In 2004 the much loved series Ninja Gaiden was reintroduced on the Xbox to glee of eager gamers. The game was visually impressive, presented deep and rewarding combat, and contained the most brutal difficulty seen in several years. Three years later the game is given a facelift with beautiful new graphics, new weapons, and another playable character. While the core of Gaiden remains solid, the surface shows the cracks of the update. Uneven graphical updates, missing cut-scenes, and a full retail price pull down what otherwise would have a near flawless presentation.
Gaiden veterans won’t even break pace when jumping into this revamp, while new comers should be warned that at its core this 3-D action/adventure game has the heart of a fighting game. Weapons found throughout the game all contain their own unique move sets and fighting stances, changing everything from the basic timing of attacks to the complexity and length of combos. Each weapon feels easy to pick up and start learning, but the depth of each weapon will cause most players to gravitate towards the use of only one of the weapons.
New to this remake is the addition of Rachel, the fiend hunter, as a playable character. Containing a small story arch, and her own moves she is a welcome addition to the game. While controlling slower than Ryu, your previous only choice, she does take a considerably longer time to become familiar with then any of the other weapons throughout the game.
Most of the graphics have been updated for this the PS3 release, causing the strange effect of finally making it worth the time to stop and look at the level being played through. While the gameplay is deep enough to warrant playing regardless of the visuals, time enough was taken to express how truly awesome each boss encounter is. Each boss presents a feeling of awe and intimidation when first encountered, making each victory sweet and relieving.
While most cut-scenes are done with the newly updated in game graphics, a select few are kick backs to when the game first came out on the Xbox three years ago. This only presents an issue because the old cut-scene pre-rendered graphics are normally grainy and worse than the in game animations. The in game graphics are not without faults either, as tearing is present in most levels as well as small amounts clipping. While this seems to be becoming a common occurrence in new video games randomly seeing an enemy’s hand go through a wall takes even the most devout gamer out of the experience.
Sigma has been touted by most gamers as the director’s cut to the Ninja Gaiden that appeared three years ago. While many things have been added in the way of plot– extra cut-scenes, vast amount of detail to the environment were there wasn’t much before—it also takes away several of the more annoying puzzles in the game, and some of the story based scenes that weren’t needed. While most of the subtraction from the game isn’t missed one of the omissions is rather infuriating, the removal of the original NES Ninja Gaiden games as an unlockable. After a moment of thought it becomes clear, with so much effort being put into reselling all games PS1 and back why would a company give away the product for free?
While at most moments during gameplay the audio is crisp enough to draw you in, there are repeated times that the game will dump all but one sound channel from being heard, withdrawing any morsel of involvement that was being grooved on. The problem is easily fixed, walking through a door and forcing the game to reload the sound, but it happens enough to become a serious and well known annoyance.
Players who have followed the rebirth of the series know that this game is painfully difficult, new comers may only have heard vague mentions of this, still the fact cannot be stressed enough that this game will make even the most hardened gamer want to throw the already light and possibly fragile PS3 controller. Normal enemies in the game can, and will, kill you repeatedly. This does not refer to copious amounts of the more difficult versions of weaker enemies that appear, this is a warning about the ones that take two or three hits to take down. Once the patterns of attack and weapon use are learned this makes the experience unbelievably enjoyable. Until that point, and still many times after, defeat is a constant friend.
While the vast difficulty can be dealt with by most gamers, it is the games constant persistence in reminding the failed attempts at progress with temptations of the easy difficulty, aptly named “Ninja Dog”. This only becomes truly enraging when the death was the fault of the well known PS3 blu-tooth error, dropping all control from the character and just focusing on the last direction pressed.
Released three years prior, versions of this game can be found at any GameStop for 10 dollars. While paying 60 dollars seems rather steep for this game, considering that the Xbox versions work perfectly in a 360, the “Collector’s Edition” boasts a making of documentary for 10 extra dollars. This half an hour movie documents nothing about the game, only the creators going out and drinking. While at times amusing, not nearly worth the asking price.
Ninja Gaiden once again makes an amazing showing on another system, too bad the game was cursed with a full retail priced release. What would have been an easy purchase at almost any amount less has become a reward only the most die-hard fan, or dedicated newcomer, will find it worth the price of admission.