'Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2' Review: Beautiful, Bloody And... Bouncy?

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Being a Playstation loyalist of sorts, I didn't play "Ninja Gaiden 2" when it was released last year for the Xbox 360, so Tecmo's "Sigma" version of the game for Playstation 3 is my first experience with warrior ninja Ryu Hyabusa's latest adventure.

Like 2007's "Ninja Gaiden Sigma," "Sigma 2" is filled with beautifully rendered landscapes, well-tuned fighting, a wide range of weapons and abilities, and some of the most impressive boss battles you'll find in the PS3 library, but it's the ways in which it differs from its predecessor that make it a great game instead of just a good sequel.

The Basics

You're Ryu Hyabusa of the Dragon Ninja Clan, and you're out to stop the rival Spider Ninja Clan from releasing the Archfiend and assorted nasty creatures from the underworld. As you might expect, the best way to accomplish such a feat is to chop, slice, sever and impale your way through legions of enemy ninjas, dogs, birds and fish—not to mention demons large and small—all while running, jumping, swimming and flipping around beautifully detailed sets.

Along with the standard story mode, there's a "Team Mission" mode that allows for co-op, arena-style battles with a partner (player- or computer-controlled), and customization options unlocked by your progress through the story mode.

The Highs

Hey, It's Not Impossible!

One of the biggest complaints many people had about the first "Ninja Gaiden Sigma" was that that the balance between difficulty and fun was tipped too far to the former to ever enjoy the latter. You died, you died, and then you died some more, hoping to eventually not die long enough to move on in the game. The balance has been restored this time around, though—and while there are still some issues with injuries you're unable to avoid or anticipate, every cheap shot isn't a killing blow.

Enjoy The View

"Sigma 2" builds on the stunning detail of the set pieces in its predecessor and ups the ante with some really amazing scenery that, at several points during the game, had me pausing on a rooftop in order to pan the camera around Ryu and take it all in. The levels unfolding around Mount Fuji, for example, feature some really breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

Great Taste, Less Filling

"Sigma 2" does what a sequel really should do—it builds on the previous game's good points, sheds the problems and adds a few new elements to set it apart. In this case, the "Team Mission" mode offers something we haven't seen before, and though it can lag a bit at times (I played a few missions where the start-and-stop lag made it feel like I was playing in a strobe light), it's a new feature that should definitely be included—and improved upon—in future versions of the series. It's a lot of fun, and offers an interesting way to achieve some of those trophies that require killing more enemies than the story mode offers.

The Lows

Barbie and Bobbleheads

Remember that line about the need to improve the good, shed the bad and add new elements with each iteration of the game? Well, the other new addition to the "Ninja Gaiden" games found in "Sigma 2" is the ability to make female characters' breasts move at certain points in the game using the motion-sensitive controller. Sure, Tecmo had some fun with it in a viral video released a while back, but here's hoping this new, ridiculous feature is shed by the time "Sigma 3" comes around.

There are more important things I'd like to see the developers concentrating on, and to be honest, I felt a little pervy even testing out this "feature."

Where The Heck Did That Come From?

As I mentioned earlier, despite the improvements that made the game less frustrating to play, there are still quite a few issues with the camera angles that annoyed the heck out of me. Flaming projectiles that appear out of nowhere and swipes from enemies you didn't even realize were chasing you are a pretty regular source of annoyance, and the camera has a knack for giving you the least-helpful angle in most situations. At times, it felt like I was battling the in-game camera as much as the Archfiend's minions.

Final Word

"Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2" is the game everyone wanted "Ninja Gaiden Sigma" to be. It's a fast-moving, action-packed experience that shares a lot of positive traits with the "Devil May Cry" games, while also offering enough unique elements to stand on its own as one of the better titles in that genre.

The good far outweighs the bad with "Sigma 2," and given the huge improvement from the first "Sigma" to this one, Tecmo seems to have learned quite a bit about what makes this genre of games so enjoyable. The addition of the "Team Mission" mode shows their head is in the right place—despite the questionable bouncing-breasts feature.

While there isn't much need to replay "Sigma 2" at higher levels of difficulty once you finish story mode (except to get those extra trophies), the "Team Mission" and "Chapter Challenge" modes (the latter is unlocked after you finish story mode) provide a great way to earn many of the trophies available for the game.