Ninja Babes and More
July 31, 2009 – It’s no mystery that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is the continuation of the first Sigma and a remake of Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360. However, there’s more to it than just that; the folks at Team Ninja have been hard at work putting together a package that will make some 360 owners jealous, myself included. I have a PS3 too, but I would feel bad buying the same game twice, and at the same time I know there are a few added features in the new game that almost make me want to have it again. What we’ve seen so far is cool, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the final copy to see everything this game has to offer.
For starters, the story mode has changed a little. We found ourselves slashing our way through updated environments within Tokyo, Venice, and beyond. There are three playable characters we’ve been able to try out, and even though Ryu Hayabusa had a few more powerful weapons unlocked, we still thought the new girls, Ayane from Dead or Alive and Momiji from Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (DS), kick some serious butt. I especially enjoyed Ayane’s agile and devastating moves and her explosive projectiles, which are great for long-range attacks against certain ninjas who keep shooting fire arrows from afar; nonetheless, Momiji’s moves are also fairly potent. These strong candidates will make it tough for players to make a decision, but hopefully we’ll be able to play with all of them in different parts of the game, just like on this preview build, which had us try them out in different scenarios.
Team Ninja has also added new boss battles to the game. You will encounter a few different enemies and a new A.I. strategy. This time around, when you replay a section, the enemies might show up in a different area and they’ll act differently too, depending upon your moves. This unpredictable behavior keeps the gameplay fresh and translates into a bit of extra challenge, though the gameplay overall is quite similar, aside from the new finishing move that lets you execute a final blow with the push of a button (triangle, in case you were wondering). Other than that, the controls remain the same, with square and triangle being the main attack buttons, L1 to block, circle for shooting shuriken, arrows, and the like, and X for jumping and climbing walls. Of course, players can also use Ninpo (magic) if they’re in need of an especially powerful attack, and in Sigma 2 the Ninpo cutscenes look a lot more spectacular.
In addition to the improved story mode with new bosses, finishing blow, and the extra playable characters, including Rachel for Ninja Gaiden II, the game will offer online co-op. Players will be paired up with others to complete missions, or they can also invite their online friends to a co-op challenge. If you’re all alone and don’t want to go online, you can play with some friendly A.I. too, but it’s certainly not the same as sharing the experience with someone else who’s real, whether you know them or not.
The mission objectives vary; some will have you kill a couple dozen enemies, while others will make you face some big boss until he’s K.O. You can use two Ninpo powers during the challenge instead of three, and everything else works the same way as it does in the story mode. There are acolyte and warrior missions with different levels of difficulty, and the ones we played didn’t take too long to complete. The game will include about 30 of them, and the online co-op features voice chat to communicate with your pals, as well as rankings. It’s not as fun as the story mode, but it’s also action-packed and gives players something else to do once the main game is over.
If you don’t remember what Ninja Gaiden is like, just keep in mind you’re a ninja warrior always looking to restore peace and justice to your beloved hometown of Hayabusa. In this game, Ryu Hayabusa, the protagonist, roams around the world searching for the stolen Demon Statue. This artifact has the power of resuscitating the evil Archfiend, and that’s exactly the Black Spider Ninja Clan’s objective. Ryu will travel around the world in locations such as Tokyo, New York, Venice, and his very own village. He’ll encounter numerous vicious enemies along the way, and his only way out is to slice them into pieces with one of his many weapons.
You can upgrade these weapons, and the system seems to be the exact same as in Ninja Gaiden II. In fact, the menu interface has changed from red to blue, but other than that, everything appears to be the same. By picking up orbs when you kill enemies, you’ll collect the necessary currency to level up the weapons. I really like the Lunar Staff, a heavy and dangerous polearm with thorns on both sides that leaves the enemies helpless when Ryu spins it around like a top.
The visuals in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 are quite a step up from the previous game (Ninja Gaiden Sigma), with many more details and rich textures throughout. It’s similar to what we saw in Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360, but they also added a sweet prologue comic at the beginning. Great, hand-drawn scenes in black and white start telling the story of our protagonists before you jump into battle. Also, the full HD and the surround sound support make for an amazing visual and aural experience; couple that with the non-stop action, the girls, the new challenges, and the co-op multiplayer, and you have another winner for the PS3. Sure, the game comes to Sony’s platform over a year later, but the wait will be worth it for many gamers, especially those who are excited about the new hotties Team Ninja added as playable characters. Look for our full review in a couple of months, when the game hits the stores.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
March 25, 2009 – Not very long after Tecmo sent out secretive media invites that proclaimed the unveiling of “The greatest ____ game, ever!” the internet was ablaze with the possible titles this could be in reference to. Due to several factors, including the event’s location, the general consensus was that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for the PS3 was probably this mystery game. In fact, about a week prior to the event, there were even some leaked magazine scans that seemed to all but confirm it.
