Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - PS3 Review
|7/10/2009||THQ||Tecmo Koei||Team Ninja||1-2||2|
Every now and then an email does the rounds asking whether, in an ideal world, you'd be a pirate or a ninja. Personally I don't think there's much of a decision to be made – I'd go with ninja every time. Pirates are crusty old men, with peg legs, hooks for hands, annoying parrot sidekicks, and having a woman on your ship is considered extremely bad luck (I'm fat, grumble a lot and drink rum, therefor a pirate - Dave). After playing Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 it becomes obvious that if Ryu Hayabusa is anything to go by, ninjas do indeed have pirates beaten hands down. Ryu is everything a pirate is not; he's young, fit, and agile, has plenty of female sidekicks and is probably the most dangerous person this side of God of War's Kratos when he gets mad. If taking control of Ryu on his quest to destroy the countless demons plaguing mankind sounds like fun, then Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is almost certainly the game for you.
|Hot damn, Team Ninja know how to model women!|
The story begins with special agent Sonia, a busty blond attired in knee-high boots and tight-fitting leather outfit, looking for Ryu. She has bad news; fiends are looking to revive the Archfiend, who is the mother of all fiends, and she needs Ryu's help to stop this happening. Before Sonia can deliver the news to Ryu, Black Spider Ninja Clan ninjas, who are the sworn enemy of Ryu's own Dragon Ninja Clan, bust in and kidnap her. Ryu arrives on the scene mere seconds too late to stop the kidnapping, but he's not too late to bust some Black Spider ninja's heads and attempt to track Sonia down.
The first level of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 serves as an extended tutorial by teaching players most of the moves they're going to need in order to succeed. The face buttons have standard moves attached to them – square is a quick attack, triangle is a powerful attack, circle throws a shuriken (you have an infinite supply) and the ‘x' button jumps. Ryu has a stack of combinations available to him from the get-go (which can be viewed in the pause menu), most of which involve using square and triangle in various quantities, or pushing the analog stick a certain way before tapping a button. It's intuitive and something we've seen in plenty of other fighting games so it won't take long to get a handle on.
|More gorgeous visuals in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2.|
As for the shoulder buttons; L1 blocks, R1 centers the camera behind Ryu, and if held down will also show players the path to follow to the next section. L2 targets enemies with your long-range weapon, whilst R2 fires it. Probably the most important and most-used move in the game is called the Reverse Wind (it's not as dodgy as the name suggests), which is a quick dash away from the enemy, done by holding L1 and pushing any direction on the analog stick. This move will become most ninjas' stock in trade, especially against bosses. Another move ninjas will want to become familiar with is called Ultimate Technique. For such an epic name it's a simple move to pull off – simply hold down the triangle button to charge and then release it to send Ryu into an attacking frenzy. Of course enemies won't just stand around and let you charge up at will, so timing plays a big part in its use lest you be on the wrong end of all manner of pointy objects. When an enemy dies they release some essence and when there's essence around Ultimate Technique charges a bit faster, making it easier to use effectively in the middle of a heated battle. It's a good risk/reward setup, and is entirely satisfying when you pull off an Ultimate Technique that wipes out all nearby enemies.
As you progress through the game more and more weapons become available. Getting tired of the fabled Dragon Sword? No problem, it won't be long before you gain access to a flail, scythe, broadsword, claws, tonfa and more for all your demon killing needs. During most levels you will come across Muramasa's shop, which not only sells you restorative items, but in some cases will also let you upgrade a weapon. Upgrading your weapons gives you access to more attack combos which can only be a good thing. You cannot upgrade a weapon to level three before all weapons have reached level two, encouraging you to try different weapons rather than sticking to a favourite.
|Yet another action scene from NGS2.|
One of the first things anyone who played the original Ninja Gaiden Sigma will notice is the near complete absence of blood in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Now when Ryu shears a limb off a hapless opponent the shoulder or knee will glow purple instead of gushing blood. Personally I'd have preferred a little blood because it's odd to have human enemies emitting a purple glow rather than bleeding, but after a while you'll barely notice.
