Profound hypothesis time, kiddies: Ninja Gaiden II is the ultimate digital expression of purely concentrated id wrung from the most lovingly crafted fantasies of every 14-year-old boy who has ever been picked on for being scrawny, funny looking, or generally undesirable to post-pubescent ladies.

Ryu Hayabusa, Ninja Gaiden II's titular ninja, is everything a lonely teen boy aspires to: He's stealthy, he keeps company with women whose breasts have serious differences of opinion with Isaac Newton, and he solves every problem with decapitation. Even math problems.

The entirety of the gameplay in Ninja Gaiden II seems like a logical extension of the above concept. Combat is controlled entirely through a simple combination of three buttons and a directional stick, but the variety of attacks and sheer visceral brutality of the so-bloody-it-verges-on-cartoonish combat makes for a game that doesn't need any sort of cerebral (or even comprehensible) plot to entertain players.

Right until the end credits roll, the game's combat never loses its novel feel—yeah, in reality, the gameplay's nothing terribly creative or inventive, but the game's intense difficulty forces players to constantly strategize based on battleground layouts, enemy strengths, and current weaponry. Thankfully, it's not as frustratingly difficult as the original Xbox Ninja Gaiden, but it's a hell of a lot harder than Halo.

Thank the ninja gods for the game's entertaining combat; comparatively, the plot is horrid. The entirety of the storyline seems constructed specifically to offer players pretty backgrounds to kill stuff in, constantly dealing with the sort of clichés you'd get from a Saturday morning cartoon. But while the story alternates between paper thin and completely brain dead, it's hard to care when the combat's this good.

Ninja Gaiden II was obviously designed to simulate the fantastic ideas about ninjas we've all been ingrained with since childhood. While your psych major girlfriend might think it a bit juvenile and will probably point out the Freudian implications of so much stabbing, you'll be having too much fun slicing up everything in your path to notice.