as I found out, Microsoft changed the design of the cards up so that you can’t scratch off your codes anymore! No really, check it out!

So here’s the new card…

And here’s the back! Check it out…

No more scratching, just PEELing!

And there you have it! So if like me you haven’t bought a card in a while, no longer should you have fear that you’ll accidentally scratch off the code. And in case you’re wondering, YES I have used this card already and so far the only purchase was… Geometry Wars 2!!!

What I'm Playing Oct 2008

Since I’m just getting my blogging legs back and haven’t been around too much lately, you may not know what I’ve been playing lately. OR you may just not care.

In any event, I haven’t talked games in a bit with you but that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not playing them, especially since there are still a ton of games out there (and in my collection) that I need to get a few more achievements for.

Are you shocked that they’re all on 360?

Gears of War
Earlier this week I finished up the Solo Campaign on Insane. Let me tell you – I was at that last boss for 3 hours. “On a school night”, that plain sucks. But the game is still phenominal and was a blast to play through again. I DO wish I had found the 4 COG tags I was missing, but I guess you can’t have everything. (#):( Next up, I’m hoping to start playing multiplayer since I hear it’s pretty good and there are multiple achievements up in there too.

Gears of War

Hexic HD
For the hottest of minutes this week, the plague that is the most boring puzzle game of our generation once again ensnared me. Even though I’m still at the top of the list amongst my group of gaming buddies, there is still an achievement or two that needs to be unlocked. (Are you seeing a theme here)?

Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR 3)
Moving on to a brand new game (“if I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me)… One of the games that has been in my collection for the LONGEST time is Project Gotham Racing 3 for the 360. Now there IS a reason for this… I LOVED the original Project Gotham Racing for the XBox. I mean, I really loved it. I got Gold on every race and just played races over again (even if I had gotten gold) if I screwed up on ONE drift resulting in missing some Kudos. For whatever reason, PGR3 feels SOOoooooo foreign to me. And I think when I initially bought it (like a year or two ago) I had the same feeling so I put it down. This time, I’m committed to giving it a really fair shake. As I see it, here are my biggest problems with the game:

Project Gotham Racing 3

  • The Right Car – I cannot find a car that feels right in terms of drifting. And for the AI in this game, I need the right fit.
  • The AI – One of the things I liked about the first PGR was that as you got better cars, it showed because your better car performed better than your competitors in those beginning races. In THIS game it seems so far that if you’re racing a Ferarri, all of a sudden everyone else will be driving one too. Which in MY opinion is no good. It’s also this same kind of “match of power” that I hate in other games like Oblivion too. What’s the point of leveling up if everyone else levels up with you? (just my opinion)

Castle Crashers

Future Games
Now certainly coming up in the queue are two very promising games : Castle Crashers and Ninja Gaiden 2. If you missed it, Circuit City(state-side) had a promotion where if you bought Ninja Gaiden 2, you got a $20 gift certificate by mail, all for $40. Which means this little deal would pay for that *e-tear* 1200 pt XBLA game, Castle Crashers. So maybe when these games “come in”, you’ll be treated to some reviews on them. Keep your eyes peeled. (#):)

What’s everyone out there playing? Are you even playing ANYTHING?

Where I've Been (Long Recap)

Thanks to everyone who said hello during my Hot Fire Quick Update and those who sent their congrats on the birth of the new kid.

So now that the dust has settled somewhat, I just wanted to give a bigger update on where I’ve been lately, what I’ve been doing and where my head’s been at.

Obviously, the biggest thing that has happened as the birth of our new kid Dart. And with the one we have already, things have been quite hectic at home. But I think we’re starting to transition out of that period where we’re just dealing and finally starting to live again. And compounding all of that is the other big thing which was finally moving into our new house.

La Nueva Casa
Now I’ve never had a house before. I’ve never moved INTO a new house before. It’s like from the day that we packed up till oh…. Right about now, our life has just been a whirlwind. We packed up on basically one day, and we moved in the next. And after we got into the new house, it seems it has been nothing but buying and building Ikea furniture after I get home everyday from my 7am-7pm job. *ugh*

The Daily Grind
I’m sure some of you have that commute and can thus attest to how sucky it is. Basically that commute gives you just enough time to go to sleep before you have to get up the next day and do it all over again. In regards to the family : It sucks beyond belief. When I get home in the evening, all I want to do is just relax for an hour since I’ve been driving on the road for 3 hours (1 1/2 there, 1 1/2 back). But if I relax for an hour, it’s time for the kids and wife to go to sleep which equates to no family time. But you know what?… At least I have a job. And hopefully this’ll just make me work harder to get out of it so I can spend time with the fam.

New Projects
Now with things starting to settle down (in the sense that I’m finally getting back into a daily routine), I’m hoping that I’ll be back to blogging more frequently. I’ve really missed blogging, and coming back will be a lot of fun. Now I don’t know that I’m going to be able to do 5 times a week, but at least for the foreseeable future, if I can do MWF, I’ll be very very happy. I also want to focus on my AdSense/Affiliate sites and start to really pour some effort into them.

And on top of that – I MAY have mentioned it on here, but the newest hotness at home is my new home theater setup! We’re talking about me building a media enclosure out of my wall, dry walling, new receivers, a projector… It’s kinda SERIOUS! Obviously, you’ll be hearing about that in the upcoming days as well.

Thanks for Keeping Up!
Finally, I just wanted to thank everyone again for keeping me in your RSS feeds and waiting for me to once again get my act together. Can’t wait to talk to y’all some more on your sites and on this one!