Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 debuted back in 2009. It received a fair amount of attention from the gaming community at launch. Heralded by many as the closet comparison of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3’s relative capabilities, being a revision of a 2008 Xbox 360 game as it is, Tecmo Koei’s first home console release since the merger could not have been better placed. The Ninja Gaiden series may have a long history dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), but in the modern industry the series has waned. In the light of the upcoming Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, it’s time to look back at one of the series’ best.
Ninja Gaiden II, but More Ninjas
The game stars Ryu Hayabusa, the archetypal videogame ninja capable of super-human feats of agility and deadly with every movement. A number of other characters appear in the campaign. Each are playable at pre-determined points and later available in the new Chapter Challenge and Team Mission modes. The levels in which Momiji, Rachel and Ayane appear may be brief and only offer a single weapon, but are a pleasant respite from our leather-clad protagonist. And with these new additions, the single-player campaign is extended beyond the already generous twelve-hour campaign of the Xbox 360’s Ninja Gaiden II. Occasional levels within the campaign have seen improvement too. New detail added to previously sparse corridors, the occasional revision in structure and even additional boss fights.
Fight for Your Right to Ninja
The combat system retains the same combination of quick and heavy attacks, dodging and finishers. It’s reliant on the players learning the attack patterns of each enemy type. A wide variety of weapons is available to Hayabusa. All with different strengths and weaknesses in their available combination attacks. The player must learn to adapt to different situations through alternating their use. Enemies can easily be dismembered with quick attacks when correctly landed. Heavy attacks can be used as stylish finishers for mutilated foes; but the most important aspect is self preservation.
The weapon upgrade system has been changed somewhat from the original release. Now, it’s limited to the number of available shops. Previously it has used the same in-game currency as that which is used to purchase items.
Ninja Gaiden’s PlayStation Debut
A lot of modifications had been promised for this PlayStation 3 revision, one of which being the difficulty. While it’s true that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 may be slightly easier than it’s Xbox 360 counterpart, this has come from a more generous supply of health power-ups rather than lowering the general difficulty. The opponents are just as vicious. The game now also allows more than two save slots. This means that an overuse of items earlier in the game can be undone by those willing to step back a level or two and try again.
So, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has seen a number of revisions. Yet, for all it’s tidying and polish, it’s essentially the same game it was back in 2008. As such, it suffers from many of the same flaws. The camera can be infuriatingly ignorant of the player’s wishes. Much like it’s successor, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, it will often requiring you to engage an unknown enemy without a line-of-sight. The control system can occasionally feel loose, calling for unnecessary retries during stretches of tricky acrobatics. There are also numerous areas where the difficulty inexplicably ramps-up. All of this may deter many before reaching the closing stages.
In addition, it must be noted that the PlayStation 3 release does frequently suffer from some incredibly long loading delays. Thankfully, this has been remedied in the recently released Ninja Gaiden Master Collection.
More Ninjas, More Ninja Gaiden
The Chapter Challenge is basically a replay of the levels from the campaign. It adds an on-screen score counter and awards are given for style, opposed to survival skills. More interesting is the addition of the Team Mission gameplay mode. This can be played solo or co-operatively online. Each of the thirty levels in Team Mission mode is unique and adds more longevity to a title that was already easy to consider a lengthy endeavour. However, they do highlight the fact that the game’s mechanics are designed around a single-player, clearly less comfortable with a second thrown into the action.
Though occasional design decisions can annoy, the game is almost faultless in its appearance. Team Ninja’s trademark animated dolls are handled beautifully, sparkling with character and many uniquely designed enemies. The SIXAXIS compatibility on PlayStation 3 was widely publicised at the time and, bar a few moments of titillation, so to speak, truly adds nothing to the game. Contrary to popular belief however, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 retains some of the blood splatter, but is far less gratuitous than it’s Xbox 360 counterpart. The soundtrack is wonderful, with suitably pacey techno and electronica during the frenetic combat and serene orchestral pieces during scenic story progression sequences.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2: A Better Ninja Gaiden 2
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has certainly improved on its predecessor. However, it’s as much as you would’ve expected of a 16-month conversion period. That it was a genuinely enjoyable action experience in the first place is obviously the foundation upon which this title has been built. Therein lies its’ new strength. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 builds-upon Ninja Gaiden II, packing more punch whilst retaining the inherent playability. The unique twists of the PlayStation 3 packaging, such as the installation sequences’ interactive comic book, are clearly a labour of love on behalf of the development team, and that’s exactly what Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2’s reputation will be from here on out. Even when it comes to the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 stands head-and-shoulders above its peers.