Ninja Gaiden Sigma was a title that summoned many feelings and emotions. Frustration for one, displeasure – another. For the less-than-serious gamer, NGS was a game that took you in, confident, promising you a world of opportunity and experience – but ultimately spat you out, deflated in your ability, a mere shell of your former self, with nothing more than a nervous tick and a pile of smashed Sixaxis’ to show for it.
As much as I loved the game and the concept, I was never able to completely finish Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Even playing through on Ninja Dog. It is the one game that completely defeated me to the point where the sight of the game on my shelf gave me cold shivers. Eventually, I had to trade it in.
In fairness, this was in large part due to my relative ‘newcomer’ status to the next-gen console gaming scene and button-mashing approach (which simply doesn’t work in NGS). Thankfully, both of these elements have changed a little since then.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has arrived. Once again it promises the world. You may be thinking ‘What a fool you are to even contemplate it all over again’, but just bear with me.
Sonia, a busty CIA Agent, arrives in Tokyo in search of Ryu Hayabusa, of the Dragon Ninja Clan. In the process of inquiring about his whereabouts, she is violently ambushed by Spider Ninja Clan. Despite Ryu’s intervention, he is unable to stop Sonia being abducted by the Spider Ninja Clan – and sets off to rescue Sonia. In doing so, he finds himself part of a much larger plan which sees the four Greater Fiends release hell upon Earth.
While the story is not NGS2’s strong suit, the game play – and more specifically, the combat – is. Always renowned for super fast-paced action, the Ninja Gaiden Sigma series continues the tradition of lightning fast combo moves requiring razor sharp reflexes and plenty of practice.
Thankfully, the sequel is a little more accessible and the “Acolyte” difficulty still manages to offer all of the speed, action and intensity – but without the fury and frustration that faces casual gamers. All of the hardcore difficulties are in tact though, offering the more experienced Ninja Gaiden fans plenty of challenge.
Hayabusa has an armoury of weapons at his disposal, everything from the standard issue Dragon Sword, to bow & arrow, to massive scythes and rapid-attack flails. This huge variation means you can always change the way you approach each battle. Up close and personal, long range, even chaining different weapons in the middle of a fight. There are loads of combos to learn and perfect, each weapon having specific attacks and Ultimate Techniques to perform.
The Ultimate Techniques are by far the most impressive and satisfying aspect of the combat. Charging your initial attack move allows you to execute your UT which usually results in a spectacular flurry of wild hits and slashes.
Charging up for the next wave of Fiends..
There are additional characters to utilise throughout the game. Ryu makes up the majority of chapter content, but you also control three extra female characters at selected points during the story that run in conjunction or take a slightly different direction to the main plot. These sequences don’t have the same ‘tacked-on’ feeling of the original game, and subsequently are much more enjoyable. Even the slower Rachel sections are considerably more exciting.
An online co-operative mode also features, allowing the host to select from a number of challenge ‘rooms’ where you are pitted against multiple waves of enemies and sometimes bosses from the story mode. Progress carried from the story mode unlocks items, weapons and characters in the Team Missions. There are many benefits of playing the Team Missions, including unlocking additional costumes for your characters and all challenge modes have online Leaderboards for the extra element of competition. Also, the team Ninpo has to be seen to be believed.
Overall, its a brilliant outing for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. It managed to appeal to a much more vast range of gamer, but still keeps the core fan-base intact and satisfied. Combat is as gory, fast and exciting as ever, an absolute class leader when it comes to hack & slash brutality.
Graphics & Sound
Its improvements all around in the graphics department on Sigma 2. All of the environments are intricately detailed and there’s more variation in where you find yourself. Dense mangrove swamps, lush forest, castles, Japanese villages, neo-Tokyo. There are a myriad of exciting backdrops and all are rendered in great detail and you can tell there’s been a massive effort involved.
Ninpo effects are absolutely fantastic, really giving you a tremendous feeling of scale and supreme power. Even simply charging up your Ultimate Technique has this epic feeling about it. Power, charge, lights all swirling around you in a sort of ‘aura’, whipping like a cyclone as it focuses itself on your blade, burning and searing the air around it.
New to the crew, Ayane…
Oddly, while blood detail is present on your weapons and the ground after successful attacks, your enemies don’t essentially ‘bleed’, rather they excrete a purple smoke effect from dismembered limbs and appendages. It is slightly odd at first, particularly considering the amount of blood throughout the game (it even rains blood at one point), but apparently people bleeding was a little too much. Thankfully it doesn’t detract from the game play at all though.
All of the characters are modeled in brilliant detail, their quick moves and attacks are animated brilliantly, even your enemies will use some spectacular grab attacks, quicktime assassinations and their own ‘ultimate techniques’ of sorts. Camera angles change when special events occur to add to that cinematic feel and sensation.
Voice talent is much improved and the story sections and cinematics are very enjoyable thanks to a well delivered script. Sound effects, especially the Ninpo attacks and Ultimate Techniques have tremendous weight to them, sounding especially good pumped up on the surround sound. Boss battles have a much bigger feel (to coincide with their massive on-screen presence) thanks to the ground-trembling audio and soundtrack.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a massive improvement over its predecessor in every visual aspect. Everything from detailed environments to the menu system have been given a heavy coat of polish and buffed to perfection.
I’ve enjoyed Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. That’s something I simply couldn’t say about the original.
While I loved the concept and even the execution on most levels, it just wasn’t accessible enough for everyone, nor did it really give you with that edge of your seat enthusiasm every time you started chopping into limbs and slicing or dicing Fiends.
So, Sigma 2 manages to provide a tough action combat experience, without rendering the casual gamer completely alienated. The aficionados will love it. And the casual gamers destroyed after the original NGS should give the series a second chance.
That’s if you still have any Sixaxis’ left.