Ryu Hayabasa receives a message from a woman by the name of Sonia, that the Black Spider Clan are attempting to awaken the four Greater Fiends of legend in an attempt to destroy his clan. He encounters a woman by the name of Elizabet, and this later leads him back to his village which is soon under attack; Ryu pursues Elizabet and learns exactly what she's planning. -summary
Ninja Gaiden has proven to be a success since its release on the X-Box back in 2004. Since then, the game had been updated for the same system as Ninja Gaiden Black, and later ported to the PS3 as Ninja Gaiden Sigma, which turned out to be another enjoyable update. Of course, a sequel would soon be in the works and Ninja Gaiden II would make it to the X-Box 360 in 2008, with an updated port Ninja Gaiden Sigma II for the PS3 in 2009. I never played the 360 version, but word around the campfire is that the PS3 got the better end of the deal. Although not as great as the original; Team Ninja still delivered what I believe to be a very solid sequel.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma II is a single player game that follows Ryu through 17 chapters as he battles the Black Spider Clan and powerful monsters named Greater Fiends. Along the way, you will be able to pick up items that increase your health bar, various weapons that can be upgraded when you visit the Blacksmith, as well as magic attacks called Ninpo. One of the coolest features to the game that veterans of the original will notice, is that Ryu possesses his moves from the original game at the start, such as the Guillotine Throw and Izuna Drop. This is some spot on attention to story detail and Team Ninja deserves props for this, because it's unlikely a ninja master will forget what he knows only a year later for the sake of a sequel.
The game forces you to master his blocking, evasion, counter attacking techniques, and long linking combos. It's very important that these basic tactics become second nature, because the cannon fodder will overwhelm you quickly using the numbers game, various projectiles, and vicious combos of their own. Novices will die a lot in this game against the grunts, since more than likely they will rely on button mashing which is highly not recommended. Team Ninja appeared to do their best in making this sequel quite different from the original with deeper game play.
Along with what appears to be Ryu's endless combo list, he can perform Obliteration Techniques on most enemies. These are finishing moves against severely injured enemies whom have lost limbs in battle. The finishers can either be graphic decapitations or the removal of more limbs, by the time you're done with your foes they will probably only have an arm left. Quickly finishing opponents is very important, because despite missing an arm or a leg, they can be extremely dangerous by performing suicide moves against you that can heavily damage your health bar.
The boss battles have moments where they can be very intense, even during the first two chapters. The battles deeply rely on constant evasion and counter attacking; this is basically the core strategy in these fights. Now some of the battles such as one against a Giant statue requires a little bit more than that. The point is, gamers with very little patience and no skill are going to have the worse time even on the normal difficulty.
Some of the boss battles are really cool to fight, such as one against a giant Lycan named Volf, whom battles with an over-sized scythe, with some punishing throw moves along with melee attacks. And the leader of the Black Spider Clan, Genshin; whom puts your evasion and counter attacking to the test. This boss can counter and parry most of your attacks, plus he uses a Ninpo spell attack similar to what you can do.
In regards to Ryu's weapons, almost everything from the previous game returns, such as the double katana blades, which are so cool to use along with the Vigorian Flail, which are pretty much bladed Nunchuks. The new weapons such as the dual sticks called Tonfu are very fun to play especially after being upgraded, and Volf's scythe is cool also, but the Kusari-Gama which happens to be a chain-sickle is by far my favorite; with this weapon, it is very possible to pull off very large combos, plus it has one of the coolest Obliterations. I made sure to master every possible combo with this weapon.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma II is also quite different from its predecessor in design, as it's completely linear and doesn't allow the player to revisit areas and search for items that may have been left behind. This time around, if you missed something, then it's gone and that's all there is to it; which makes searching for items located in treasure chest very important. On the plus side though nothing is remotely difficult to find, and since Ryu is a man of action, the game focuses solely on that leaving out mind boggling puzzles and even traps. In addition, there are three stages which can be played by the three female characters from the previous game and the spin off Ninja Gaiden - Dragon Sword; they are Rachel the Fiend Hunter, Momiji the Shrine Maiden, and Ayane the Kunoichi. Although they possess their own weapons and magic, for example Rachel toting a mini-gun along with her over-sized hammer, they really add nothing to the story and their appearances really aren't that fresh, since they're used in the same areas Ryu already ventured through with little variation. The game does a good enough job hiding how meaningless these characters are by delivering over the top action along with some decent boss battles.
