Tecmo unsheathed a near-final version of its upcoming Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PlayStation 3 for us. The game is a beefed-up version of Tecmo's update to its popular ninja franchise. With a demo on the PlayStation Network that includes new playable character Rachel, most folks have gotten a taste of what to expect from the upcoming game. Still, when Tecmo dropped by with the game, we weren't ones to pass up the chance to see some of the other new content being put in the game.
We played through a sampling of the game, which is essentially a director's-cut-style reimagining of the Xbox installments in the series, Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden Black. The game features all the content from those games and adds a number of refinements to the experience, such as gameplay tweaks, Sixaxis support, and a new playable character.
We checked out a few of the levels in the game, from both the single-player and mission modes, to be reminded of the pleasure and pain of the game's intense action. The good news is it handles like a dream on the PS3, and the tweaks, such as mapping the item quick-select to the D pad, are a great fit. The ability to hit the D pad and call up an item ring, which can be rotated and then selected by hitting down, is key to not dying horribly. It's still going to happen, mind you, the game is still uberchallenging, but this should reduce some horrible deaths. We do miss rumble, but we got used to playing without it. The whole shaking of the Sixaxis to power up your ninja magic is a bit odd, especially when playing around other people, but it's handy. Rachel has seen some tweaks from when we played the game earlier as well as how she handles in the PS Network demo. While we were already taken with her unique blend of hammer slamming, zip-line shooting, and bosom heaving, she now feels more responsive. When playing with Rachel, you'll also gain rankings unique to her status as a fiend hunter, which are comparable to Hayabusa's ninja ratings. In Rachel's case, you'll earn labels such as novice, common, and legendary for your performance at the end of a level.
While the Rachel content in the game is, of course, new, the reworked Ninja Gaiden content benefits from both gameplay and visual tweaks. When we faced off against the game's most annoying boss, the filthy horse-mounted boss on the bridge that's conveniently placed toward the start of the challenging adventure, we noticed a number of tweaks. Our mounted foe was on fire, which looked cool and also alerted us to his irksome rush attacks, since he lights up the area when he approaches. Keeping track of him is helpful when you're fending off other enemies. Once you get past him, you'll find yourself in one of the new areas, a flaming section of the village you'll have to make your way through, dispatching ninjas and dodging fatal blasts of fire that will kill you in one shot. Eagle-eyed players will recognize the locale as the area shown in one of the first trailers for the game. Farther into the single-player game, you'll come across a new weapon, the dual katanas, in the airship level, which features some drastic reworking of some of its interior sections. As far as the missions mode goes, we tried several different missions as both Hayabusa and Rachel and received some vicious smack downs--though we gave as good as we got. As with the mission mode in Gaiden Black, the content is fun, action packed, and designed to test your skills. For those who pick up the collector's edition of the game, mission mode will feature five exclusive missions.
In terms of how the game looks now, if you've played the demo, you know what to expect from the title. The already-gorgeous game has been buffed up for the PS3. Higher polygon counts, improved lighting, and special effects all pop at 720p. The game's frame rate, which was a bit inconsistent the last time we saw it, has been tightened up and appears to be running smoothly now.
Based on our sampling, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is looking like it should deliver on the promise we saw when we first played it. The game is challenging, has impressive visuals, and offers a meaty chunk of content to play around with. Factor in the online leaderboards so you can brag about your master ninja skills to the world, and you have a PlayStation 3 game that will be worth your time if you're hankering for some action.