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PLATFORM Playstation 3

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Preview

publisher: Tecmo
developer: Team Ninja
genre: Action Adventure

ESRB rating: M

release date: Jul 03, 07
» All About Ninja Gaiden Sigma on ActionTrip

Believe it or not, Tecmo's first Ninja Gaiden game dates back all the way to 1988. The game had hit arcades across the globe and was known as Shadow Warriors in Europe and Australia, where as in Japan, they called it Ninja Ryukenden. The success, normally, led to several editions for the 8-bit NES and for the SNES later on. Now, if you'll just allow a brief flashback here, I couldn't help but recall the arcade version, which started out by greeting the player with the phrase "Ninja in the USA," - yeah, it sure as hell sounds tacky now, but it was cool back then (when you're a slobbery ten-year-old obsessed with ninjas).

We fast forward to 2004, when Microsoft and Tecmo breathed life back into the Ninja Gaiden franchise by releasing it on the Xbox. Having received rave reviews and thumbs up from fans worldwide, Tecmo revisited the game and refurbished it one year later with some extra traits. The enhanced edition, entitled Ninja Gaiden Black, wasn't a full-blown sequel mind you. Preserving the exciting gameplay of the original, the developers simply offered a neat repackaging by adding lots of new options and fresh content, like a wider choice of stand-alone missions and the game's familiar intense combat system. Despite initial expectations that the game would be nothing more than a mere marketing stunt, Ninja Gaiden Black was well received by gamers.

Tecmo's next move is to return, once again, to this delightful combat-oriented action game and bring it to the PS3. Regardless of its obvious last-generation roots, the game already looks quite promising. Apart from the expected and quite detailed visual make over, Ninja Gaiden Sigma gets three additional areas to flesh out the story, which brings the game to a total of 19 levels (as opposed to the 16 featured in the original).

Tecmo admitted that the team is taking every precaution to fine-tune the game until it is just right, which is why they're taking extra time. As Sigma director Yohsuke Hayashi said, working on a project for the PS3 means adjusting every single detail and investing more time into optimizing the game for the unique architecture of Sony's console. Or, perhaps, to put it more bluntly, they're having a bloody hard time making the game for the PS3 since it was a whole lot easier on the Xbox.

Again, don't mistake Tecmo for being sloppy or careless when it comes to graphics. The development team made extra efforts throughout the creation process. They're completely redoing all textures to make the game appear up-to-date when it hits the market. Still, there's more to it than high-res textures and shadows in 1080p. The Xbox editions of Ninja Gaiden were acknowledged for exceptional animation and fluidity of character movement in general. This is, of course, something the programming team intends to maintain in Sigma. It was said that the game will run at a steady 60fps even with all the extra detail that was incorporated. Furthermore, the designers, artists and animators are being very methodical about model design and character movement. For the Hayabusa model, in particular, the creative team has studied human anatomy closely, to understand skeletal and muscle structure.

Normally, there's more to this game than the three extra levels that were thrown in. Aside from the new weapons, new enemies and bosses, the really cool innovation is that you may now play as Rachel - the delicious-looking female hunter, who trails Ryu through his journey. Rachel chops through hordes of foes with her mighty demon-slaying axe (in one hand) and a grappling hook (in the other). In contrast, when playing as Ryu, players get to experience a cool and most welcomed new weapon. Slashing your way through swarms of enemies, entails a few fresh element, such as the use of dual Katanas. As before, the combat itself stays fast and intense. In other words, players must have quick reflexes and should be quick on the block button to boot.

The team is also taking advantage of the Sixaxis controller. So, for example, when casting Ryu's Ninpo magic, you may charge up the effect, which makes it a bit more fun. You simply shake the controller vigorously to power-up the magical attacks. Though you'll no doubt end up looking like a complete prat when shaking that controller, you will be rewarded for your efforts - the character delivers more damage and you get to watch a few extra animations.

On another positive note, Sigma features everything we've seen in Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox), including costumes, various mission modes, etc. Since we mentioned missions, it might interest you to know that now the game boasts 50 missions, on top of ten additional ones created specifically for Rachel.

If we understood this right, the core of the game and the main story have remained the same. Except, this time around, there are plenty of new plot elements concerning Rachel, which, as you'd normally expect it, are kept secret.

As far as martial arts flavored action games go, Ninja Gaiden Sigma appears to have it all. I'm sure most of you will agree that the PS3 scene craves more triple-A titles. Well, this game should definitely be a good enough reason for buying a PS3 console; especially if you've never played any of the earlier editions of Ninja Gaiden. Sony definitely needs more games like this to get back on track and boost PS3 sales.



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