Enemy AI is sharp from the get-go. Ryu will frequently be surrounded by multiple enemies who co-ordinate their attacks well. Long-range enemies will stand far away where they can cause the most damage, whilst melee fighters will try to stop Ryu from taking them out. Melee fighters also time their attacks so that as one finishes their moves, another is ready to start theirs. This makes for hectic fights and can lead to button-bashing initially, but NGS2 is particularly severe on this tactic. No sooner have you started bashing buttons than you are on the receiving end of a beating from your opponents. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 rewards patience, blocking, counter-attacking and effective use of Ultimate Technique is the path to success, not mindless mashing of buttons.
|Bosses are big, bad, and tough.|
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2's online mode is Team Mission, allowing two people to go online and play in one of the thirty-odd levels at a difficulty level of their choosing (all of which are hard). Unlike the single-player missions in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, which have Ryu progressing through an environment, team missions are limited to a specific area making them more like an arena battle. Should your team-mate fall in battle, you can run over to them and tap the circle button to revive them, though your enemies will not make this an easy process. While Team Mission mode has promise, there was a huge amount of slowdown when I played it; enough to make the mode nearly unplayable. Hopefully this is remedied soon, otherwise Team Mission mode will quickly become redundant.
The biggest problem, in fact one of the only problems with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, is the camera. The action takes place from a third-person perspective and given the incredible speed and agility of Ryu and enemies alike, a lot of the time the camera just can't keep up. Quite often the camera gets stuck, not allowing you to see anything other than Ryu. At these times enemies can more or less have their way with you, especially if they can break your block or have explosives on-hand. Fights are too frantic to spend much time trying to manually adjust the camera, making this a significant frustration in an already tough game. Some boss fights accentuate this problem further as they're even faster than standard enemies, making it extremely difficult to keep them on-screen; fighting the bosses is hard enough, but fighting the camera at the same time? As Tony Soprano would say, forget about it!
Graphically Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, while not up there with newer games like Uncharted 2 (is anything?), is very polished. The environments are varied and interesting and detailed enough to add an authentic feel, whether you're running around Tokyo, New York or onboard the flying fortress Daedalus to name a few. There is barely any slow-down or screen-tearing, and given the pace Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 moves at and the number of enemies on-screen this is a great achievement. Cutscenes are impressive, with each of the characters looking crisp, clear and detailed - you can see the fibres of Joe Hayabusa's shirt and every ridge on that demonic hide. Given Ninja Gaiden 2 (the game Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is based on) is over a year old, the graphics have held up well.
The voice-acting is, for the most part, very good. Having been brought up on a steady diet of anime, I prefer playing with the original Japanese voices along with subtitles, and doing this makes it feel like NGS2 is your very own interactive anime. The English voice-acting is solid too. A couple of the voices (Ryu's in particular) don't seem a perfect match for the character, but despite that, and the hard to believe storyline, speech is delivered in a believable way that adds to the overall experience. The music is suitable but you'll barely notice it in the heat of battle, where screams and the sound of metal on metal dominate.
|Fans of the first Ninja Gaiden will love the sequel.|
If you can look past the camera issues, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a very enjoyable game. It's tough without being cheap and you get a great deal of satisfaction out of beating a boss that has destroyed you many times before. The single-player game is long enough (15-20 hours depending on the number of deaths), and you'll almost certainly want to play through at least twice, testing your skills on higher difficulties. The graphics are polished, the voice-acting is above average, and most importantly Ryu is kick ass. If you enjoy death and destruction (in video game form at least) Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 comes highly recommended.
Review By: Mike Allison
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|GRAPHICS||Crisp and detailed, cutscenes look great and there's minimal slowdown or screen-tearing.||87%|
|SOUND||The Japanese voice-acting is where it's at, but the English voices aren't too bad either. The music is suitable but barely noticeable, whilst the sound effects fit the action well.||85%|
|GAMEPLAY||Arrghh, the camera! If you can get past its imperfections then NGS2 is a lot of fun.||81%|
|VALUE||Single-player campaign is long enough and you'll want to play through twice (at least). Online team missions suffered from significant slowdown, but if this is remedied it will add some longevity to the game.||84%|
|OVERALL||NGS2 is a difficult, but enjoyable game. The camera issues are a significant annoyance, but aside from that this is ninja and demon killing action at its best.||84%|