Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is the upcoming enhanced version of Ninja Gaiden 2 for the PlayStation 3. Although the game is based on the Xbox 360-exclusive sequel to Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo's Team Ninja has put in a good amount of time adding content and polishing up the game. We just got our hands on a work-in-progress version of the game, which is due to hit this September, to spend some time with Ryu, Momiji, and Ayane, as well as try out the new co-op mode.
Hands-on with the three ninjas didn't differ too much from what we were expecting after E3 and our recent stint with the game. The gang handles like the super ninjas they are: Ryu is a good balance of speed and strength; Ayane is fast and deadly but lacks Ryu's power; and Momiji is powerful but a bit on the slow side--she reminds us of Rachel from the first Sigma, but she's not quite as fast. Ryu's playable section let us go through most of the his first chapter; Ayane's was a shorter run through the Venice level at night; and Momiji's section was longer and included a mid-boss fight.
Besides the single-player Story modes for each of the characters, our version of the game let us try out some levels in the cooperative mission mode. We were able to try out three different challenges: two in acolyte difficulty and one in warrior. The mode lets you play online with a friend or offline with an AI partner. If you play online, you'll be able to set the match conditions for whom you'll play with--anyone or friends. Before hopping into a match, you'll be able to customize your character, weapon, ninpo, and costume. The acolyte missions tasked us with clearing spider ninjas from a Japanese garden area or fiends from a castle area. The addition of a friend is helpful, but the game is still tough as nails so don't expect things to get incredibly easy.
The best part of having a friend along is having someone who can revive you when you go down if he or she can reach you in time. Much like the system in Gears of War, you'll have a set amount of time to get over to your fallen buddy and mash the circle button to bring him or her back to the land of the living. The other buddy perk we noticed was joint, smart-bomb style, ninpo attacks that wipe out pretty much anything around you. The downside is you'll only have two to use initially, although you can replenish your ki during battle. The third co-op mission pitted us against two large fiends in a new organic-looking area, which was big on pools of blood. The enemies were relentless--before the big fiends even showed themselves--and required quick prioritizing.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is looking good, albeit less bloody than Ninja Gaiden 2. We like the improvements that have been made to the camera system, although it can still spiral out to some crazy angles in the heat of battle. The game's visuals are easily on par with what we saw in Ninja Gaiden 2 on the Xbox 360. Richer colors also appear in spots, which speaks to the game's high level of visual fidelity. The new characters and content fit in comfortably with all the familiar locations. The new story cutscenes for Ayane and Momiji all fit in with the look and feel of the familiar content that features Ryu. The only other blemish that caught our eye--besides the camera--was some irregular frame rate issues during some of the levels. But we reckon that's one of the many little things the team is working on as development on the game wraps.
Based on what we played, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is shaping up to be just the sort of ninja action that fans of the series want. The core mechanics and content are a great foundation to build upon and the additions are looking good. We're not too disappointed about the loss of blood, which does appear to be pretty noticeable if you've played Ninja Gaiden 2. Overall, the additional content and level of polish give the game a lot of appeal. Hopefully, Team Ninja can buff the game to a nice sheen and continue in the direction it is headed in with our incomplete version. There's plenty to like here once it gets tightened up so look for more on Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 in the coming weeks. The game is set to ship this September.