Review by CrimsonGear80
"Go ninja, go ninja go! Go ninja, go ninja go!"
HA! Now all of you reading this review are going to imagine it being read by Vanilla Ice!
Hey yo, check it: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is Tecmo and Team Ninja's enhanced version of last years Ninja Gaiden 2 for the 360, and it's also the sequel to the original Ninja Gaiden Sigma that was an enhanced version of the original Ninja Gaiden that was released on the original Xbox! Oh man, that was an illin' tongue-twister, yo! I'm about to bust some mad rhymes about this crazy-fresh action game and--OK, I'm not going to do the whole review talking like that, so no need to hit that back button on your browser. But since I already put Ice's voice in your head it probably doesn't matter anyway, so I'll just say that Sigma 2 is a great improvement over it's predecessor and is one of the best action games released this generation so far.
DAMMIT! ALL I DID WAS RUN TO 7-11 AND MY VILLAGE WAS ATTACKED AGAIN!!!
Once again players are put into the shoes of master ninja Ryu Hayabusa as he fights against his clan's eternal rivals the Black Ninja Spider clan. The Black Spiders have attacked Ryu's home village and left it burning, stealing a sacred dragon statue in the process, which is supposed to help in the resurrection of the Archfiend. The greater fiends, of course, being supernatural demons and creatures that are also the eternal enemies of Ryu and company. So Ryu sets out in a quest for vengeance and--wait a sec, this sounds familiar. Oh yeah, it's pretty much the SAME plot from the first game! Village is attacked, sacred crap is stolen, vengeance is had, it's all the freakin' same! And just like the original game, the plot is nonsensical, featuring one-note characters that lack any type of personality. Sure, Ryu is a super bad-ass, but he has the charisma of a cardboard box. Also, why does Sonia even exist? We are introduced to this buxom CIA agent (who has a total lack of respect for the CIA dress code) in the beginning of the game, but she does absolutely NOTHING of important value at all .ever!! I mean, she tells Ryu his village is being attacked, but Ryu could have figured that out himself by turning slightly to the left to see the base of Mt. Fuji burning, and since his village is attacked every 2 days it wouldn't take a genius to figure out to get the hell down there! So basically, Sonia is here just as another big-breasted bimbo to gawk at, and believe me there is more than one in this game the difference is that you actually get to play as the other ones. Well what a mouthful, but thankfully Ninja Gaiden fans know that the story is far, far, far, far and away the least of what makes this series so special
THE PATH OF VENGEANCE IS LITTERED WITH CORPSES
NGS 2 is your basic third-person action set-up, and thanks to the super-responsive and smooth controls guiding Ryu on his path is as easy as ever. You move Ryu with the left analogue stick and control the camera with the right. Right off the bat, I will say that besides the story the camera is probably the weakest point of NGS2. Team Ninja just hasn't seemed to fix this glaring problem yet. Sure, the camera is zoomed out a bit more than in NGS1 giving the player a bigger field of view, but besides that the same problems remain: it will constantly fight you in tight corridors, your view will be obscured quite a bit by the bigger foes in the game, projectiles you will never see coming will hit you off-screen, and the game's minimal platform segments can become quite the pain in the ass. Be prepared to keep you finger on the R1 button at all times to re-center the camera behind Ryu, because I guarantee you will do this a lot. I have seen worse third-person cameras this gen (Tomb Raider: Underworld comes to mind) but it's a shame Team Ninja didn't totally iron out the kinks for this one. Anyway, Ryu can still jump with the X button like any good ninja and can perform all of his cool ninja moves (running on walls, jumping up between walls, running on water) with ease.
