Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Review
PS3 players have to wait longer than Xbox 360 owners to satisfy their hack-and-slash hunger in the Ninja Gaiden games, but their patience is always generously rewarded, as they're granted the definitive versions of the premier ninja-action titles. Such was the case with Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the PS3 remake of the original Xbox's Ninja Gaiden, and so it is again with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, an enhanced version of last year's 360 “exclusive” Ninja Gaiden II. As expected with these PS3 updates, fans are offered much more content over the original release, and in Ninja Gaiden that translates to more over-the-top action, more screen-stretching boss battles and more jiggly lady parts.
In Sigma 2, gamepad ninjas get all that and a whole lot more. But before I dive into the new demon-slaying goodies, let's catch-up the uninitiated on what this slick series is all about. If you've never played a Ninja Gaiden game, and you're a fan of fast-paced action, beyond-cool ninjas, and slicing things up like a butcher on a Red Bull bender, then you're in for one hell of a treat. The core campaign—which is largely the same as the 360's version—stars Ryu Hayabusa, a black leather-clad badass who makes all other videogame tough guys look like schoolyard chumps. He's a skilled fighter whose martial arts acrobatics and sword-swinging techniques almost constantly move at a blink-and-you'll-miss-them pace. He travels through a variety of well-detailed world-spanning environments, hacking, slashing, slicing and dicing human and beastly foes with amazing style that yields some of the jaw-to-floor coolest animations you'll ever see, as well as the goriest kills this side of a horror movie slaughter house. On top of all that, he hangs with women so busty they make Lara Croft look like she's still in a training bra, battles bosses so enormous you're gonna wish you'd sprung for the 52” TV and, oh yeah, the odds are always stacked against him, heavily. It's this last point the franchise is probably most famous for; Ninja Gaiden games are notoriously tough as nails, and only the extremely patient will resist chucking gamepads through their televisions. That said, beating any boss—even the early ones—in this unforgiving adventure reaps an enormous sense of accomplishment, making players feel as kick-ass as their on-screen counterpart.
Now, any of the aforementioned action could've already been experienced in the 360 version. However, Sigma 2 somehow manages to toss in even more excitement for PS3 players, piling on bonus fan-pleasing content as high as the demon carcasses. For starters, the original campaign contains new bosses, most notably an epic battle against a possessed Statue of Liberty, and entire new chapters starring different protagonists. This is where those female naughty bits come in. Players get behind the sexy slaying of Rachel, Ayane, and Momiji, a trio of femme fatales, all of which have appeared in previous Tecmo titles. All three slinky death-dealers make a fantastic addition to the campaign, as they not only break up Ryu's missions, but they each control, kill, and animate differently. Tecmo just as easily could've re-skinned a single voluptuous female fighter with three pretty coats of paint, but instead they've fashioned three unique bad girls that are all a dream to control. Whether you're hacking up baddies with surgical precision behind Ayane's dual swords, or knocking back swarms of fire-breathers with Rachel's over-sized hammer, you'll wish for more time with these capable she-ninjas.
Thankfully, the title's other big addition grants you exactly that. In 20+ new online co-operative missions, players can choose one of the four playable characters, join a buddy, and go to town on arenas brimming with vicious forces to be reckoned with. These missions lack any real narrative direction, but offer a great opportunity to just let the leash off your favorite characters and not worry about screwing up your campaign progress. It would have been even better if the full solo game was available as a co-op experience, but it's still fantastic to see the series evolve at all in this direction.
While these extras, coupled with the original content, more than make Sigma 2 the version to own, it still rears, like a grotesque demon head, a few ugly flaws. For one, the camera can be a bear to control. This is a common problem for games that move as fast as lightning, and although it's somewhat improved over the 360 version, it would have been nice to see it fine tuned even further for the PS3. It's especially disappointing to discover any flaws at all when you consider Tecmo did find the time to add the ability to jiggle female ninja breasts with the SIXAXIS controller—no joke. The other let down is the totally unnecessary reigning in of the gore. This franchise is practically synonymous with blood-spraying body parts, so why they chose to replace much of the gushing red with purple smoke effects is puzzling; it's not as though the title doesn't still sport a Mature rating. That said, you'll still see enough decapitations, flying limbs and pulsating entrails per level to get your stomach churning.
Despite Ninja Gaiden II debuting over a year ago on the Xbox 360, this revamped version holds up surprisingly well. The visuals—especially the environments—do look a bit dated next to more recent releases, but the new content easily makes up for any graphical shortcomings. The same is true of my other gripes; while they do keep the game from earning a perfect score, they pale in comparison to the extras this version has received. The game is still hard as hell, but mastering a variety of razor-sharp Fiend-slayers, unleashing Ninpo spells that envelope the screen in tornadoes of death, and experiencing the most fluid combat gaming has to offer, yields a challenge that's far more fun than frustrating. If you're a PS3 owner who's been chomping at the bit for this one, or even a 360 owner craving more demon-carving action, your day has come—savor it like a fresh kill.