But when series Director Tomonobu Itagaki made headlines when he left production after Ninja Gaiden 2 for the 360, the entire fate of the series hung in the balance. The development team trucked on, and created Ninja Gaiden Sigma, a remake of the original made specifically for the PS3 that was fairly well received. Team Ninja is attempting to carry on the Sigma tradition with Ninja Gaiden Sigma II.
The first thing you’ll notice is the textures have been completely overhauled, and look better in comparison to the 360 version. But these visuals come with a price, in the form of an initial install and very slow loading screens. Despite the fact that I got a really cool comic book style intro movie during the fifteen minute install, every time I opened a menu, it took three to four seconds longer than the 360 version, which really got annoying after a while.
In what is probably the biggest change from the 360 original, the torrents of blood are now completely gone. While there’s still general bloodshed, the Kill Bill-esque geysers that characterized the sequel are no where to be found. While some may be completely turned off by this, I never really found violence as a requirement of fun, so I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, the level of violence is just about on par with the original Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox, so this change will only really surprise fans who started on the 360.
While the reused level layouts remain pretty much the same, some of the boss fights found in NG 2 have been altered so drastically you’ll hardly even recognize them. You’ll also get a few new levels that are playable by the game’s new cast members: Momiji, Rachel, and Ayane. The levels these characters appear in aren’t strikingly different from the standard set of stages, and Rachel is actually quite awkward to control, but they’re a welcome addition nonetheless.
In terms of gameplay, one of my absolute favorite new additions to the series is the fact that the limited arrow supply has been abolished in favor of an infinite quiver. No more looking around for spare arrows while you’re getting shot at or ignoring ranged enemies due to a lack of ammo in this game!
Sigma 2 takes the new arrow system even further by adding the much needed ability to walk while shooting, which makes a few select boss battles that much less frustrating (I’m looking at you, Bone Dragons). Series veterans will also be excited to know that you can now use the overpowered Izuna Drop technique with the Vigorian Flail and Falcons Talons, increasing their viability in light of the extreme power of the Dragon Sword.
You’ll also find a few more small surprises (good or bad, depending on how you look at them), like how the “Lives of a Thousand Gods” life power-ups are automatically used when picked up; while convenient, you used to be able to save them for use during strategic moments in boss battles as an extra health boost. You’ll also find that weapon upgrades cannot be performed at every shop; each level has one or two special “blue” stations that allow you to upgrade one weapon at a time.
To gamers who aren’t fans of the series, this may not seem like that big of a change. But veterans will immediately recognize that this eliminates a lot of the challenge from the game, due to the fact that all you have to worry about is spending money on pricey upgrades, freeing up all your cash for items. The camera, another lingering issue in the 360 original, has also been addressed…to a point. While the overall auto-camera really hasn’t improved, you do have the ability to instantly center behind Ryu with the R1 button, which can help at times.
In addition to all the little tidbits that were introduced to simplify the game, I also noticed that the difficulty has been toned down from Ninja Gaiden II. After playing them both side by side on “Warrior” (Hard) mode, I found numerous instances where Sigma II had significantly less enemies, and as a whole, they were less ferocious. While playing Sigma II, I didn’t even die once until halfway through the game. But don’t be fooled by the ease of play, as the higher difficulties are still very challenging, and the easier modes translate into less frustrating and “cheap” gameplay that plagued Ninja Gaiden 2.
To compliment all the welcome gameplay changes, the replay value for Sigma 2 is through the roof. In mission mode, you can select from Rachel and Ayane (from Ninja Gaiden 1 and Dead or Alive, respectively) and Momiji (from Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword DS). Also, in true series fashion, the higher the difficulty levels, the more enemies vary their attacks; you’ll even find some new enemies that are completely unique to the higher setting.
Mission mode is playable online and has a varying degree of difficulty settings. This ensures gamers of all shapes and sizes are able to complete it. I was personally able to get into a number of lag free matches within twenty seconds time, and had a lot of fun competing for points. Any weapons, spells, costumes, or characters you unlock in the single player game are available for use in multiplayer, so you’re able to customize your play style each and every time. If you’re the anti-social type, you can always play mission mode with a competent computer ally. It’s also important to note that you can’t play online until you beat the first stage, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it right away.
Even if you grow tired of the extra modes, you won’t run out of stuff to do just yet; Sigma 2′s Leaderboards, similar to the 360 version, are also highly innovative for an action title. You can view nearly all of your friend’s statistics, down to the amount of times they died. You’ll also find a ton of unique trophies to unlock, along with various costumes; to be frank, I don’t think you’ll be putting the game down in the foreseeable future.
So here’s the ultimate question: should you get Sigma 2 if you already own Ninja Gaiden 2 on the 360? It really depends on how much you value torrents of blood and a harder standard difficulty, because that’s all the 360 version has on the new PS3 remake. Despite how you feel about the changes, one thing’s for certain: if you’re looking to get your feet wet with the Ninja Gaiden series, Sigma 2 is a great place to start.
The lack of torrents of blood may disappoint some series veterans, but the graphical overhaul more than makes up for it in my book.
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While Sigma 2's standard difficulty took a hit, all the gameplay changes are welcome and provide a significantly less frustrating experience.
Sigma 2 contains the same sub-par voice acting from the 360 original, but the exciting soundtrack and visceral sound effects remain intact.
One thing's for sure: you can play Sigma 2 for days. With five levels of difficulty, 12 costumes, tons of trophies, and online play, you'll have a ton of fun.
Despite the newer casual direction of Ninja Gaiden, a series that was made popular with sadistic gameplay, hardcore gamers will still have a ton of fun with Sigma 2.