PS3 Fanboy review: Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Nick Doerr
N. Doerr|07.12.07

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PS3 Fanboy review: Ninja Gaiden Sigma
A lot of people give Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Team Ninja as a whole a lot of heat because they keep recycling the same game over and over. This review isn't about that, and here's why. I am a PlayStation fanboy. Before I grabbed onto my PS One back in late '95 or whenever, I had mostly stuck to Sega and Nintendo consoles and aside from the Wii, still do. Never has my wallet coughed up the cash for a Microsoft system -- this isn't meant as flame, but a setup to this review. I've played neither Ninja Gaiden nor Ninja Gaiden Black. That's what you're going to get in this review: the viewpoint from someone who has never played the games, but recognizes the basic structure is from years ago. This begs the question: is Ninja Gaiden Sigma a must-have for all gamers, or just PlayStation fanboys who've never experienced the game before? Read on and we'll get you your answer.
The first thing you'll notice when you pop the Blu-ray Ninja Gaiden Sigma into your PS3 is the option to "Install". No, this isn't a sexual reference a la Ar Tonelico, but the option to use your hard drive as a crutch for loading the game. It doesn't put the entire game on the hard drive -- that'd be silly. As you do it, you get some nice stuff to read for about half of the install, then you can switch to some TV show. The process takes about 20 minutes, but it's worth it when you start playing the game.

For those unfamiliar, you are Ryu Hayabusa, a descendant of the Dragon Lineage. Your quest, to save you from any spoilers, is essentially to seek out the Fiend Doku and recover the Dark Dragon Blade. On your journey, you'll run into some colorful characters, among them is your other playable character Rachel. She's a Fiend Hunter. You get a few main story missions as her, but most of her action takes place in the unlockable "Mission Mode". That's really it. The game's all action and, like Devil May Cry, the story is really just a part of the game to rub your aching thumbs.

Obviously, the first thing you notice when starting the game (like the demo) are the gorgeous graphics. The box assures us that the game supports 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p, so for that one person who keeps commenting on the fact his/her TV doesn't support 720p but has 1080i, don't worry -- Team Ninja's got your back. Anyway, the graphics are fantastically detailed and there's generally nothing to complain about unless you're really, really critical. Sometimes blood will not splatter across a pillar, rather extend out into the air and stay there. If you run around a lamp, your shadow won't exactly react appropriately, but seriously, who cares about that? It doesn't affect gameplay at all.


Gameplay itself is the heart and soul of Ninja Gaiden Sigma. You'll play mostly as Ryu, who for the lack of a better comparison, Sony fanboys would generally associate his portion of the game with Dante from Devil May Cry 3. We say the third because it was the hardest and this game rivals that difficulty in every aspect. The first stage isn't bad, especially since many of us grew experienced at it through the demo and that's really what the game is about: persistence. You can watch yourself get much better at the game every time you attempt a stage and trust us -- you'll make a lot of attempts. That is the right kind of difficulty, the kind based on personal skill instead of unbalanced damage or sheer number of enemies thrown at you. It's awesome.

Fighting is intense and half of the time, you won't be sure how you're pulling off some of the combos, especially if you haphazardly mash the square and triangle buttons in no particular order. This doesn't work for long and eventually you'll discover what moves work best in what situations. The amount of weapons Ryu can possess are impressive and each has their own learning curve. You can master one weapon, sure, but it'd be a crying shame if you never watched the Lunar or Nunchuku in action. Personally, the new double katana weapon is my favorite, probably because I loved Leonardo from Ninja Turtles. Using Ninpo is an interesting use of the Sixaxis -- shaking it during casting makes the spell stronger. I didn't use Ninpo much at all, but it did seem like it would have been useful ... next time. The enemies you face are varied and each have different approaches you should use. Fighting against another ninja who enjoy dodging and counterattacking? Lob a smoke bomb, roll to their side and slash the hell out of them. Fighting a weird military dude with a shield? Jump attacks or wall attacks break that defense pretty easily. Everyone has a pattern, everything has a strategy. I love that kind of crap. Figuring out a boss pattern, enemy attack patters and formulating appropriate strategies ... that's my kind of shit.

There is one hiccup in battles, though. It's not the difficulty, nor the fault of the developers. You can get so worked up and excited in your battling that Ryu will probably be jumping all around the screen, sometimes too fast for the camera. This is where you can tell the game is a remake of something older -- the camera is a little stiff, especially in tight arenas. Large areas, tight corridors, it's fine. But those arenas can really upset you, forcing you to hit R1 to recenter the camera when you should be defending against that motorcycle ninja playing chicken with you. Don't worry -- that's really all we have to say against this game.

Rachel. As is natural for the gentlemen at Tecmo, they like publishing games with voluptuous women, or cute defenseless ones. Dead or Alive and Fatal Frame come to mind. They like attractive girls and we can't blame them. Rachel's missions have a good PlayStation parallel too -- as Ryu is like DMC3 Dante, Rachel plays like Samanosuke Akechi from Onimusha. If you've never played Onimusha, for shame. The fighting in that game is less button-mashy, more patience. Defend against an attack and quickly counter, rolling to the side or pulling off the instant kill. Rachel plays a lot like that. She's a powerhouse, but is nowhere near as quick as Ryu. She has to defend against attacks, then while defending, flicking the analog stick in a certain direction will either roll her to the side of the enemy for a quick combo or have her flip right over them (if you hold down triangle while doing this, she'll pull the enemy's head right off ... it's freakin' sweet). Now, this is going to be a really debatable admittance, but I like playing as Rachel more than Ryu. I kick ass. I die as Ryu. A lot. She doesn't have any other weapons to pick up, but her gameplay just seems a lot more ... manageable. Ryu is crazy in battle and Rachel chooses her attacks at the most opportune weapons. It's hard to explain, but I really enjoyed all of Rachel's missions.

Once you've mastered the gameplay and plugged away at the game for a good 30 hours (it's hard to gauge since you play each mission multiple times due to deaths and such), you'll find yourself at the satisfying end. Or do you? There are numerous unlockables and greater difficulties to test your mettle against. If you want cooler Ryu costumes or Rachel hairstyles, your gaming has just begun. While not the greatest of unlockables, they're still nice. The Mission Mode is a lot of fun, not unlike the Challenge of the Gods mode in God of War. Online functionality is limited, but you can compare your score with the Ninja Masters across the globe. It's daunting, really.

Now we come to our conclusion. Is this game a must have for PlayStation fanboys (those who've never touched the older editions of the game)? Absolutely, without a doubt. You can say "this isn't my type of game" but if you can get over the difficulty and persevere, it's so rewarding. Besides, who could possibly think playing as a ninja is dumb? Unless you're a pirate or maybe a lumberjack, you've no excuse. If you've played the prior games, it's a hit-or-miss issue. As you have read, I absolutely loved the different style of play the Rachel missions offered, but that may not warrant the $60 price tag if you've played the game once or twice. We'd recommend grabbing it at least as a rental, but if you've got the cash to spare, might as well beef up that PS3 library! This game is an amazing must-have and will probably compete for supreme awesomeness even against the holiday lineup. Go thee out and buy this game.

PS3 Fanboy Score: 9.0

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