If they're too fleeting in the main campaign, the new Team Missions give you more of a chance to learn the additional characters' quirks and exploits. The developer's concession to the online world, the missions are slices of smartly-paced score-attack combat that get progressively harder until you're fighting against four bosses at once. The single-player design of Ninja Gaiden adapts surprisingly well to the change and since there's no split screen - the mode is limited to two players online, or one player accompanied by surprisingly decent AI partner - the camera is no more of a problem than it usually is, which means you'll still get hit by shuriken thrown from off-screen opponents quite a lot, but you won't be able to blame the fact that you're playing with your friend Floyd from Milwaukee.
Ultimately, though, it's business as usual. Ninja Gaiden 2's insane story has lost none of its mindless appeal - the Fiends, right, are trying to raise the Arch Fiend - and it still provides plenty of opportunities to face off against waves of creatively accessorised baddies in beautiful, if lifeless, locations.
And the core of the game, the combat, is as brilliant as it ever was, its simple mixture of weaks, strongs and blocks, melee, ranged and magic, coming together to allow for delirious complexity as weapons level up (albeit in a simplified form, with each blacksmith granting you one extra level each time), dodges are perfected, and new techniques emerge. It's a rhythm game at heart, as you unearth the best combo to take down each foe quickly, or learn to spot the moment an enemy's guard is lowered, and the true master - granted, not me, but I have a friend who's not bad - works with a stylish efficiency.
Not that Team Ninja always gets it right. A nasty combination of flying fish attacks, coupled with the game's sudden intention to become as acrobatic as Tomb Raider, cross the line between challenge and frustration early on, and the spectacle offered by some of the larger bosses often misfires, as they face you, rather undramatically, as if propped against a lunch counter. It can be hard to feel like a badass when you're simply hitting someone in the fingernail until they drop dead. Unless you're hitting them in the fingernail with a Trans-Am, I guess.
Such irritations are short-lived, however. Back in the mid-nineties, after an evening spent listening to OG: Original Gangster on heavy repeat, a wise friend of mine pointed out that Ice-T couldn't lose, really: his lyrics were either brilliant or hilarious, and either way there was something for you to enjoy. The same is true of Ninja Gaiden - the combat is fantastic, while the goofy leather-clad nonsense remains endearingly loopy.
As games steadily become more ingratiating, Team Ninja offers you an increasingly rare prospect: the chance to truly master something brutal. It's the chance to bounce up out of a well into a midnight world littered with skyscrapers and pagodas and fearsome enemies who are yours to toy with, the chance to spend your time finding the best means of slicing a foe's life expectancy from 15 seconds to just two. You wouldn't want every game to present a challenge so steep, perhaps, but when it's put together with such arrogant style, it's hard to dislike.
In the end, then, despite the toning down, despite the wonky camera, and despite the fact that at times it's all just a remix, all that's left is the controller in your hand at three in the morning. You'll be late for work tomorrow, but as the cherry blossom fills the air, and six new enemies drop into view and, behind them, you spy the familiar blue glow of your next save point, none of that really matters.