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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Slick ninja action
  • Extremely busty ladies with axes
  • A new online co-op mode
  • Removal of blood and gore
  • Incredibly punishing difficulty
  • Lacking in plot and atmosphere

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a game. Sounds obvious right? That’s like saying grass is green, water is wet, Ryan Seacrest is evil. Wrong. In an age where games are desperately trying to be movies, rock concerts, sporting events or fitness aids, it’s wonderfully refreshing when a game comes along that is so blatantly sure of itself and its medium. If we were to get all flowery about it, we could even make a case for comparing Sigma 2 to Pong or Tetris – placing it lovingly into that category of classic games that champion the purity of play, and dismiss everything else as window dressing and chintz. Don’t worry, though: we won’t.

What we will say is that Ninja Gaiden has always been about action, and Sigma 2 is no exception. The plot is thinner than Posh Spice on a nothing-but-millet diet, and the levels are relatively ugly and sterile compared to more bombastic adventure games like Devil May Cry and God of War, but at its heart there’s a silky-smooth combat system that makes you feel like an absolute god: once you get to grips with it.

Fighting almost feels too simple – quick slashes are mapped to Square, heavy attacks to Triangle, blocking to L1, and jumping to X. The key is chaining together slashes to pull off incredible, beautifully animated combos. Bashing buttons and learning the basics will get you through the first few levels on acolyte (easy), but to finish the game – and get the most out of it – you need to master the deceptively deep martial arts mechanics. It isn’t until you look at the moves list in the inventory screen that you realise how many combos are at your disposal… per weapon. Rather than being intimidating, it encourages you to play around with each blade, learning Ninja Gaiden’s intricacies.

Combined with the steep difficulty curve the quantity of devastating moves and well-designed weaponry makes every kill, from the lowliest of enemy ninja, right through to the biggest demon, feel like a small personal victory. When you see Ryu Hayabusa (your playable character through the majority of the story) flick a ninja above his head with his Eclipse scythe before neatly chopping him in half, it’s a seriously satisfying moment. The way the camera zooms in for a closer inspection of the kill, and the meaty slicing sound that accompanies each ‘obliteration’ move feels like a mini-reward too. It’s definitely something you have to earn – each fight with every individual enemy is a duel in itself.

Learning to block, counter and time your attacks (and even know which weapon will be most effective against who you’re facing) is the key to coming out on top. Difficult enough in a one-on-one brawler, but it reaches a whole new height of challenge when you’re battling seven or eight different opponents at once.

This unforgiving level of difficulty can also be the game’s undoing. We lost count of the number of times we had to hit the Continue option after being felled by a particularly hard boss, and we’re not proud of the language we used on those all-too-common occasions we were wiped out with a Heal and Save statue in sight. For some, this game will simply be too tough, and no amount of busty female ninja or larger than life instruments of death with convince less hardy players to push beyond the third or fourth level. Shame. And when regular play requires nerves of steel, every sloppy section or gameplay defect is twice as noticeable.

The camera, which many complained about in NG2 is still a little unruly, although it is noticeably better, and never proves too much of a problem. A far greater problem is some of the content that has been added to the story mode. The much-touted PS3-exclusive boss fight with the Statue of Liberty is a massive let down because it feels so obscure and unfair next to the game’s other, better thought-out boss battles. Defeating it is a grind, and there’s no obvious way to finish it off – we have no idea how we managed it.

Fortunately, the new bonus characters and their respective levels within the game are implemented with skill and subtlety. Each one feels sufficiently different to play as (no mean feat considering the array of weapons you pick up as Ryu) and their stages are perfectly suited to the moves and tools at their disposal. They also add a further three substantial levels to an already lengthy game: no concerns about a lack of longevity here.

Another worthwhile addition to the Ninja Gaiden experience is Team Missions. These separate ‘arena’ style battles let you play online co-op using any combination of character or weapon (once you’ve unlocked them by playing through the main game). Essentially, they take all the great combat and enemies from the main campaign, remove the hokey plot, and let you experiment with all the cool weapons and moves you’ve unlocked. You can combine ninpo spells (magic) to create awesome, screen filling blasts of co-op devastation, revive each other, and compete for a share of the overall Karma (points).

It seems like a fair swap for the Tests of Valour, which appeared as mid-game arena battles in the 360 version, but are absent from Sigma 2. That’s a change we can understand. However, a few of the other tweaks are more puzzling. The well-documented toning down of blood seems unnecessary – there’s enough decapitation, dismembering and skewering in this version to justify a mature rating, so it seems odd Team Ninja didn’t go the whole hog and have claret spurting liberally out of every wound. Come on guys – at least let us unlock it as a reward for finishing the game.

Similarly, we’re not sure why the Blacksmith options have been changed, either. In the original NG2 you could level up items with hard cash (Karma), but now you’re granted one ‘level up’ per shop, and you’re not allowed to max out any weapon until the second half of the game. True it encourages you to experiment with different blades, leading to a richer overall gaming experience, but it seems like an unnecessary theft of player freedom. If we want to boost our Tonfas up to the maximum level and use them to literally bust open the head of every fiend we encounter, then that should be our choice. We do appreciate the Guidance button, though, which shows you where you need to head whenever you hold R1.

So, the PS3 exclusive additions are a mixed bag. If you’re a multi-format man and have already blitzed through the game, you’ll love the co-op mode, but unless you’re the type who calls their first child Ryu (second one Ayane) and wears ninja socks to bed, we can’t recommend a re-buy. However, so few people bought NG2 first time around, this isn’t much of an issue. Sigma 2 is the purest, most hardcore fighting game on PS3 – no doubt. The action betters the likes of Devil May Cry 4, Heavenly Sword, and – from what we’ve seen – God of War 3. However, if you’re looking for a rich game world, or a plot that actually explains how you can be biking down a mountainside one minute and fighting a giant flaming armadillo the next, look elsewhere. If you want to feel like a badass ninja, have a great time slicing stuff up, and don’t mind a challenge, this is an essential purchase.

