Ninja Gaiden: Sigma

July 24, 2007

Rarely will I say this so pay attention: You need to go out and get this game. Now. Finally there is a game worthy of the Playstation 3 console, a game that is destined to become a legend for its style and grace of execution.

Ryu Hayabusa, ninja, wields the Dragon Blade as he searches for the blade’s dark twin, cutting a swath of destruction through enemies bent on keeping him from his prize. Along the way he meets a fiend-hunter named Rachel, who will play her own part in the coming chaos. In a world somewhere between the birth of computer technology and feudal Japan, magic and demons abound as the forces of darkness gather their strength for the final assault. Do you have what it takes to stop them?

Hell yes, and many times over. Right from the opening scene, this game grabs your attention and keeps you locked in. You will build your ninja arsenal of skills and weapons, and hack through countless opponents. More than an upgrade from the Xbox versions, this game is redefined, taking the strengths of the PS3 to its upper limit. Fantastic lighting, texturing and environments coupled with the already fluid fast-paced action have set this title in the upper echelons of PS3 lore.

Ninja Gaiden: Sigma takes the best aspects of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, God of War, and Onimusha, and blends them into an all-that-and-more action/adventure mix. Exploration and minor puzzle-solving are the foundation of the game as you have to figure out the best route to your objective. Some of these roads are easy to ken, but many require the use of your advanced ninja abilities, like wall-running. The environments are so detailed and laden with nooks and crannies that they beg to be explored for secret treasure.

But the real bread and butter of the game is the combat system. The game offers a multitude of combos, including some truly awe-inspiring ones that are difficult to master but incredibly powerful. And with the sheer numbers of baddies around, you will really need to bone up on your fighting techniques. Simple button-mashing will not suffice. You don’t stand a chance if you don’t plan ahead, but you must also be able to make split second decisions using your melee and ranged attacks. All of this lends itself to a required higher level of gaming ability that may daunt casual players, but rewards those willing to dedicate the time.

In addition to your standard ninja swords and throwing stars, you gain many more melee and ranged weapons as the game progresses, adding variety to keep the game interesting. On top of all of that, you can use ninpo magic to heighten your fighting abilities and completely wipe out hordes of enemies. The Sixaxis controller plays a part, allowing you to shake the controller to enhance the magic. Doesn’t sound impressive, but it pumps up the excitement factor considerably. Your jaw will drop the first time you pull out all the stops and decimate everything in your path.

Beyond the almost cinematic quality of the fighting system, the graphics are just amazing, pushing the Playstation 3 to a beautiful movie-like experience. Cut-scenes and in-game resolution are so close in quality and design that the transitions are barely perceptible. The world is so meticulous in its feel such that each area takes on a life of its own; you can almost feel the wind in the trees and smell the dirt in the streets. The depth to which the graphics achieve say a lot of the effort Team Ninja put into developing this remake.

I found the high difficulty invigorating, others may find it annoying. This is by far one of the hardest games I have played to date, which to me is a credit to the game and a sign that its content is not meant for too young a crowd. The enemy has no mercy and if there is an opening for an attack you’d better believe they’ll take it. And don’t think you can block your way through a match either– the AI will take advantage of your hesitation and will grapple you for equally damaging attacks. It gets to the point that you might easily be overcome by as few as three low-level baddies if you don’t position yourself correctly. Many times, you will walk into a room where it seems the waves of bad guys will never cease. Some people will throw the controller down and curse, but me, I love it. Yes, yes, I die just like everyone else, but I love the absolute challenge this gives. I much prefer it this way over having the game handed to me on a platter. NGS requires mastery to advance, and I applaud Team Ninja for not watering down the material.

The only complaint I could broach with this game is an imperfect camera: in large rooms I often can’t see enemies shooting at me, and I have trouble focusing attacks while in the center of the group. In that same vein, I found it frustrating to walk through a door into an unseen ambush. An over-the-shoulder camera when moving through doors would have gone a long way. But really, this game shouldn’t be judged by these few small problems, it should be remembered for the unabashed action.

NGS boasts new enemies, expanded environments and some slight modifications to combos and animations compared to its Xbox predecessor Ninja Gaiden: Black. If all of that isn’t enough for you, the game also gives you the ability to play as the femme fatale Rachel. She is strong in her own right, and offers a completely different play-style from Ryu, keeping you on your toes. I found ample difference between the two to make swapping between them a pleasure. On top of that, if you can beat the game (or kill a nearly impossible boss in the beginning) you can unlock Mission Mode, where storyline events are replaced with singular timed objectives. All of these added features are just an extra sugar coating on an otherwise perfect cake. While this might not be enough justification for someone to upgrade from the Xbox version it should give them some things to consider.

This game has a strong shot at being game of the year with its seamless balance between story, action, and exploration. Moreover, anyone who owns a PS3 and doesn’t buy this game needs to just quit pretending they play good video games, buy a Wii, make a Mii and then punch that Mii repeatedly in the face. You deserve to be beaten one way or the other.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.