Originally an Xbox 360 release in the guise of Ninja Gaiden 2, the Sigma outing on the PS3 tweaks and tucks at the gameplay fixing a number of issues the original game had, but also essentially changing how the game feels. The story features a sword wielding Dragon Clan Ninja, Joe Hayabusa, who skulks around in his tight leather outfit, passing sharp metal blades through just about anyone who approaches him, mostly being members of the Black Spider Clan – the tale itself is pretty frivolous and revolves around a stolen artefact, but really the meat of the game is all about the hacking and slashing.
There are dozens of this type of game on the market, but Ninja Gaiden is in the upper echelons of its peers. The animations are very swish and fluid, making the player seem like he's right in the middle of the action - simple taps of square and triangle translate into super combos that put lightning fast blades through flesh, it’s a joy to wonder around doing Ninja action on the enemy ass.
It appears though that there is very little blood at all in this version of Ninja Gaiden, a series that was regarded as visceral and violent. The violence is still there in spades, so it seems very odd that when lopping off people's limbs and heads with gallant finishing moves, the only thing spilt is some weird blue essence gas, blood does adjourn the floor and walls, but it's not the spatter fest Ninja Gaiden usually has, and it does change the whole feel of the game – like something essential is missing.
On encounters with the enemy, getting hit initially just knocks down the cyan health bar, which restores afterwards. Getting repeatedly hit however means this bar gets shorter, with less health there to get the player through the tough times. As your blade shortens the life of confronted enemies, a currency is earned, which can be spent on items and weapon upgrades in Muramasa's shop, scattered infrequently about the maps.
These are not the only places to discover items though, so there's a need to look in the nooks and crannies of the world, here there are often hidden chests containing goodies that will restore health or even revive a fallen hero. Also scattered about the place are dead bodies holding onto scrolls that will teach new techniques for battle or getting around the place – it’s a wonder to see Joe leap a dozen times up a massive vertical wall, a move that even Tony Jaa would struggle with, all with the finesse of a ballet dancer.
The cut scenes provide for some high entertainment value, and the environments seem to stretch for miles with lots of variation across the seventeen different levels – these go from the Gothic buildings of the clans to the bright city lights of the sprawling Tokyo skyline. Joe at one point is standing atop of a huge sky scraper and then base jumps without a parachute, giving off some great visual flair. There are a number of moments like this that are a joy to watch.
Although there's no ability to save at any time (something that at points would be handy) there are plenty of save points around that on first encounter will also completely revive the health-bar. There are plenty of check points, so if the player does die (it will happen at some point), there’s less penalty for doing so. The game is tricky in places, though not quite as hard as previous games; it seems to be a little bit toned down, whether this is a good or a bad thing will depend on how hard-core a player you are. There are still multiple enemies that will fight you at the same time requiring both defensive and offensive moves, so learning to block is essential if making it through to the end credits is the goal. A tweak not done is the way the camera moves about the place – it is possible to control it, but when in the middle of fearsome battles, it’s not always at its optimum positioning, and juggling this while being on the defensive isn’t the easiest of options.
The save points appear at critical positions, so it’s almost possible to predict that a boss battle may be looming on the horizon. These encounters at first appear to be very intimidating, such as fighting a goliath stone statue a number of times. Joe is made of hardy stuff though, so as soon as the player works out the appropriate weak points, the bosses go down like a weighted mafia victim disposed of in the sea.
As an action game, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 delivers a postal backlog amount of goodness in to the gaming world. While the story maybe trivial, and the breasts of the female characters big and jiggly (in typical Team Ninja style) the combat comes across as fluid and purposeful. Any would be Ninja will find an awful lot of Katana action here to fulfil their fantasy needs. The only real downside is the nearly bloodless combat, which really doesn’t fit the setting. If you have already played this on the Xbox 360, there’s little different here to warrant a second play though, however, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is worthy of a purchase for those yet to experience its delights.
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