NGS2's 17 chapters only hold one goal for Ryu: get to the end of each one while killing anything that's unlucky enough to get in his path. Seriously .that's it. No puzzles, no key collecting, and very minimal backtracking. Combat in Sigma 2 remains mostly unchanged from the first NGS with a few cool new additions. The square button does quick attacks while the triangle button does strong ones, and combinations of both will create various combos. As a matter of fact, just looking at each weapon's combo list will give you an idea of the depth that combat in a Ninja Gaiden game has. There are so many unique moves and combos for each weapon that it's no wonder that people usually compare the combat to that of a fighting game. Ryu will be able to wield a pretty good variety of weapons, and all of them are a blast to use and learn. He starts off with his trusty Dragon Sword, and he'll eventually pick up some familiar friends like the Lunar Staff, The Vigoorian Flail, and the Dual Katana (my personal favorite). New to NGS2 are the Tonfa batons (featuring very fast and fluid attacks), The Falcon Talons (Wolverine FTW), The Kusari-Gama (a sickle and chain with short and long range attacks), the Eclipse Scythe (Grim Reaper FTW), and Enma's fang (a really big broadsword). Like in the last game, Ryu can perform an ultimate technique with each weapon by holding down the triangle button to charge it up and then releasing the button to unleash the carnage. The longer you hold down the button, the longer the killer combo lasts. Unlike the first game where you could only behead your foes, NGS2 lets you totally de-limb your opponents, which will allow you to perform the new Obliteration Techniques by approaching a enemy missing an arm or a leg and pressing triangle. These are as fun to pull off as they are to watch, and leaving your foe as nothing more than a torso is always good times. Ryu will be able to block incoming attacks by holding the L1 button, and can perform a dodging flash step by moving the left stick in a direction while blocking. Newly added to NGS2 is the awesome ability to counter-attack while blocking by pressing square or triangle at the same time an opponent connects with an attack, which is great when wanting to create some breathing room. Ryu can also still perform his powerful Ninpo magic attacks by pressing triangle and circle together, and these include shooting fireballs, wind blades, and dark matter at enemies. Unfortunately, the ability to power them up by shaking the controller has been removed, but you can aim them manually with the right stick. Ryu also has access to a few long range weapons as well, for those enemies that will inevitably be out of Ryu's obliterating reach. He can throw his shurikens with the circle button, which can be easily incorporated into his regular combos. For something a little more accurate, Ryu will have access to his fiend bow and arrow and, later on in the game, a huge gun that fires explosive rounds! Aiming these weapons has also been greatly improved from the spotty auto-aim from NGS1, as you hold L2 to raise the weapon, use the right stick to aim, and press R2 to fire. Just like in the previous game, Ryu will collect essence from fallen enemies, which he can then use to buy healing items from one of the many Muramasa shop stands in each of the levels. Special versions of these shop stands will also allow him to upgrade a single weapon for free, and raising a weapon's level will make it more powerful and unlock more combos to use. Each weapon can be upgraded to level 3, with a couple going to level 4 after certain game events occur. Probably the best addition to all this, however, is the ability to quick select all weapons, ninpo, and healing items by using the d-pad, a feature that the first game desperately needed. If the long-ass paragraph didn't tip you off, then I'll just say that NGS2's combat is even more fun, fast, deep, and brutal than the previous game.
However, just like the previous game the show just doesn't belong to Ryu. In three of the game's stages you'll be playing as not one, but THREE different lovely ladies who know how to kick demon ass really, really well. First, and returning from the previous game, is fiend-hunter Rachel, who decides to clean up Ryu's leftovers in New York City. Second is Ryu's Kunoichi friend and Dead or Alive mainstay Ayane, who fights to retrieve another sacred object the Black Spiders stole from Hayabusa village. Finally, Hayabusa shrine maiden Momiji (who was introduced in the DS game Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword) scales the high-rises of Tokyo to save a boy kidnapped by the Black Spiders during the attack on the village. For the most pat, the ladies play exactly the same as Ryu, although they are limited to only one melee and long-ranged weapon: Rachel uses her giant Warhammer and machine gun, Ayane uses her twin short swords and explosive shuriken, and Momiji uses her large pole Naginata and bow and arrow. As you can probably tell, Rachel is the more powerful of the three while Ayane is the quickest, and Momiji rests somewhere in the middle. Overall though, they are all fun to play as and are a welcome change from staring at Ryu all the time. Oh, and don't forget to shake the controller when you do play as them. The midgets the ladies are smuggling will dance for you!!
Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden 2, and even Ninja Gaiden Sigma are infamous for their notorious difficulty levels, which ranged from raging vein bursting to punch every wall in the house and scream. I never played the original NG and NG2, but Sigma was definitely no picnic, as some enemies seemed to be able to kill Ryu just by looking at him. A casual action fan going into a Ninja Gaiden game would no doubt be torn apart and forced into therapy. Thankfully, NGS2's difficulty level has been toned down enough to let any action aficionado get their fix without breaking controllers. Don't get me wrong though, the game is still a challenge, as enemies attack very furiously and can often catch Ryu in unblockable grab attacks, but the challenge is very manageable as partial health is automatically restored after every battle and buying health items isn't much of a struggle with the abundance of essence you'll be gathering. Speaking of enemies, NGS2 throws a large variety of them at you, from simple ninjas to magic casters to gun commandos to ninja dogs to demons to werewolves to battle mechs! You'd half expect the Statue of Liberty to come to life and attack you oh wait, even that happens! Another thing NGS2 has in abundance is boss fights, some chapters even feature 3 or 4 of them! Not too tough but not a cakewalk either, make sure you have plenty of healing items when going against these sometimes gigantic bosses. The last boss was kind of easier to beat than expected, but otherwise the boss fights definitely give you a bigger challenge than any of the regular enemies.
