|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Team Ninja||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tecmo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
The last two entries in the Ninja Gaiden franchise have released late on the PS3. Bringing with them a lot more than just the Sigma moniker, many Sony owners will likely feel that their patience has been richly rewarded with a bunch of improvements and extra content.
While both Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Sigma 2 are the quintessential versions of their respective installments, I wouldn't say they are entirely worth the wait, as players fortunate enough to own both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 won't find enough great new bells and whistles to warrant another purchase. Still, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is an action-packed, well-polished, and content-heavy game that any action buff that has not played the Xbox 360 version simply must pick up.
Lots of tweaks and improvements make this title shine. Everything has been slightly modified in the PS3 version to maximize its appeal. Rather than feeling like a hurried port, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has been lovingly optimized for the system. For example, the game has a lengthy initial install. Rather than forcing players to watch an aging hero smoke a cigarette or read repetitive game tips, the developers have included a digital comic prologue entitled "The Vampire War" that recounts the events immediately preceding those of Sigma 2. This comic is not only an informative time-filler, it's also quite well drawn and engaging.
While most PS3 titles out there are output in 720p, the crew at Team Ninja were able to maintain the 1080p resolution of Ninja Gaiden II. There are also new cinematics, playable characters, enemies, and bosses, many more unlockable costumes (some of which we can't reveal), additional, character-specific chapters, and a wildly compelling co-op mode. What's more, the extensive, hardcore-minded Trophy support and increased combat challenge means there is a lot of substance to be found for those who seek to hoist this game's Platinum Trophy. It seems that the extra time afforded to the developers allowed them to make the game they wanted to in the first place.
This time, rather than just playing as Ryu Hyabusa, gamers will also be able to take on three other characters. Rachel, Ayane, and Momiji are all sexy ass-kickers who have their own techniques and fighting styles, and they even get their own chapters in the story. Rachel is a busty, blond demon slayer from The Vigoor Empire that uses a rune-inscribed machinegun, fiery warhammer, and arcane sorcery to wade through fiends. Ayane is a fresh-faced, ninja acolyte gamers in the know may recognize from Tecmo's Dead or Alive franchise. She wields dual short swords and twirls around in the Tenshin fighting style, unleashing explosive thrown daggers. Momiji is Ryu's pupil. She is the last Dragon Shrine Maiden in Hyabusa village and uses her polearm Naginata and Heavensong Bow to great effect. She was last seen in Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword on the DS.
Not only do these three new characters get cameos in the story, they can also be selected for the Sigma 2-exclusive Team Missions mode. This is the vaunted co-op offering that allows players to play with a friend locally or online, or even alone with an A.I. companion while pursuing a specific mission objective. Players are tasked with goals such as hunting and destroying all fiends in an area, defeating the fallen ninja, Genshin, or even taking out all greater fiends. In fact, there are over 30 missions of differing objectives to complete across five different challenge categories: Acolyte, Warrior, Mentor, Master Ninja, and Ultimate Ninja.
Power-up items cannot be used during Team Missions, so it is imperative that players work together to excel at the mission. Cool, teamwork-based skills such as Critical Save and Ultimate Ninpo help to reinforce the cooperative nature of the mode. In addition to working together to complete the objectives, players will also have to try and get the highest Karma score they can. Karma is awarded for style and ruthless efficiency. The higher the Karma, the better you will rank on worldwide leaderboards. I really liked how the Karma is divided between participants. While both players will work together to resolve the mission and accrue a common pool of Karma, each combatant gets a share of the Karma commensurate with their actions. This adds a competitive element that mixes nicely with the mostly co-op feature.