When I reviewed the original ‘Ninja Gaiden’ on Xbox, I felt it was far too hard for the mainstream audience to which it was being marketed, and I scored it with that difficulty asterisk in mind. However, three years have passed since that original release, so it’s only fair to expect gamers to know what they’re getting with ‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma’ for the PlayStation 3: a difficult, gorgeous, lightning-fast game with a somewhat-troublesome camera. Still, if you’ve never played Ninja Gaiden or are in need of a “refresher,” there’s no better time to get familiar with this franchise.
At its core, ‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma’ is a combination of the original and Black versions, including Black’s unlockable Mission mode and the original’s difficulty. However, Sigma also includes upgraded 1080p graphics and, most important, the addition of Rachel the Fiend Hunter as a playable character. Put these elements together, and you’ve got the definitive Ninja Gaiden experience.
The important thing to remember with ‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma’ is that its main character is a ninja — and ninjas move quickly. Very quickly. The majority of the game’s combat, therefore, is generally so fast that it’s easy to find yourself totally immersed in the game, particularly while stringing together combos. However, the addition of Rachel as a playable character adds a completely new gameplay experience, and it’s largely a good one.
Because Rachel isn’t a ninja, her segments are much slower than Ryu’s, which will be a much-needed respite for newcomers and provide something new for experienced players. Sometimes Rachel’s segments feel a bit forced, but the need for players to switch-up their gameplay strategy is certainly intriguing, as players need to block more frequently and become experts in Rachel’s counter/evade move. Rachel’s sequences also fill-in some of the holes in Ryu’s story, which deepens the overall experience for Gaiden veterans.
‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma’ includes a few other tweaks, including new items, a couple new weapons and the ability to automatically run on water rather than needing to repeatedly press the jump button. But really, Rachel’s segments and the 60-frames-per-second graphics are the most notable updates. These additions may not sound like much, but they definitely make ‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma’ the one version to own if you’ve never played the game or are looking for a serious gameplay challenge. It’s not often that you see a last-gen game make the leap into the next generation, but with ‘Ninja Gaiden Sigma,’ Team Ninja has created a game that makes that leap with ease. I can’t wait to see the next rabbit they pull from their development hat.
– Jonas Allen