Ninja Gaiden Sigma II Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jul 28, 2009
Thus far, the two most talked about aspects of Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma II, the updated and retooled version of the Xbox 360 exclusive Ninja Gaiden II, have been the game’s noticeably toned-down violence, and the fact that the game’s producer Yosuke Hayashi has dubbed the game “the most complete Ninja Gaiden game released to date.”
Less Blood Doesn't Mean "No Blood"
Since my time with the game was confined to three levels, I can’t really speak to the game’s overall “completeness”. However, I can tell you that, while NG2's over-the-top gore has seen reductions, the game is still adequately brutal. Plus, in addition to the tweaks to the camera controls (still not perfect at times), and the new ability to pinpoint which direction you are supposed to go with one button press, the game also features perhaps the most challenging and demanding combat to date.
The game tells the same story as NG2, only in addition to Ryu’s story, it features several intertwining storylines that tell the parallel stories of Sigma II’s new playable characters, Ayane, Momiji and Rachel --the last of which I didn’t get a chance to play as during my demo, but she was previously playable in NG2, so expect something similar this time around.
Combat-wise, Ryu is, as always, capable of unleashing ridiculous levels of punishment, thanks to what are still perhaps the most finely tuned and satisfying combat mechanics of nearly any action game. Offsetting Ryu’s skill set are the varied play styles of the new characters. In addition to Ryu’s level, I was able to play one stage apiece as the purple-haired Dead or Alive brawler Ayane, and Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword’s Momiji.
Oh Yes, It's Ladies' Night!
Even with my brief time with the various characters, it was quite clear that neither Ayane nor Momiji are as lightning fast or as capable of stringing together lengthy, super fluid combos the way Ryu is. So you really do have to adapt quickly if you want any chance at staying alive for more than a few seconds. Ayane’s weapons, along with her staccato strike patterns, translates into lots of up close and personal combat, and Momiji’s Naginata offers her the chance to put some space between enemies and herself, although the bulkier weapon means much slower attacks.
Based on the sections I saw, the game looks similar to NG2. If you put the two games side by side, you’d probably notice a few graphical differences here and there, but generally, the games feature the same crisp, slick presentation that have come to define the series’ several iterations. Again, I only saw a few levels, so the differences could become more apparent later on in the game (but it's doubtful).
It's Always Better with Friends
The major new addition is online cooperative play. These stages can be played online or offline with a friend or with an AI controlled partner. Picking your character, weapons and ninpo adds a bit of strategy to the whole thing, since you can’t change anything after you start a stage. The stages I played required that you eliminate a certain amount of foes in order to progress. It’s pretty straightforward, but it does offer some pretty outrageous opportunities for massive combo strings, as you can juggle enemies between characters. Also, you’re able to combine your ninpos to unleash mega-ninpo attacks that are spectacular to behold. Even though it’s a bit late to the party, the mode has potential, and will certainly provide truly sadistic players the chance to extend the game’s already brutal campaign several hours.
Based on my short time with Ninja Gaiden Sigma II, I’d say it’s likely to be one of the most unforgiving and skill-defining titles to come along in quite some time. So be sure to stay tuned for our full review when the game is released for the PlayStation 3 this September.