The greatest version of the greatest actiongame ever? Think again
Since the release of Ninja Gaiden, Team Ninja have released an updated version of the game called Ninja Gaiden Black with some updates to the game and gameplay as well as the addition of some extra stuff. Now, 2007, The same game is release for the third time as Ninja Gaiden Sigma and it includes all the balancing updates and mission packs from previous version as well as the addition of making Rachel playable in a couple of missions making this the ultimate and most complete version of this very popular game!
When it comes to hack n slash action this game delivers in every aspect of the word. The controls are made for this type of action and the action itself is supertight and superfun. It also rewards you for not playing it like a buttonmasher and for thinking about how you string together awesome combos. The game has recieved alot of praise for being this very balanced, challenging and rewarding actionexperience and I can only nod my head and fully agree with the masses on this point. The juicy actioncore of this game is one of the best ever for sure putting the recent Heavenly Sword to shame when it comes to showing off fluid, cool, fastpaced combat. The addition of Rachel being playable really makes the whole thing feel complete. I havent played the earlier versions of this game but I would like to think that it would feel like something would be missing if she wasnt playable. Her moves are slower but packs more of a punch so you need to play more defensively and counterattack with a few heavy blows to be successfull. The characters in this game are truly the most satisfying actioncharacters to play on this side of Devil May Cry 3 SE.
OK. So with that out of the way lets touch on the most popular question when it comes to Ninja Gaiden. The difficulty. Many people are scared to play this game (I was one of them) because of its reputation. The game is challenging, yes. Some might even call it hard. Enemies will not show you any mercy. Every battle is a ballet and if you trip on your partners toes even once you will quickly find yourself taking alot of hits and losing loads of health in seconds. You need to keep your guard up, run around alot and counterattack with haste to successfully completing a standard monsterspawn battle without to many potions. The same thing goes for bosses. They will not give you loads of hints on what attacks they will pull off or stay still for to long to let you hit them. The game expects you to have good reflexes and quick fingers to pull through the game. With that being said it never ever feels unfair. If you die you only blame yourself. I never once threw the controller and yelled at the game when I died because I knew there was something I just hadnt figured out concering the enemies movements. Also since this is the third release of this game everyone can find their level of difficulty. If you start dying alot you will be able to switch the game down to an easier difficulty where you get more money to buy potions for and more mercy from all the enemies. You´ll find yourself living alot longer and defeating bosses on the first try. So my point here is dont avoid playing this game because of its difficulty because they have now finetuned the game so much that everyone can win. Yea well ok, the game still wont be as easy as say Heavenly Sword (since we already used that game as an example before). The game will not show you mercy even on easy but it will not feel overwhelming if you havent played the game before.
The game´s problems is pretty much everything except this tho and its such a shame that all these layers of frustration are coated on top of this excellent actionadventure. For starters the controls are awful when it comes to everything except combat. The game´s platforming elements are so frustrating you just wanna scream at the television and go out and kill a kitten. The controls are not made for platforming at all and on top of that we have the horrible camera that is constantly working against you. Whether its combat, exploration or platforming the camers is constantly positioned wrong so that you have to manually adjust it with the right stick every second of the whole game. Enter a new room, adjust the camera, start a fight, adjust the camera, run in a particular direction, adjust the camera, jump from one platform to another, adjust the camera e.t.c. Whatever you want to do in this game, you gotta adjust the camera first. I swear, if this game didnt have the cameracontrols on the rightstick but instead went for keeping these premade camera angles, this game would be completely impossible to play. The game is also terrible at telling you what you are supposed to be doing. There is alot of backtracking through levels and over and over and over you´ll find yourself just stopping and desperately looking for a clue on the map or something because you have no idea if you´re going in the right direction. Its even possible to backtrack all the way back through several levels just to then realize you werent supposed to backtrack in the first place. This just gets worse and worse and it gets to the point where I couldnt get any furhter without Gamespots guide by my side to know where I was supposed to be going. This leads us to talking more about all of the backtracking. The same levels are used over and over again and all of Rachels missions (wich are not that many unfortunately) are played on stages you just finished with Ryu wich feels very lazy. The levels themselves are also very boring. The leveldesign could use a huge injection of Cliff Bleszinski. Levels feel alot like a boring room of enemies even if you are in a big outside area. I guess this is one of the things that make it so appearent that this is an old game you´re playing. Textures, colors, leveldesign and overall graphical quality feels alot like a game that is very old. Coming straight from the new generation of games this game really feels old. Graphics are truly lacking by 2007 and PS3 standards even ifs its upscaled to 1080p and runs in a smooth 60fps. The only really good thing that can be said about the games graphics are the characters wich, if you can accept the obvious doll-like design, are looking really sharp. They look extremely crisp and feels like true next generation characters. They animate beautifully and feels very cool in their design (no i´m not going to complain about Itagaki´s look on women, in fact I love it, take that!) .
I know nobody will be playing this game for the story and the narrative but it still needs to be pointed out how BAD it is. It leaves a foul aftertaste in your mouth that wont go away even if you brush you teeth twice. The story is a pathetic excuse for hacking on fools and feautures characterinteractions and dialogues so bad you wanna cover your ears and just get on with the action. The english voiceacting is the worst I have ever heard in my life and shouldnt be used at all since you can thankfully go Japanese instead. You dont care anything for the story, its characters or how it ends. The fact that the end is extremely anticlimatic dosent really make things better. The ending is truly pathetic.
The game feautures a very uneven soundtrack. Sometimes its brilliant with adrenalinepumping electronic technovibes and sometimes its as awful as the voiceacting just getting on your nerves like a screaming baby. Soundeffects dont have much variation and you really start to question some of them as the sound more wierd than right.
In the end this is an excellent actiongame with some of the most satisfying and rewarding action you can find on the PS3. On top of this excellent core there are 10 layers of pure frustration that will keep you from enjoying the core of the game. Horrible platforming controls, an awful camera, frustrating and sometimes completely wierd puzzles, insane backtracking, no guidance on where you are supposed to be going at all, sucky story, insanely outdated leveldesign and environmentgraphics and way to few Rachelmissions. The game feels like the best hack n slash ever in certains parts and a very uninspired and stripped down version of a 3D Zelda adventure in other parts. Its a shame, a real shame. I wasnt hooked on Ninja Gaiden before and I am not hooked on it now. The chance that you will start to like it after playing Sigma is not very big. You need to have played the previous games and already be a die hard fan to truly appriciate the game and the improvements made on it. It feels outdated and you need to have that extra nostalgia to like rather than hate the fact that it feels old.
The game is still worth a playthrough to experience the cool bosses and the wonderful hack n slash gameplay but take with you a huge amount of patience to battle all the frustration that will try to kill you, your PS3 and your family before you´re through.