How do you make what is possibly the greatest 3D fighting game engine ever seen, and then get the camera utterly, utterly wrong? Ask Team Ninja. In Ninja Gaiden II it has produced a masterpiece of flowing and vicious combat that is – though not ruined – severely hampered by the most basic of design flaws.
There has never been anything quite like it in the genre. You can obliterate huge numbers of enemies in almost no time at all, cut through defenses with ease, and you will look magnificent while you're doing it. The hybrid aesthetic – high-tech Technicolor Japan mixed with muted feudalist Japan – might sound dissonant but looks sharply coherent. In fact, in the hands of a skilled player NGII looks nothing less than exhilarating, and occasionally surpasses any martial arts movie you might care to name.
And this is why the camera is such a surprisingly big issue. This isn't a problem with it getting caught on a corner occasionally, nor the odd confusing switch of perspective. It is a constant problem: obscuring foes, breaking up combos, losing track of Ryu, and flicking back and forth between positions.
It's worth reiterating that, even at preview stage, the action at the core of NGII stands up to the best in the genre. So if there's any serious development left to go on the project, we have to pray that it's directed towards the camera, because it's currently holding back such immense potential. If not, then Ninja Gaiden II will remain a trial for the dedicated player – and not in the way that Team Ninja wants it to be...