Ninja Gaiden Sigma Review
I have to admit that I'm quite the sucker for next-generation game remakes. There's just something about revisiting a familiar game world but with graphical caliber previously impossible. I think seeing that trailer of Final Fantasy VII rendered on the PlayStation 3 brought to light that hunger more so than ever before.
So when I found out that Team Ninja would be bringing a total overhaul of Ninja Gaiden over to the PS3, as opposed to Xbox 360, it felt nice knowing that I'd be playing a next-gen remake so early on in this generation of consoles. Sigma is a game that I've been closely following since its announcement. It is the first exclusive blockbuster third party title for the PlayStation 3 and it's here.
The most important thing to know about Ninja Gaiden Sigma is that it's more than just a remake; it's a complete overhaul of the Xbox original. Sigma features Rachel as a playable character, complete with her own story, in addition to some extra modes, scenarios, weapons, enemies, and a variety of other features. When you first start off you'll say to yourself that the game is quite similar to the original, but the more you progress and unlock, you'll start noticing all of the changes.
Team Ninja's desire to not just re-create the original Xbox classic, but to completely change the way you look at it comes off pretty clearly. Visually, it shares absolutely nothing with its original counterpart. The time of day for the settings is different, the textures are completely changed, and the environments don't even resemble their original design, seeing as how they're filled to the brim with enhancements and more objects. The only similarity between the redesigned stages and the originals is the structure; in other words, the way each area is laid out.
And the way Sigma animates makes the eyes water; it's beautiful. The game runs at a flawless 60 frames per second, which is a rarity this generation so far. The framerate ensures that the action is always as precise and quick as possible, without ever slowing down. Character detail is superb, especially that of the main characters and bosses. Ryu, Rachel, Ayane, and every other central character in Sigma is rich with stunning textures that decorates their entire bodies.
Most importantly, though, is how well the game plays. An abundance of control response makes Sigma one of the tightest action titles, ranking among the likes of Devil May Cry 3 and the God of War titles. The controls are lightning quick in response, but the game requires proper tact in order to progress in. Unlike games such as God of War, the Ninja Gaiden series prides itself in its difficulty and combo system. Button mashing will only get you beaten down, as you'll have to block frequently and jump around often, utilizing the environment's space to your advantage.
Likewise, you should also know that there's a slight time delay between finishing a move and being able to perform a block. So don't think you can hack n' slash and then block immediately, that won't work. You'll have to use some proper tactile maneuvering around the stages and employ your move-set and special abilities to the best of your abilities. Essentially, Ninja Gaiden Sigma has the move-set of a fighting game, while the mechanics of a classic action title. On top of that, being able to use a plethora of different weapons and even dual-wield swords totally rocks! The more you play Sigma, the better the rewards get.
What bothers me a bit about Sigma is that it exhibits some annoying camera issues, which makes extremely quick runs a little dangerous (for instance: you can fall into a trap if you don't have the proper view of your surroundings). You can control the camera yourself, or center it whenever you need to by hitting one of the shoulder buttons - and that's a minor plus. But it's still an incredible inconvenience to be quick and tact during combat, while at the same time trying to control the camera.
Now, as far as difficulty goes, don't expect the Devil May Cry 3 treatment, where Capcom toned down the difficulty of the game on normal for the Greatest Hits re-release. Sigma is still very much a difficult game on normal, and an utter sob-fest beyond that. But what some may enjoy hearing is that the game does have an easy mode of sorts. While the difficulty isn't toned down much, what the mode does is make items in the shop cheaper - allowing you to buy more health and power up faster. So while the difficulty is hardly adjusted, you do catch a break with cheaper purchases. Oh, and unlike the Xbox version, when choosing to 'abandon the way of the ninja' in Sigma, in order to play on the easier difficulty, Ryu won't have to wear any embarrassing pink ribbons.
Also, it's nice to see that Rachel isn't just a texture swap of Ryu, seeing as how her controls are completely different than Ryu's. Her combat is more warrior-like, and thus slower than Ryu's. She's a bit heavy footed, but one swing of her weapon can level a number of enemies at once. Though we warn you, when playing Rachel's missions, you will feel like the pace of the game has been thrown off.
Let's face it, games like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden both share one thing in common: lackluster/cheesy voice acting. Sigma doesn't really do much with its English voice acting, coming off hard to listen to and sounding a bit amateur. But it isn't nails-on-a-chalkboard bad, so it's tolerable. Moreover, if you'd rather hear Japanese and read English subs, then you can do that too. Otherwise, the game sounds pretty solid for the most part. The soundtrack consists of Japanese tribal-like tunes, and the status-quo electronica-rock. I can't say that the soundtrack isn't enjoyable, because it certainly does fit the game quite well.
I expected nothing less from Itagaki and Team Ninja. After all, the developer is known to be one of the few perfectionist studios along the likes of Team Kojima and a select few others. Ninja Gaiden Sigma exemplifies the meaning of an action game, as it offers diversity, depth, and a challenge that rewards you and delivers a sense of accomplishment that not many games can achieve. It's a visually stunning game running at a superb framerate, with super tight action. While the camera can be a nuisance sometimes and the English voice acting isn't fantastic, the sum of Sigma's parts add up to an experience that no action gamer should be without.
7/24/2007 Arnold Katayev