To fill out “adept and skilled ninja fighting machine” for an occupation on your tax forms requires tough work, and it certainly isn’t an easy occupation to wake up to. Lucky for us, Ryu Hayabusa is back, and sexier than ever. From the genius’s at Team Ninja, the subsidiary company of Tecmo Ltd. which truly made sure our mouth’s were drooling for the girls in DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball, Ninja Gaiden Sigma stealthily swoops and slices its way through the PlayStation 3 curtain.
You might have found your childhood experience at your Grandma’s house playing Ninja’s with your friends slightly unsatisfying, but make no mistake; this isn’t another day in Grandma’s house. Sigma is essentially a mixture of the original game and Black, offering a Mission mode and one heck of a learning curve to master. There are new enemies to be found, new areas to slice enemies in, myriad stylistic tweaks and, most notably, the ability to play as the lovely Rachel. The game truly delivers on all aspects including vivacious gameplay and attractive character models supplemented by eye candy blistering environments as well.
The gameplay in Ninja Gaiden Sigma is extremely fast-paced, but to be a Ninja, you have to be fast. Furthermore, the animation is extremely sinuous. With the occupation of Ninja comes highly skillful abilities such as defying gravity in scaling walls, liquidating the supramolecular chemical aspect of surface tension by gliding across water, displaying the supernatural ability to unleash magic different from David Blaine, and wielding your blade in venues that would make Raiden himself green with envy.
The action is intense, and once you’re on your five thousandth kill, it’ll be hard to put your Katana down. In comparison to old-schoolers, newbies will find the game very hard to pick up at first. But in large part it’s simply because you have yet to experience the game to hone those skills in like the ninja veterans. The advanced enemy AI, beautiful environments to cut your enemies around, and seamless in game camera movement create unique real time visuals that do away with the traditional need for obstinate cut scenes.
The biggest addition in Sigma is the ability to play as Rachel herself, a Fiend Hunter who made for some teasing unplayable action in the previous series titles. In Sigma, you’re able to play her efforts as she heads off in search of demons to slay. The missions help the player to glean more information in respect to the Ninja Gaiden Sigma storyline, but while the story is fun and all, her character can make the gameplay a bit brawny. Rather than serenely annihilating the enemies, with Rachel you are begrudgingly caused to block and wait until it’s the proper time to strike. Although this isn’t always a bad thing, the overall fast paced action in Ninja Gaiden Sigma makes patience far from a virtue when fighting against the adrenaline to segment the lower aorta valve in an enemy who believes he is far greater than you in prowess.
Despite the gameplay with Rachel being a tad stark, watching her gracefully end an enemy’s life is more than satisfying. In terms of such additional game play extensions, the player will now be able to access potions without having to visit the game’s menu system via the use of the directional pad. Walking on water this time around is more comprehensible to do, and the fighting activists will be content to know that thanks to newer additional moves, there’s a whole new level of ass kicking just beyond the river’s grassy horizon.
Such improvements also exquisitely span across the variety of enemies in the game. New enemies are scattered everywhere and an old number of characters, from Vigoor soldiers and black Tairon ninja’s, have been given visual appendages, not just with regards to textures but their overall design as well. Even though most of them still fight the same and gracefully get their bodies smashed in by Ryu’s blade wielding powers, the newer designs make for a more pleasant bloodshed.
Speaking of blades, there’s also a new weapon in the game. Frighteningly called “Dragon’s Claw” and “Tiger’s Fang”, it’s a dual weapon-killing combo that you can find relatively early on in the game.
As mentioned, there are various new environments and scenes. The best example of this is found in the second chapter where Ryu heads back to find his home village burning to the ground. As the killing machine that you are, you can now play through a new section where you enter a burning building and take out a number of enemies, and then exit all to be beaten by the handsome Samurai boss with purple fire for a face, Doku. Of course, had Ryu not been beaten, the story wouldn’t continue and he would most likely start eating bon bons and submerge under whatever river he tries to glide on. To enrich the added experience, three new enemies (MSAT bikers, Mermen, Ghost Fires) and two new bosses (Garnov, Alternator) have been added to be utterly humiliated by Ryu.
Despite the additions, there are features from the Black version that have been removed for this game, such as the opening introductory with Dragon Sword and the Dark Dragon Blade, the movie theater, puzzles, and some encounters and costumes. There are no additional starting weapons for the higher difficulties, some effects from power moves are not present, the Armlet of Tranquility is gone, and the monster Gobdecks is no longer present. What a shame.
Although the gameplay is, on the whole, fantastic, there is one major problem: direction. Tairon is still a maze, and towards the end of this chapter when you need to face off against turrets, the only clue your given is to head over the nearby drawbridge and you’re left guessing what to do next. As women already know, all men can be stubborn in admitting they took the wrong “shortcut” and are “not lost.” Throughout the game, there are certain areas that require a ninja knows how to multi-wall-run. If you miss the hints, then you’re just left gracefully circling the area with your agility until you inevitably pass out from exhaustion.
In short, the Mission Mode from Black returns once you’ve beaten the game, as do more costumes and the ability to upload your high Karma score on the PlayStation Network.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma encompasses sharp visuals. Texture resolution is excellent, character detail is unprecedented and it runs at an eye blistering 60 fps even at 1080p. The environments look good, but are certainly not mind-blowing due to a simple transition and zero use of parallax mapping to enhance the background immersion. Just by playing the game, you can tell the lighting is HDR. Characters feature self-shadowing, which while subtle does look nice, far from the previous additions. A slight irregularity appears in the light cast for Ryu on certain terrain platforms, but you have to seriously study the details to truly notice this.
Overall, the game has a lot of positives and newer additions to make this, dare I say it, Ninja worthy. The moment your hands grasp the controller, you only strive to live by the Ninja’s life code of honour, valour, and faith. So, go out there! Show them what you’re made of with your deadly Katana skills. Just make sure you take your ninja attire to the dry cleaners. No one likes blood stains on their attire when they’re looking gracefully sexy for the camera.