First Level: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Itagaki might not be with Team Ninja anymore, but that hasn’t stopped the Japanese developers making the most of the Ninja Gaiden series, and having already updated the first of the recent games for the PlayStation 3 Tecmo have now done the same thing with the well recieved Xbox 360 title Ninja Gaiden 2, sticking Sigma somewhere in the title and adding it to the PS3’s ever expanding collection of third person brawlers – so what’s new and how does it perform on Sony’s big black beast?

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Well ,the PS3 version now features Ayane and Momiji (from the DS Ninja Gaiden game) as playable characters, an online co-op mode, Trophies and a few new bosses thrown in and amongst the regular game. More a ‘director’s cut’ than a true expansion over the 360 original, and actually suffers in a couple of areas too: there’s almost no bloodshed and gore for starters – for some reason it’s been dialed right back making it feel like you’re chopping the limbs off aliens, not ninjas.

Visually it’s about the same, although there’s now slowdown in places and screen tearing is evident in seemingly untaxing areas, which is really odd, but there’s offline and online co-operative mode which is actually really cool – if you’ve got a like minded friend then the online play is slick and apparently rather impressive, although offline the other character is PS3-controlled, you can’t do this locally.  I’ve only spent a couple of hours so far with the game and thus haven’t tested this extensively, but it’s a welcome feature as the missions get quite tough.

The new areas that I’ve seen so far haven’t exactly impressed, but some of the slower, badly paced sections present in the original appear to have been removed, or at least shifted to somewhere else, so the game flows a little better.  Sigma 2 is now a far better game because there’s much more focus on the action and the fighting, something the series has always excelled at – the rhythmic block, dodge, strike tempo is a powerfully rewarding one once mastered and now that there’s more emphasis on fighting it’s even more fun to play.

Other tweaks include a camera reset button, which helps with the game’s erratic camera somewhat, and that SixAxis bounce we revealed some time back.  I’m reserving judgement until I’ve played through the entire game, but as a First Level Sigma 2 is exactly what I thought it would be – there’s a pretty lengthy install (which set my ‘time played’ statistic at just over 15 minutes before I even picked up the controller) although there’s a comic-book based prologue whilst you wait, but that’s really about it apart from some odd pauses when you pick anything up.

So, it’s still Ninja Gaiden 2, but it’s a tweaked, revised and ultimately probably better game for all the changes made – whether or not it’s worth it for owners of the Xbox 360 original depends on how much you value the new features (I traded in my 360 copy last week in preparation).  I’ll press on over the weekend and hopefully get it reviewed as soon as possible.  If anyone picks up the game and fancies some online play let me know in the comments and hopefully we’ll get chance to test out a few of the co-op missions, although bear in mind I’m hardly a Master Ninja…

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