Sep 29, 2009

More Info

Release date: Sep 29 2009 - PS3 (US)
Oct 02 2009 - PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Tecmo
Developed by: Team Ninja
Franchise: Ninja Gaiden
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Violence
PEGI Rating:
18+

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14 comments

  • PrierAdmirer - October 2, 2009 2:33 p.m.

    It does seem to be better than the 360 version. I am not so hung up on the blood. What I really want to know if the gameplay is still incredibly broken and/or cheap. Get the scythe and the game becomes broken in the 360 version.
  • Amnesiac - October 2, 2009 1:05 a.m.

    @Crumbdunky: I can see how some people might not like the way-over-the-top bloodshed in NG, I've never had a problem with it and I would have liked to have seen Team Ninja add an option to adjust the violence level to taste. That way, everyone could have been happy. But oh well. As it stands, the lack of gore is the only gripe I have with Sigma 2, and it's certainly not a dealbreaker.
  • crumbdunky - October 1, 2009 9:27 a.m.

    Amnesiac-I think TN removed the gore(well toned it down as there's still a fair bit left if you look)to replace it with the(and I agree silly)purple mist to makle the game more "stylish"! I'm a long time fan of the series(on all platforms)and by no means am I anit gore per se-I just felt it went way too far under Itigali's increasingly barmy regime at TN and, though I'd have just toned it down to the point where seeing everything was easier, I'm still happoer with what we have in Digma2 over NG2 overall-even if the mist is daft. I hear what you say about impact but you still get penty of dismemeberment and feedabck to let you know what you've done and being able to play more accurately all thriough the game is a wise design choice, imo. Whatever, the 360 game was good enough and should really have had a patch for that camera(even now if I'm, honest)but NGS2 has at least made the game both bigger and, overall imo, easier to play properly(while it's no doubt still VERY hard)-which is fair enough if you're a PS3 only gamer who's had to wait that much longer for it. Still, though, Tecmo shouldn't assume people are fans like me who'd possibly have got both anyway ansd fix the first games issues alongside bringing out Sigma.
  • TheWebSwinger - October 1, 2009 3:32 a.m.

    Excellent. Glad I held out for the PS3 version.
  • Amnesiac - October 1, 2009 1:23 a.m.

    @crumbdunky: While I won't not buy the game just because of the lack of gore, it does hurt the game. Kills feel less satisfying compared to the earlier, bloodier games in the series (referring to the series since it's revival on the Xbox) when the blood is replaced with glowy purple clouds, which is also a bit distracting. Not to mention it's kind of ridiculous that Team Ninja claimed that they removed the blood in order to focus more on gameplay then implement a feature that allows you to jiggle the female's breasts by shaking the Sixaxis. They even made this feature into a commercial for the game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw_-4VJ4zn4)!
  • crumbdunky - September 30, 2009 11:40 a.m.

    The blood and gore being toned down(which in it's NG2 OTT state was NEVER a NG trademark anyway people-not hisorically it wasn't)along with the fix to the(woeful) camera in Ng2 is almopst exactly what I wopuld have asked them to do for Sigma myself. I don't really get why anyone apart from blood fetishists or vampires would even care tbh aas now you can see your graceful stabby death so much more clearly(even if there's a silly purple mist that I could just as easily do without!). The gore and bad camera, at times in NG2, combind to make seeing the onscreen action way too tricky in waht was already a brutally hard game to beat. Sadly it meant some areas turned into mashing sessions where it was impossible to play with that much skill as you didn't have the luxury of actually seeing what you were really doing! So, for me, almost every issue the game had has been fixed for Sigma(and rightly so after PS only gamers have had to wait so long for this)and it shows. The worst thing I can say about the game and Tecmo inparticular is that they've let down the people who bought, as I did, the original on 360 by not patching in a fix for a camera that bordered on becoming a game breaker at some points. Seriously though, CreeplyTuna, if the gore is all important to yopu then I feel you're missing the point a little and I fail to see what having the OTT gore of the original really added ecxept reduced visibility and a little out of series character silliness.
  • jar-head - September 30, 2009 3:02 a.m.

    CreepyTuna has the spotlight
  • CreeplyTuna - September 30, 2009 2:05 a.m.

    removal of blood ang gore? no reason to buy it now
  • Xenial - September 29, 2009 11:33 p.m.

    I'm not sure if i'll be getting this game anytime soon considering the fact i'm trying to stock up on a few other games. Awesome review as always, keep up the good work guys. :P
  • cyanide4suicide - September 29, 2009 11:04 p.m.

    This game is sweet. Too bad I gotta wait till tommorrow to buy it myself.
  • Amnesiac - September 29, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    This review is taken almost verbatim from PTOM. I am disappoint.
  • husk94 - September 29, 2009 9:06 p.m.

    Ill be getting a ps3 soon so ill probably pick this up
  • John-117 - September 29, 2009 8:45 p.m.

    I tried the demo and was fairly impressed so I may pick this up but right now Uncharted 2, Demon's Souls, and Ratchet and Clank are my top priority.
  • Corsair89 - September 29, 2009 8:24 p.m.

    I finished the 360 version(which I sold) last year and it was pretty badass. The only thing it really got right was the action because action is the only thing NG2 is about. The shitty plot and camera is acceptable because the action thankfully hogs the whole spotlight. I would have been happy if there was no plot at all. Although I don't like the fact that in this version the blood was replaced by breasts(I would have liked ample amounts both), the extra missions are compelling. I may pick it up again.

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