THE PATH OF VENGEANCE IS COLORED RED
If I had to describe NGS2's graphics in one word it would be: Shiny. The characters models are shiny, a lot of the backrounds shine, and the weapons definitely shine. This isn't a bad thing, because I like the shine on the very detailed character models and especially on the weapons. The environments on the other hand are kind of a mixed bag, as some (especially the later levels that take place in the underworld) are highly detailed and are a marvel to look at, while others (like any level that takes place underground) are drab, barren, and color-less. Animations are very good, and while the games gore has definitely been toned down from NG2, the amount of blood on display here is the same as the previous game, so this shouldn't bother those who only played NGS1. I like how blood stains Ryu's weapons and how he shakes it off if you stand still Gore that would have appeared during de-limbing is replaced here by purple or green mist, which actually looks better than you'd think it looks. The game runs at 60fps in up to 1080p with very minimal slowdown, however the amount of screen tearing that occurred in the previous game seems to remain unchanged here, which is unfortunate. The game's sound pretty much get's the job done, with the various sound effects (slicing, tearing, and the like) being the real starts of the show. Music is pretty good but nothing spectacular, and the voice acting is pretty much what you'd expect from a story of this caliber (hint: not too good). Runs in typical DD 5.1, and will even run in DTS if you uncheck DD 5.1 from the PS3's sound settings (why, I don't know). Overall, a very solid presentation.
THE PATH OF VENGEANCE NEVER LETS ME FINISH MY BIG GULP!
NGS2 gives you a lot of ninja action for your money, even after you finish the 10-12 hour story mode. You have four different difficulties to tackle, including the ultra tough Master Ninja mode (seriously, for the ultra-brave only). There is no new game plus, but after you beat the game you unlock the chapter challenge mode, which let's you go through each chapter on each difficulty with all your weapons and upgrades to get the highest score you can, which can then be uploaded to online leader boards. You'll get the story events here too, so this can kind of be treated as a new game plus if your so inclined.
The big thing here though is the team mission mode. These are 30 missions of increasing difficulty where you and your partner fight hordes of enemies in a single stage, sometimes ending in a boss fight. All four characters you play as in story mode are available to use, however Ryu will be limited to only using one melee, ninpo, and ranged weapon which you get to choose before you start a level. These levels are also played with a partner, and while you can have a half-way competent AI partner to play with it's better to jump online and find yourself and actual ninja partner! You can create your own custom games and easily invite your friends, or you can search for a random game to join. You can also start a game with an AI partner and accept invites from people who want to join you. While slaying enemies with a human partner is loads of fun, I must admit that I ran into many sessions that lagged pretty badly. I'm guessing that it depends on your partners connection, as I also had plenty of games that ran flawlessly. As expected, the team missions also feature high scores and online leader boards. The game also has the option to record your chapter challenge and team mission run-throughs and let you save them to your HDD and upload them for others to see. Rounding out this extensive package is a bunch of unlockable costumes to earn for every playable character.
Although there is still a crummy story, some tech issues, and a problematic camera, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is definitely a better game than it's predecessor with deeper combat, more weapons, more playable characters, and overall more ninja badass-ery with a now manageable level of difficulty (at least on the default difficulties). Action fans need not wait another minute for one of the best examples of the genre for the PS3 and any other system. Word to your mother!
+Tight and responsive controls
+Fantastic, deep, and fast combat system with some great new additions
+Lots of new and familiar weapons to use
+The three playable ladies are fun to use
+The overall difficulty is still a challenge but is now very manageable
+Excellent boss fights
+Overall solid presentation
+Team missions and chapter challenges and trophies add lots of replay value
-Story is familiar poopy
-Camera can still be a pain in the ass
-Screen tearing is still there
-Some of the environments are barren and dull
-Online co-op can be laggy
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/19/09
Game Release: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (US, 09/29/09)
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