Review by john0010

""Sigma" Adds Some New Features to a Great Game"

Introduction:

“Ninja Gaiden Sigma” is the final version of the 2004 hit “Ninja Gaiden.” It is a third person action/adventure game where you control Ryu Hayabusa (from previous “Ninja Gaiden games on the NES) and a hunter named Rachel in a quest to take on the evil Vigoor Empire. “Sigma” has updated features such as better graphics (it's on the PS3 instead of the original X-Box), more weapons, bosses, missions, and smoother controls. Additionally, you can play as Rachel is a few select missions. Certain aspects of the game have been dumbed down from it's predecessors to make progression through this game less cumbersome. Basically this means fewer puzzles. Do not fret though, the game is still intended to be hard and has a few higher difficulty levels that one can unlock. If you have played previous versions, you will notice that these additional modes will look a lot like the ones found in “Ninja Gaiden Black.”

This is one of the best games ever made. When I say this, I don't mean this version alone. The “Ninja Gaiden” experience as a compilation of all three of these efforts together is one of the best experiences to date. To grade these versions as separate entities would not make sense do to the fact that they are all part of the same game.

Gameplay: 10/10

This is where the game really shines. It plays and feels lot like “God of War” but in my opinion much better (“God of War” also came out a year after Ninja Gaiden). You have different melee weapons, projectile weapons, and Ninpo (basically a magic meter). In addition to these, you can wear an accessory to upgrade various attributes (strength, health, or karma). Several critics did not like the fact that you could only wear one accessory at a time, but I say that the game would be too easy if this weren't so. It adds an element of creativity since you can pick and choose which accessory is better for different situations. The levels consist of rich environments and interesting foes. I have never played a game before where I have felt as much as I did playing this one, like I was actually there. As you progress through the game, you can save it at many save points (like “God of War.”) If you forget to save your progress at a save point, than you must return to the previous point that you actually saved your game (so save often!). This is great because games have allowed gamers to get too lazy over the years. What is the point of dying if you can immediately pick up from where you just died? Learning how to ration your health becomes important fast.

Combos are a huge part of this game. Melee weapons have different combos that you can access from the menu screen. As you level your weapons up, you gain more combos that become available. You will come to find that mastering different combos make life as Ryu much easier. Different enemies are more susceptible to different weapons and combos alike. You can also level up Ryu's heath by finding hidden items throughout the game.

One of the best aspects of the game are the enemies. They are detailed, aggressive and challenging. You can't go though levels pressing one button over and over again and expect to win. You have to actually think, and react like you would in a real sword fight. The bosses are some of the most challenging and fun to play as I have ever seen. On some of the higher difficulty levels, you will feel a rush of endorphin when you beat a tough boss. Instead of a nasty feeling like “this game is too hard and cheap” you feel like you just did something monumental.

The infamous camera angles have been an issue with this game. The camera does not follow your character so you do not always see import things in your environment, most notably your enemies. A battle can be kind of frustrating if you are not accustomed to re-adjusting the camera angle every few seconds to follow the action. Whereas this can be difficult at first, you learn to deal with it rather fast. This is one of the few things that prevent this from being a perfect game.

Story: 8/10

Whereas not as detailed as an RPG, the story of “Ninja Gaiden” is enticing and keeps you very interested. It follows Ryu Hayabusa who is out for revenge against Doku, an evil fiend that burned down his village and stole the Dark Dragon Blade. Ryu seeks advice from his uncle Murai, the leader of the powerful Shadow Clan, to help him find the identity of the thieves who burned down his village. Upon learning that his culprit is Doku, he sets off on his adventure. Along the way, he encounters Rachel, a fiend-hunter that shares his drive to destroy evil. She is motivated by the fact that she lost her sister to the fiends' years earlier. Like Ryu, Rachel does not work with anyone, and she is on a quest of her own.

The mysterious Dark Disciple and his right hand Gamov oversee Ryu's progress throughout his quest. The Dark Disciple wants the Dark Dragon Blade for his own devices and has a plan that, if successful, will bring him ultimate power and destruction to all that oppose him.

Graphics and sound: 9/10

The graphics are an obvious upgrade over the Xbox titles. While they are not “shockingly” better, you have to keep in mind that the graphics on “Ninja Gaiden” were some of the best graphics ever to appear on a previous generation system. The difference between 8-bit graphic and 16-bit graphics were night and day, but these days the biggest difference is graphics tend to be the detail in close-ups, and smoother character motions. It is also worth mentioning that the PS3 has not reached its potential yet, so it is hard to tell what will be considered “superb” graphics on this console. As is, I would rate the graphics an 8.

The thematic sounds in the game are terrific. It's not the kind of music you listen to at a concert, but the kind that sets the right mood for each atmosphere. The only track I find annoying is the music on the title screen (which only appears occasionally in the game). Every other tune brings the game to life and makes things feel as urgent or laid back as it needs to be. The music is done so well that it is easy to see why each theme is chosen for its intended environment, and it actually becomes the environment.

Replayability: 10/10

I have played through “Ninja Gaiden” (in its different versions) more times than I have played through any game. Each difficulty adds so many different things, that it feels like you are playing a different game. It is refreshing to find new or different enemies all throughout the game and items in different places. You will really feel an ownership of each level, no matter how many times you play it. Kind of like going back to an old neighborhood that you were found of as a kid (but more violent!).

The game is meant to be hard. A hard game with great gameplay is difficult to find. Usually a game is difficult because the controls are inconsistent or you have to memorize a trillion patterns to pass each level. This is not the case. As you get better, the game will get easier. When I first picked up “Ninja Gaiden Sigma” (default normal mode) I couldn't believe how insanely easy it was because I had beaten all the previous versions of the game on their hardest difficulty levels. This was not the case when I first picked up the 2004 version for my first time. I remember getting stuck on the first boss, and cussing at the computer because I never seemed to have enough health or monetary items throughout the game. Normal mode on “Sigma” definitely feels easier than normal mode on previous versions though. It seems like the enemies in “Sigma” don't dish out the same amount of pain in the first levels as they used to do. This was probably done because people complained about balancing issues with the previous versions of the game. In retrospect, the earlier levels are more fun when they are more challenging (you get better faster and the levels last longer). However, there will be points in this game on the default difficulty or on higher difficulty levels where you will get frustrated, but you will always feel like it was worth it when you are done.

Final Recommendation: (9/10)

“Ninja Gaiden Sigma” can be played over and over again due to all the new things that higher difficulty levels have to offer. As the final version of the 2004 game, it adds better graphics (it's on the PS3 instead of the original X-Box), more weapons, bosses, missions, and smoother controls. As I write this, “Ninja Gaiden II” comes out today on the X-box 360. So if you haven't played a version of the first game since 2004 (or not at all), it would do you good to pick up “Sigma” so you can be in the right mind set for the sequel (which you will want to buy).

Just renting this game will not do it justice unless you own previous versions of it and you just want to beat “Sigma” once to see how it is different from the others. I own all three version of the first game and I love each version for what they bring to the table. “Sigma” is not the definitive version of the game as there are none, but it is still one of the best games ever made.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/03/08

Game Release: Ninja Gaiden Sigma (US, 07/03/07)


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