(I wish to note that this is an old review of mine that I think deserves a spot in here. Take it as you will.)
After their groundbreaking success with Ninja Gaiden 2 for the XBox 360, Tecmo and the Team Ninja development team decided to reprise their plans for an adaptive PS3 exclusive version, just as they did with the exclusive Ninja Gaiden Sigma early 2007. Thus, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was born. Team Ninja added more tweaks than usual in order for this game to be extreme, stylish, and superb as always. One of the best additions that peaked to their fans' interest is that they have included 3 more characters to play as during the story campaign: the kunoichi and fan favorite Ayane (Dead or Alive), the fiend hunter Rachel (Ninja Gaiden Sigma), and ex-ninja plus shrine maiden Momiji (Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword). Let's hurry on with the review.
Presentation: Everyone knows that loading screens during installments are boring as hell. Tecmo managed to make this worthwhile by creating a "prologue" of the game in manga artstyle. It works pretty nicely if you ask me. Thankfully you won't need to see it twice because by the time you're finished with the prologue, the installment is already complete. The menu screen consists of a bunch of modes to play (that is, should you finish the game first). At first, you will have Story Mode and Team Mission Mode. Team Mission is where the online multiplayer kicks in, but I'll explain that later.
The overall of the story is that you play as the descendant of the holy Dragon Lineage, Ryu Hayabusa. He's very much a super ninja, when his mission is clear, he won't stop, period. The Dragon Lineage is a bloodline a celestial warriors created to destroy the Fiends that continue to lurk on the planet even to this present day. At the starting point, one character named Sonia, a CIA agent, has information for Ryu concerning the Fiends' attempt to resurrect the legendary Archfiend. You play as him throughout the entire story. At certain points, you will play as one of the 3 additional characters, each with their own chapter. Playing the game, you'll notice that the story is very linear and there's no plot twist because there's no plot to twist. If you think about it this way, it's more like a superhero's story in which you consistently take on a lot of interesting and rather giant bad guys in order to save the world. Ryu is a super ninja after all. Still, it makes you wonder "why can't there be any exposure to make the experience more entertaining?" In fact, that exposure is written in the scrolls that you find during the campaign, which explains the entire history for you. Believe me, when you read them, you'll be wondering why Tecmo didn't utilize the history for this story.
Gameplay: As said before, extreme, stylish, superb. One of the most fast paced battle systems that will keep you focused on the fight until it's over. Enemy A.I. is really on par with the game's overall difficulty. You will always be fighting ninjas, fiends, werewolves, machines, even ninjas with.......machine guns and missiles. None of them will hold back against you; always getting the chance to grab you and rip you to shreds. Boss Battles are just as intense, but their grabs can be a pain if you don't see them coming (fyi, one grab is Instant Kill on Master Ninja difficulty). 5 new bosses are added to the Sigma title, replacing any repetitive encounters. As you damage these enemies, you'll see their body parts severed. Once you see that, move in quickly and press the triangle to decapitate them with a one-hit kill. Always use this while getting rid of one enemy after another. I'm very much expressing my hatred for how difficult it could be fighting enemies on harder difficulties. You have to try very hard not to get damaged, or grabbed for that matter. However, since I was a very patient man, I've manged to barely make it through each playthrough until I've beaten Master Ninja.
Ryu Hayabusa has a large moveset and a sweet array of weapons. You also have have your Ninjutsu magic and long ranged weapons. Your close ranged weapons have a lot (and I mean A LOT) of combos. About the ranged weapons, changes were made from the first Ninja Gaiden 2. You still have the Fiend's Bane Bow, now with unlimited arrows, and the Howling Cannon, which replaces all the other previous weapons. Let's not forget your close ranged weapons. You have your standard Dragon Sword, along with unique weapons like a Bo Staff and even a sickle with a chain. Combos can be important in this game, even though there's a lot, so know these combos well in case you have a favorite weapon. Some weapons have their own moves as well. One in particular is Ninja Gaiden's best move, the Izuna Drop. In Ninja Gaiden 2, you can only use the Izuna Drop with the Dragon Sword, but in Sigma 2, you can use the same move with all your weapons. One new addition to your collection is the Emma's Fang, a large sword which is great for sweeping enemies down.
Next is your movements, as well as Ultimate Techniques. Dodging and guarding is very, very important in this game. Holding down the L1 button allows you to guard and pressing square or triangle will let you use counter attacks. Moving while holding L1 will allow you to dodge any enemy attack in an instant. Use this only when you have an opportunity to dodge or get away from enemies. Jumping is important too. Ultimate Techniques are used with any close ranged weapon by holding the triangle button, unleashing a devastating combo that will put your enemies to shame. All enemies drop theme karma orbs as you kill them. Collect those for money or absorb them holding the triangle button to shorten the time for your Ultimate Techniques.
The tools used for the item system is a bit sophisticated in this game. You can find healing items, health upgrades, or spell upgrades in treasure chests (some contain fiends inside). You can also buy these healing items whenever you've come across any one of Muramasa's shops. The prices are expensive for a reason, because this enforces you to use items sparingly while honing your skills. You'll come across these crystal skulls that help to decrease those prices. When the lamp next to the shop is blue, that means you get to choose any weapon to upgrade once. Upgrade your weapons once every time you come across these blue lamps and make them stronger and gain access to more intense combos.
Sound: On the sound department, the score is always intense with orchestral instruments that pump up the action, even during the cutscenes. It's a shame that there's not much variety because of that, especially when all I've been hearing are slashes and the screams of dying enemies. The English voice track is good overall, whereas the voices of the Greater Fiends pretty much stole the game.
Multiplayer: The multiplayer experience wasn't that bad for me. An online co-op is always better than relying on a useless partner A.I. In Team Mission Mode, you are given a lot of missions, each are categorized by difficulty. You and your partner have to take down every swarm of enemies while working together. You can both use your Ninpo at the same time to unleash an Ultimate Ninpo, destroying all enemies at once. Complete each mission and earn Karma Points and a medal. One good cause for the multiplayer experience is that after a mission, you get to see the percentage of how much work you've done less or more than your partner. I've had a hell of a time with one player I've come across and we attempted to beat this hard ass mission, no matter how many times we failed.
In a way, the multiplayer is just...okay. Considering that some players have using the multiplayer by now, you would wonder why there was no split-screen multiplayer.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is an excellent game and far better than its Xbox 360 predecessor, redesigned to be much easier for the PS3 audience while adding more content. The difficulty is high depending on which setting you play, but hardcore gamers will love the fast-paced experience. Story Mode is linear, but that's minor compared to everything else. If you're a patient man (or woman) like myself, get this game and try it out. Hopefully you'll beat this game on the hardest mode, just as I have.
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