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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Ninja Gaiden Sigma

By Michael Palisano

Ninja Gaiden Sigma is a solid revamping of the first two Ninja Gaiden titles on the Xbox. The visuals have been upgraded to full high-def with added details such as light-sourcing, backgrounds and other objects such as falling leaves. Sigma leaves the basic gameplay mechanics and levels largely unchanged, though there are a few extra missions that players can unlock. While it's a remake, not a completely new game, PS3 owners who haven't played the previous installments will find this to be a challenging, engaging combat title with slick visuals.

Tecmo's world-famous Team Ninja developers have revamped their now-classic Ninja Gaiden Xbox releases for the Playstation 3 and the results are impressive from an aesthetic standpoint. This was always one of the more impressive looking and playing games on the last-generation and this edition offers what should probably be considered the 'director's cut' of the game. Updating the last edition is a fairly simple proposition, sine it never appeared on any Playstation platform during the last generation. Beginning as a next-generation remake of the classic NES games for the Xbox, Ninja Gaiden broke new ground upon release with it's razor sharp visuals, challenging gameplay and engaging storyline. However, Tecmo wasn't satisfied with this and released several additional and even harder levels online in what were called the Hurricane Pack and were later compiled into a disc based-upgrade called Ninja Gaiden Black. While the graphics were impressive, players found the actual gameplay ranged from very hard to ridiculously hard depending on their skill level. The hero had an impressive array of moves at his disposal and could slice enemies, attack from behind, crawl and jump over walls and perform some impressive special attacks with ease. Along the way, he found a variety of health potions, magical upgrades and other items to help in during battles. Players will also find numerous scrolls hidden throughout the levels which give them useful hints about what to do next. Once an item is collected, its added to his inventory and can be used at any time. This helped him during the numerous battles with the many ninja foes he faced, and some of these potions are especially useful during the epic boss battles. Some enemies can drain your health quickly so you need to use them wisely. The game's structure is fairly simple with standard exploration missions punctuated by intense boss battles that are typically waged with an incredible cinematic flourish. Each level in Ninja Gaiden offered a nearly complete, self-contained experience that challenged even the best players. The level of difficulty is high throughout, but the game is consistent which helps to keep things from becoming overly frustrating.

The later stages and levels also improved the game's camera system and the title was surprisingly good for its time and allowed players an unprecedented amount of freedom of attack movements. Players can perform stylish special moves and perform different styles of attack which helps to further immerse you into the game. This makes for an exciting, if sometimes frustrating game that stands out from most of the mainstream releases out there. You probably won't be able to beat it in a single sitting, but the satisfaction is definitely worth the effort. This is one of those rare games where you have to earn your stripes before you can move on. There's little of the hand-holding that most modern games suffer from and its this hard-core approach that makes the game so appealing. From a gameplay standpoint, the PS3 edition hasn't been watered down, and stays faithful to the design and style that has made this modern version of the franchise so successful. Ninja Gaiden Sigma is like a director's cut, with enhancements, tweaks and upgrades. However, there are some additional missions that players can unlock later on starring the mysterious female ninja Rachel who brings her own special moves and style to the game. These missions stay fairly close to the first Ninja Gaiden and add some replay value without interrupting the nearly flawless flow of the original.

From an aesthetic standpoint, this is still one of the best designed games ever produced for a modern system. Ninja Gaiden Sigma's character designs are superb and embellished by some truly outstanding backgrounds and details that bring its world to life vividly. Excellent light sourcing, beautiful shadows and superb water effects are just the beginning. Even the anonymous ninjas you face throughout Ninja Gaiden Sigma look and animate beautifully which brings a level of consistency and polish that makes for a coherent and believable game. The visuals look much sharper this time around and fully support 1080p and its engine has been fully overhauled with additional details such as improved light sourcing, better draw distance, enhanced character models and objects plus a myriad of small changes that when added together help to bring the game into much better focus. Ninja Gaiden Sigma retains the superb soundtrack and music that made the original game so memorable with the excellent voice acting adding a dramatic flair to the game's cinematic scenes. These upgrades really mark an excellent showcase for the PS3 hardware and help illustrate what a true High Definition next generation title should look like.

This is a fairly solid remake from any standpoint, but the question isn't whether this is a decent game, but whether it's a good value. Tecmo has released two versions of the game - one is a standard edition that only offers the main game. This retails for the usual price and feels a bit expensive considering its mostly rehashed, yet enhanced content. The other edition is a limited edition that contains a bonus disc featuring interviews with Team Ninja and a code used to unlock the extra missions. Costing a bit more than the standard edition, this is a pricey addition to any PS3 collection and should be considered for the hardcore fan only. While Ninja Gaiden Sigma is basically a remake of a nearly 5-year old title, those who haven't played it yet will find this to be a challenging and entertaining stopgap between PS3 releases. If you've already played the previous Xbox versions, you should be warned - the new content is minimal and its HD graphics upgrades can't hide the fact that this is essentially the same game you already own. However, don't mistake these facts for a negative evaluation of the game. Based on its merits, Ninja Gaiden is highly recommended to those who haven't experienced it yet - this remains one of the best action/combat titles released for the last generation and the upgrades make it even better.


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