Ninja Gaiden Sigma PS3 Review
Starting into the second half of 2007 there are many, many games on the horizon with a number, subtitle, or year emblazoned after the main title. As a result, it is obvious most developers and publishers are much happier to play it safe, and release a sequel, rather than go out on the limb and innovate. However, what could be considered worse than this is when you already have a base storyline, level layout and design and instead just continue to wrap it in ever increasing layers of texture and vivid colour and then stick a RRP that is £10 more than what the original cost 3 years ago. It is in fact more insulting than year after year of new Fifas, Tony Hawks or Need for Speeds, albeit being an insult wrapped up in a very nice package.
Almost anyone that has an interest in games should already know what Ninja Gaiden brings to the table. You have the protagonist, Ryu Hyabusa, who is a master ninja and you are tasked with fighting your way though mission after mission – nineteen in total – battling hoards of enemies and a collection of bosses. Of course, without doubt the biggest draw of the game is that you it looks bloody good, and offers an immense sense of satisfaction to partake in all of the above. The game’s biggest achievement is that you never feel as if you’re out of control of Ryu’s on screen, always intuitive, actions as you advance though revenge orientated, although highly cliché storyline. The flipping, blocking, jumping, slashing, wall-running, tumbling, ninpoing (that’s magic), somersaulting, sword-fighting, and everything else are all perfectly, and flawlessly melded together and presented as a fantastic game.
The biggest change the game offers from it predecessors – well the most notable anyway – is the introduction of the distinctly hard to keep eye to eye contact with Rachael as a playable character. She is graced with three missions, missions that have a different feel to them than the rest as she is much lighter than Ryu, and has access to a much heavier hammer-shaped weapon. All in all, these missions are almost too different to be considered a welcome part of the game so regretfully they don’t really stand up to the standard of the rest of the title, and as a result the game’s biggest change falls flat on its face. However, a few of the more subtle changes, particularly those of the Hyabusa missions, are more successful. The more welcome of them being that the shops are now located in much better places, a new item shortcut menu is included (meaning you don’t have to pause to use items), a nice change to camera control is added. A few more new attacks for Ryu are now available and Sixaxis-controlled Ninpo attacks are included too.
Unfortunately, even after all these tweaks, upgrades, a leap to a new generation, and advancements in tech there are still a few problems with the game. Firstly, in the last few years developers have learned some tricks to hide linearity in certain games, and when you compared these to the now three year old ideas of Sigma the game feels quite single-minded in its approach. Also, the check pointing in the game has not been updated at all, and sometimes when you die you’ll get tossed back a significant period, which while very challenging is also, at times, immensely infuriating. In fact, it can be so infuriating that you want to quit the game. However, Tecmo have not bothered, for whatever reason, to include that option in the pause menu.
Even worse, after spending some time with the upcoming Heavenly Sword, some of the action, no matter how fast paced it is, looks a bit underwhelming, but thankfully far from positively archaic, in comparison. Finally, it seems Tecmo have skimped when it comes to the game cutscenes and instead of redoing them to take advantage of high-def they have instead just slightly updated them, and as a result they look a bit blurry – in all honesty a bit cheap. Now, I’m sorry, this may all sound distinctly discourteous to a version of the game that helped make the genre what it is, but when you are willing to let a great franchise rest on it laurels time after time, year after year, even the greatest of all time will come back smelling stale.
All in all, if you are not familiar with the game, which is undoubtedly the best way to go into Sigma to get full enjoyment out of it, then it should take a little over 18 hours of solid gameplay to get from beginning to end. Of course, once finished then there are two more difficulty settings ready to test you reflexes, the latter of which no mere mortal should be able to finish without breaking down into tears. There is also the option for the online leaderboard, should you end up getting that competitive edge.
More evidence of the game being a simple port raises its head when it comes to sound effects and music as they don’t seem to have been expanded upon those in the slightest. In fact everything remains pretty much as it was before in the 2005 release of NG: Black. Graphically the game is nice to look at, but it is highly evident that it is just a port from a previous generation and not something truly beautiful that, in the light of current and upcoming titles, can be considered absolute eye candy. Even when viewed at the Holy Grail that is 1080p the game sports more than a few jaggies and glitches that take the sheen away. Also, more than a few textures seem very bland when seen beside other next-gen games. Ultimately, a true next gen sequel to the original will be the only version of Ninja Gaiden to truly impress graphically in this current day and age, and a quick look down the line of upcoming PS3 titles will instantly show you how beautiful a real follow up could look.
So, in the end Ninja Gaiden Sigma is an highly engaging and entertaining game to play, just like it was three years ago. And yes, the changes and refinements do, to some extent, improve the game, but that is something you’d expect as most other companies, particularly others with an equality vociferous head honcho at the helm, can create, develop and release a whole new IP in the time it has taken fine tune Ninja Gaiden. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good game, as good as it always has been, and it is also both beautiful to look at and compelling to play, but after three years is it worth £50? Now that a very hard sell!
Of the few games that deserve a sequel this is one of the most prominent, please stop the remakes.