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PS 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

Gallery: Ninja Gaiden

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Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. I'm busy with MLB 07 for now. I just love it...may have to rent this one though.

Posted at 5:08PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Andy

2. "so for that one person who keeps commenting on the fact his/her TV doesn't support 720p but has 1080i, don't worry" ears are burning...

Posted at 5:18PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Stef Geiger

3. lol @ Stef Geiger -- I knew that had been bugging "someone" so I thought it was worth mentioning. I'm sure that "someone" isn't alone *casual wink towards his tv*

Posted at 5:24PM on Jul 12th 2007 by ndoerr

4. I also am in the same boat, never owned an xbox, never cared to, no particular reason behind that, always been happy with Sony. So this is a brand new gaming experience for me and i love it. Great game. Challenging but also rewarding when you overcome said challenge.

Cant wait for: Lair, LBP, Parappa 3, Pain, Echochrome, Everday Shooter, Killzone.

Posted at 5:34PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Wreckheart

5. played em them all and this one is the cream of the crop. amazing ps3 title. i appreciate Team Ninja's efforts big time>

Posted at 5:46PM on Jul 12th 2007 by a.j.

6. I think a lot of us that came from the PS2 never touched and XBOX so this game is gonna be a blast.

Posted at 5:54PM on Jul 12th 2007 by gullum

7. This game is great, but I HATE HATE HATE playing as Rachel. She's soooooo slow and clunky! As fast, graceful and maneuverable as a mack truck.

Posted at 5:54PM on Jul 12th 2007 by RD

8. Im at the twin worm section right now; freakin worms keep handing me my ass... argghhh..


Posted at 5:57PM on Jul 12th 2007 by humpty

9. Nice Dr. McNinja Reference "unless your a pirate, or a Lumber Jack" Don't forget Ronald McDonald. That comic is some funny stuff. :)

Posted at 6:03PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Kr155

10. Yay 1080i!

Posted at 6:04PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Sean

11. Nice review. I played the other versions, I'll admit, but never finished them. I feel a need to complete this game. I do like Rachel's bits, but she moves like a tank.

Posted at 6:27PM on Jul 12th 2007 by FrankBilboWinker_Toups

12. I have the very first one for XBOX and believe me, the graphics are worlds apart now. Its good to see this game overhauled for the PS3, sigh, just have to buy me a PS3 now. . .

Posted at 6:41PM on Jul 12th 2007 by cfsage

13. I agree with you almost entirely. Playing as Rachel... like you say less weapons and moves makes her easier to figure out, but she just feels so slow compared to Ryu; but it's cool to have both styles in the game. Makes one appreciate those sweet ninja moves that much more.
Like a lot of other ps3 owners, I never had an xbox so I never played these games. This was one title that made me think about it a couple times though... luckily for us, the ps3 ends up with the best version just in time for us to really enjoy it. Of course, it's a masochistic sort of pleasure, but still.

Posted at 7:20PM on Jul 12th 2007 by mccomber

14. i agree with you totally, before the demo came out on the psn network i hadnt played a ninja gaiden since gameboy (the original gb)in like 1993. I think its an great game with great gameplay and you dont see that often.

Posted at 7:36PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Alex_p.

15. @ndoerr: Well, it's much appreciated when it does get mentioned. I think it's crazy that no one bothers to discuss output resolution - IGN didn't make a peep about The Darkness running in 1080p. Ignoring the fact that it determines if people with old sets have to play in SD, it seems like a pretty crucial part of "Graphics", so I think it's odd to omit it.

Posted at 7:41PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Stef Geiger

16. So how is bad camera management NOT a fault of the developers? Even though it's based on an older game, isn't solving issues like the camera one of the things remakes are supposed to fix?
Hard to be completely unbiased in a review, I know, but if you're going to give credit for the good things you should also acknowledge where they could've improved things. Otherwise, fine review!

Posted at 8:50PM on Jul 12th 2007 by FallenCow

17. FallenCow

The camera doesnt get in the way that much. In ninja gaiden black (this one too i assume, im not picking it up because i have the first two.), you have the option to control the camera yourself, but often times the action is so fast that its better to let the game do it for you.

Posted at 9:37PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Bangbang...

18. I am really enjoying this game its the most fun Ive had in ages, although I have an Xbox I never bought either version available. After reading the review I decided to install the game but I can see no difference, however Ive already played upto Chapter 11 before doing this. Does the game need to be started afresh to take advantage of the install benefits?


Posted at 10:16PM on Jul 12th 2007 by Gareth Burleigh

19. The problem with Ninja Gaiden for some people is that it plays a whole lot like Tekken or Dead or Alive. You can button mash in any of those games, but to be really successful, you need to learn all the combo's (which most people aren't willing to do). There are sure to be one or two reviews out there that are the opposite of this one, where the reviewer says something moronic like "I can't kill anything!" or "I can't figure out the combo's!" just like there are any time Tekken or DOA games come out, but I'm happy to see that atleast PS3fanboy "get's it"

Posted at 11:39PM on Jul 12th 2007 by BananaBoat

20. It is worth mentioning though that the game even running in 1080i/p modes still has the same 720p resolution. And the game always prefers 720p over 1080i. Check it out. Nevertheless I like the idea of supporting basically all modes. Btw, it really is a must have.

Posted at 1:00AM on Jul 13th 2007 by Mutsch

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