Ninja Gaiden is hard. Just aword of warning to hardcore PlayStation fans new to the Ryu's latest adventure: Ninja Gaiden Sigma will kick your ass. In fact, it will probably kick your ass, revive you and then continue kicking your ass. Upon its initial release for the Xbox, the title was celebrated for its old school, tough-as-nails difficulty. Unless you're a Ninja Dog, the newest (third) iteration of this now classic game is just as hard as it was a few years back. Just as before, though, there is a sick pleasure in that pain.
That's not to say this is the game Xbox owners played through back in 2004. Sigma features several changes and upgrades. The most noticeable new feature is the bumped up graphics. While it doesn't quite have the same wow factor firing, it does look much better on the PS3 than the original or Black did on the Xbox. Team Ninja really polished up those old textures for this release. It won't blow you away, but it looks good.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma will kick your ass. In fact, it will probably kick your ass, revive you and then continue kicking your ass.
Another addition is the inclusion of Rachel as a playable character. This one works better in theory than in practice. Her levels are integrated into Ryu's story but they don't really add much to the tale and aren't particularly interesting. Evidently, Rachel really isn't much more than eye candy after all. She also has the distinct honor of facing the game's cheapest boss, Gamov. The difference in her play style, weapons and strength does mix things up a bit. Her moves are much more methodical and slower than Ryu's, but I have to say, slamming down her Warhammer on an enemy is a satisfying feeling.
Most of the other inclusions are pretty minor, including reskinned enemies, some new baddies, and bits of new content sprinkled throughout. It doesn't add a whole lot to the experience, but in many cases it shows the attention to detail that went into this remake. There's also a tiny bit of SIXAXIS control. When you use a Nippo attack, you can shake the controller to increase the strength of the attack. Not a huge deal, but helpful when you're in a tight spot.
There are also some new weapons at Ryu's disposal, among them the dual swords: Dragon's Claw and Tiger's Fang. Even with the Dragon Sword and other seriously powerful (and cool) weapons at my disposal, I found the new blades pretty useful early on for quickly dispatching threatening enemies. It was nice to see that certain weapons are still more effective against certain enemies. It adds more strategy when developing a battle plan for how to deal with a certain section, or a difficult boss encounter.
A glaring oversight from all the refinements and improvements is the camera. For all the obvious care that went into brining this title to the PS3, it's almost unfathomable that the camera really hasn't been fixed. It's still janky and, at inopportune moments, it's completely broken. In the end, the camera makes an already difficult game that much harder. It's a source of frustration and cheapens the challenge presented by the title. It's pretty much a given that the camera will get you killed on several occasions.
Other odds issues with this version include the midlevel loads. Sometimes longer than a second, these load times are bothersome because they often leave you vulnerable to enemy attack during the pause. You have to hold down block to avoid getting hit when the game decides to load with enemies nearby. It's weird that these midlevel loads are even present when you choose to install game data to your hard drive. You would think that with a hard drive present in ever system loads like these would be a thing of the past.
Of course, all of these minor complaints might just be my way of seeking revenge for having to best Alma for a third time. She's one tough broad, but I always find a way to take her down... eventually. That's what Ninja Gaiden always brings to the table, a joyous sense of accomplishment when you pull off a cool move or reign victorious over a boss you thought you'd never beat. It's enough to make jump out of your chair and fist pump the air like Tiger on a Sunday. All in all it makes me that much more excited for the sequel. A DS title is all well and good, but bring on Gaiden 2 please. And remember to iron out those camera issue when you do.