The game is your basic good and evil story, yet it tries to be more than that though. There are some cut scenes with dialog, but some of the story is delivered through scrolls and books found on dead ninjas and various places. The plot mainly follows Ryu as he battles the Greater Fiends, whom are being awaken by Elizabet with the Demon Statue she took from Ryu's village. This all leads to the final showdown with the Archfiend.
Now besides the female characters pretty much just being pretty faces that are used to slaughter waves of creatures. Another problem I have is that the gameplay doesn't reach its full potential. Ryu is a ninja, but his athletic abilities such as wall jumping and running along multiple walls are never tested. I'm not asking for instant cheap deaths like God of War. However, there should have been some way to truly exercise his ninja skills. The final stage in the original game is a perfect example, as it followed Ryu trying to escape the area of the final battle alive, by traversing through the collapsing landscape. In that game, there were a few moments where he felt like a ninja, while here it feels as if other characters can probably make it through his game. The characterization is indeed weaker here, and this is also felt down to the bosses and side characters. And speaking of the bosses, there are rehashed bosses with a couple of lame ones; the giant fire-breathing armadillo makes me cringe thinking about it, and fighting the Statue of Liberty ventures into the realm of completely stupid.
I found this area to be very sharp. The controller uses the left stick to move, while the directional pad scrolls through weapons, etc, and along with button inputs everything controls very well. This is very important in regards to the combos, because some of them require precise presses. Counter attacking simply requires practice and this also goes for evading. If you're being thrashed, the solution is practice and nothing more.
I think the game has a very smooth frame rate, and the cut scenes have some really nice moments. The animation is very fluid and you can see all of the smaller details, such as Ryu parrying a sword attack and then responding with a quick dashing slice to the leg, taking it off completely and watching his enemy fall to the ground. And speaking of legs, the Kusari-Gama ropes an enemy with the chain and Ryu grabs him by the leg and hacks it off. There are some brutal animated sequences during the Obliteration's. There are some memorable backgrounds for me with Chapter 13 being one of them. This stage has a very eerie setting with a backdrop that features a rain storm of bright red blood soaking everything; the stage is beautiful yet very creepy with an other worldly feel. The best backgrounds are found late in the game while Ryu's descending into the Underworld. The visuals are outstanding with nice camera work providing a nice view deep into the background and they seem to expand quite nicely the closer you approach them. It's better to see it for yourself to get what I'm saying here.
As much as I don't mind seeing jiggly breast on female characters; the monsters must get the nod for the best character designs. You can see the shuriken belts by the hind legs on the ninja dogs. Plus the Centaurs and robotic like creatures called the Marionettes look awesome, as the latter creatures appear to be a splice between mannequins and spiders. Most of the bosses look really nice with Alexi Master of the Storm and Elizabet being among them. The BGM is strange in a way; there are moments where it gets the blood pumping with its mix of techno and orchestra, while at times it feels strange in combination with the setting. Overall I enjoy it and it fits well with the grand feel of the bosses. The sound effects I think stand out more with the voice actors, I think they get into their roles pretty well with the actor for Volf clearly having fun hamming it up. Some of the sound effects do stick out, with the splattering of characters bodies when Ryu slams them against the wall breaking their arms and legs, or burning them to death with his Inferno Ninpo. The negative issues in these areas are pretty small from where I see it though.
The game does have a two player online mode that can only be done during team missions. I don't really care much for online play, but I had fun here a few times. I bumped into this one player who felt as if they were a kindred soul or something, because they thought like I did and we conquered some hard ass missions despite dying a lot to do it. The missions are in arena like combat, and for the most part it performed well, but I did notice some lag here where things would move in slow motion. In any case, I found it to be pretty good. You can go it solo or with the AI, but playing with another person is the way to go since it can virtually be impossible to do it any other way. The higher difficulty settings definitely add to the replay; you will notice one hell of a difference especially on Master Ninja, since the bosses grabs are instant death.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma II is excellent for gamers searching for highly intense fast paced action. The moderate difficulty along with harder modes and online missions are a plus. The main campaign is around 10 hours, which is a pretty good length I think. There are also various checkpoints through out the stages for people who prefer to take those short breaks. If you enjoy games shades of Devil May Cry, Dante's Inferno, or God of War, then give this a try. It's also not really necessary to play the first game, but I highly recommend doing so since it's better than this one.
Pros: -Moderate challenge, nice visuals, deep game play, online play
Cons: -Weak characterization, some rehashing, not for everyone
(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, … more