"Can I have some I.D, sir?"
"Sure" (fumbles for business card) "Here you go".
"No, can I have your age I.D, Sir? CERO age rating! "
"But....I'm... 34...." (fumbles incredulously for battered passport, furrows brow, points at 1973 D.O.B).
"You may go."
Such is the way of vigilant Microsoft staff at TGS, that even embattled old hacks like myself need to be protected from the disturbing scenes of blood and gore that await me behind the curtain of this special Ninja Gaiden 2 auditorium. You may have also witnessed the very same footage on EGTV a few days ago, albeit presented by the enigmatic, shade-wearing Tomonobu Itagaki in the run-up to TGS. If you haven't, check it out now, and rejoin us in a few minutes. If you're too young, have your parent or guardian on hand to shield your eyes from the uberviolence.
As you might recall, Itagaki-san's thinking big with Ninja Gaiden 2. Team Ninja isn't content to just make more of the same, but is aiming to create "the world's premier action game". He fully admits the original wasn't "flawless" in the way some of the fans of Ninja Gaiden perceive it to be, and says that in trying to push the Xbox to its limit, he omitted 10, maybe 20 features from the 2004 title, and says that being able to include all these on the 360 gives them "no greater thrill as a developer".
He reckoned that "because it's so speedy and frenetic" he didn't personally want to demonstrate it (cop-out!), but had someone on hand to demonstrate the Aqua Capital stage - in exactly the same way as we were shown three days later at TGS. Who knows if someone really was "waiting in the wings" playing it in real-time? Who even cares? Most of us were just grateful to finally see the game running for the first time, and after the years Team Ninja has wasted on developing pointless voyeur sims that sold precisely sod all, to see the developer going back to doing what it does best is great news.
Gained entry to the dinky auditorium, we took our shoes off respectfully, and sat down cross-legged to enjoy what would hopefully prove to be a hectic, barnstorming run-through of one of the best action games to emerge in years. After seeing the game's protagonist Ryu Hayabusa wielding a massive scythe, a field full of swords stabbed in the ground, and the game logo, we're shown the functional level select screen. Eight chapters, eh? The unseen hand selects Aqua City, evidently the fifth portion of the game. The camera pans around the serene Venice-inspired architecture, complete with gondolas moored in the urban canals, and ornate bridges spanning the waterways....and then the action kicks in.
From nowhere, a half dozen enemies spawn into the scene. Ryu reaches for his giant scythe and begins swishing and swatting away the black suited foe like irritating flies. Within seconds, the first dismemberment occurs; Ryu spiking his foe with the tip of his scythe, holding him aloft for a brief moment before slicing him decisively in two. Seconds later, another foe is eviscerated into what can only be described as a splodge of blood. Next up, another poor unfortunate is ripped to shreds, limbs flying asunder. The canal side stone bespattered with blood, Ryu spins upwards into the air, and with an effortless whirl slices more goons to their inevitable doom. The next man minced. The other beheaded. Another chopped in two. With a further four hapless individuals encircling him, the stragglers are finished off one after the other with dramatic, graceful, violent ease. With a swish and a slash and smash. Frenetic indeed. Less than two minutes into the game, and the death toll and gib count is immense.
With a few moments respite while Ryu runs up some stairs and heads for the nearby canal bridge, we get a chance to take in the ornate architecture for a moment. The feel is very much in-line with the splendour seen in Devil May Cry 4, but maybe not quite as strikingly beautiful. Regardless, it's no slouch in the visual department by any means, and before we know it we're back in the action, once again dealing with a posse of aggressive, relentless, but ultimately defeated adversaries. At this stage we get to see what appears to be a charged attack where Ryu stands still for a moment, invoking some hidden force and whipping up the air around him, symbols encircle him and blasting anyone nearby with a vicious proximity attack which ultimately rips them apart in a shower of gore.
With the last of the bunch sent packing, Ryu puts his trusty scythe back on his back and cycles through the available weaponry. Without too much intimate knowledge of what's in store, we can tell there's a handful at least, with dual swords eventually plucked from the inventory. Running headlong into a fruit and veg market, the scene's set for even greater levels of manic destruction. You might imagine smashed canvas canopies, busted up crates, and mashed fruit, Stranglehold-style, but the levels of environmental destruction are strangely minimal. You see a few items of fruit scattered around after Ryu's special attack, but that's about it.
Interacting with some sort of statue head, your energy is restored, but it's not clear whether this also checkpoints your progress. Clearly the demo man is far too good at the game to die. With some sort of fireball attack selected, Ryu then sets about blasting all-comers with these hot blasts of death, showing off the nifty flame effects in the process. Facing off against a gun-wielding, acrobatic death troupe, it's hardly surprising to see that the gigantic swishing scythe wins out despite Ryu being shot while prone on the ground. With a massive flame special attack unleashed on the remaining unfortunates, it's amusing to note the collective "Arrrrrrrrrrgh"s as the perish in a dance of fiery death.
And the hits keep on coming. Now faced with rocket launcher-wielding enemies, Ryu ducks, rolls, impales, slices, lunges, and eventually takes the remainder down with a ball of unavoidable flaming retribution. What he's angry about we can only speculate. Maybe someone cussed his mum? Maybe he couldn't get his new mobile phone to act as a modem while trying to connect his laptop to the Internet while stranded thousands of miles away in a Tokyo hotel, with only a swearing lunatic for company? Modern life has unique, unforeseen pressures.
The next thing you know, two giant winged demons decide to intervene. Replete with lanky swagger, you'd think the fight was all over bar the demented screaming, what with their purple breath of death and all. But these unreasonable assailants clearly hadn't reckoned on Ryu's patented whirling blade of death attack. To be fair, who could anticipate that? All that extensive training in Hell's Dojo clearly didn't prepare these giant winged beasties, and so it's off with their lithe black-skinned limbs, and an enviable street cleaning job for the folk tasked with cleaning up the sticky green blood now messing up the stone paving. I bet it stinks as well. Despite this, they fight on to the end, with another two suckers joining the merry throng. In mere seconds Ryu has reduced the pair of them to kneeling corpses with his claw attack, and a blizzard of improbable Ninja skills finishes off the straggler. One thing this game definitely doesn't lack is impact. This is brutal stuff, and the lizardy detail on these winged bastards is absolutely incredible. Top marks, chaps.
Running into a area surrounded by tall stone pillars we reach the climax of this ten minute video. With a magnificent fountain the centrepiece of this (boss?) location, we get a close-up of Ryu's leather boots, and the approaching rumble of an unseen giant. Leaping spectacularly into the fray, this bug eyed behemoth looks pissed off. Who wouldn't? He's just heard that 70 of his mates have been slain by a scythe wielding git. Breathing halitosis and readying his insect arms for battle, this nine-eyed bug freak roars in fury, towering over the relatively diminutive figure of Ryu. With blade raised, the scene fades, and it's time to ponder over what Ninja Gaiden II has in store for us when it emerges exclusively on Xbox 360 in 2008. Maybe now the Japanese will finally dig deep into their pockets and spend their yen on what Team Ninja promises will be "the world's premier action game."