With GDC going on across the street, a group of journalists waited eagerly for the doors of the PlayStation Store to be opened and for this “mystery” to finally come to an end. In a major twist, the announcement winded up being for the greatest Mighty Bomb Jack game ever! No, not really, in actuality it was for the title everyone expected, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (NGS2), making this announcement one of the worst kept secrets in recent memory.
With CheatCC in attendance, producer/director Yosuke Hayashi showed off the game’s first trailer as well as outlined some of the details for this highly anticipated PS3 exclusive. The trailer was pretty impressive, full of the great-looking cinemas and action-packed combat that we’ve come to expect from the Ninja Gaiden series. The speed at which Ryu destroyed his opponents in the trailer was matched only by the fluidity of his motions while doing so. This is likely thanks to the use of an upgraded version of the engine used for the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PS3.
However, far from being just a direct port of the very recently released (last summer) Xbox 360 exclusive Ninja Gaiden 2 with prettier graphics, NGS2 actually seems to have several legs up over its predecessor. The first noticeable, and I mean incredibly apparent, one is the addition of two new characters. Joining Ryu Hayabusa this time around are two female combatants. The first character should be instantly familiar to fans of the Dead or Alive franchise, Ayane, with her distinctively purple hair. The second may be slightly more difficult to recognize immediately due to the fact that her last appearance was in the DS game Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword. Her name, of course, is Momiji.
Both Ayane and Momiji will come with their own specific fighting styles and weapons. Ayane will be fairly quick and utilize two small swords while Momiji will move a little slower and carry a staff with a large blade at one end. Their weapons of choice along with their differing styles of combat ensure that playing as these new ladies will be more than just playing as Ryu with different skins. Each of these character’s levels will also be mixed in throughout the original campaign found in Ninja Gaiden 2, filling in side stories as well as providing players with added combat variety and gameplay along the way.
Aside from the gameplay changes brought about by these new characters, NGS2 has seen some other significant gameplay tweaks as well. Taking into account all of the feedback received from the players of Ninja Gaiden 2, Team Ninja seems to have tried to address many of these fans’ reoccurring complaints. While there have been numerous small, subtle changes made to some of the moves and timing in combat, the biggest change comes in a supposedly much improved camera. The unwieldy camera was easily the most annoying issue present in Ninja Gaiden 2, so any help in that department will be a more than a welcome addition. However, since the game wasn’t in playable form at this event, we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the new camera will indeed be a vast improvement over its predecessor’s.
NGS2 is also set to reverse one of the currently popular trends in the industry. When a game is updated/ported from the PS3 to the Xbox 360 after a long wait there is often some sort of new online mode or multiplayer added to the package (ex: Virtua Fighter 5). However, when a game is brought from the Xbox 360 to the PS3 down the road you will likely find additional content but usually nothing to do with online play (ex: Bioshock). In a somewhat unexpected, yet completely pleasant surprise, NGS2’s biggest addition will come in the form of an all-new online co-op mode.
This new mode will allow two players to choose their desired character from the three available choices and work together to achieve different goals. Instead of just having players working through the single-player campaign together, this mode will consist of a series of challenge stages. Unfortunately, exactly what these stages are going to entail wasn’t fully explained other than they would be objective-based, consist of both new and reused scenarios, and have a more arcade-type feel than the single-player missions. Players will also likely get to make use of some cooperative attacks in this mode such as the back to back Ninpo usage between Ryu and Ayane that was spotted in the game’s trailer. While we’ll have to wait for the full details of this mode and its contents to be released, what was already revealed seems incredibly promising.
Whether you’re comparing it to the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma or to Ninja Gaiden 2, NGS2 looks like it should be a great addition to the Ninja Gaiden franchise. With its tweaked gameplay, hopefully improved camera, new characters, and all-new online mode, NGS2 appears as though it might just have a chance at being “The greatest Ninja game, ever!” Make sure to check back as more information about this title will likely become available as its Fall 2009 release date approaches.