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Critical Reception: Tecmo/Team Ninja's Ninja Gaiden Sigma

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden Sigma, an upgraded PlayStation 3 port that critics are calling "an immersive action romp full of original challenges" - full averages and review comments ins
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Ninja Gaiden Sigma, an upgraded PlayStation 3 port that critics are calling "an immersive action romp full of original challenges, incredible environments and interesting characters." Following its initial release in 2004, Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox was almost universally praised for its tight gameplay, and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most difficult games to be released in the modern gaming era. The follow-up, 2005's Ninja Gaiden Black, offered a host of improvements over Ninja Gaiden, and is now often cited as being among the top "must-have" games for the original Xbox. Ninja Gaiden Sigma seeks to improve even further upon Ninja Gaiden Black's foundation, featuring an additional playable character and numerous gameplay tweaks and enhancements. Though the title has not yet earned the level of critical praise achieved by Ninja Gaiden or Ninja Gaiden Black, Ninja Gaiden Sigma ranks in at a still-impressive average review score of 89 out of 100, as reported by Metacritic.com. GameSpy's Gerald Villoria scores Ninja Gaiden Sigma at 5 out of 5 stars. "If you've never played Ninja Gaiden or Ninja Gaiden Black, then you've missed out on one of the finest experiences in gaming," he writes. "While this release doesn't necessarily innovate, being a dolled-up port of a game that originally debuted in 2004, the graphics, gameplay and sound remain top-notch." "There are some gameplay enhancements that end up making this a more enjoyable adventure, although some changes may have you wrinkling your nose in confusion," Villoria elaborates. On the negative side of things: "Some of the lighting effects in Sigma were pulled off better in Black," and "You'll still have to fight your way through the normal difficulty mode before unlocking the missions or harder difficulty settings." "On the other hand," Villoria continues, "some puzzles and encounters have been modified or removed entirely, and we found the game's progression to be smoother this time around, although the game is still quite difficult, and there are still some places where you can easily hit a brick wall if you aren't consulting a strategy guide." Villoria also notes that Sigma represents a step back from Black in a few areas. "One interesting thing we found was that Sigma didn't just add new content to the game, but it also ended up removing some of the great features that were in Ninja Gaiden Black," he says. "Gone are the Ninja Gaiden NES games that you could play in Black, and gone as well is the movie player that allowed you to check out cinematic sequences at your leisure." Overall, however, Villoria's review is largely positive. "The decision to remake the game for the PlayStation 3 was a sound one, since the game's greatest strengths still hold up against anything else available today," he states in conclusion. "This is easily one of the best games to play on your PlayStation 3, so don't miss out." Gavin Ogden at Games Radar predicts that Ninja Gaiden Sigma's gameplay will resonate especially well with PlayStation 3 owners. "If you liked the idea of Genji: Days of the Blade but were disappointed that the game sucked," he remarks, "we guarantee that Sigma will plug that gap." Rating Sigma at 9 out of 10, Ogden finds that the PlayStation 3-exclusive playable character is integrated well into gameplay progression. "In terms of new stuff for the PS3 version, the addition of Rachel the Fiend Hunter in playable form is by far the biggest draw," he says. "Her quest to find her sister is intertwined with the main adventure. So you'll do a few levels as Ryu then skip over to Rachel's part in the adventure. Sweet." Ogden also cites Sigma's "intense combat system," and impressive enemy AI as being among its greatest assets. "Ninja Gaiden Sigma is an action game like no other," he emphasizes. "Getting your head around the combat is key to having a good time. Once mastered, you'll find an immersive action romp full of original challenges, incredible environments and interesting characters." Kevin VanOrd at GameSpot begins his 9-out-of-10-rated review by addressing concerns as to whether Ninja Gaiden Sigma is less of a game than what fans are expecting. "No, Ninja Gaiden Sigma isn't a true next-gen sequel, nor is it a simple port of the Xbox release," he reasons. "But it does add a good deal of new content, both subtle and obvious. If you're a Ninja Gaiden enthusiast, you'll want to see the new chapters, reworked levels, and slicker graphics. And if for some reason you missed it before, this is a must-play game." The modifications to Ninja Gaiden's storyline work well, according to VanOrd. "Ryu's chapters are shifted and reworked to give greater context to Rachel's," he says. "In fact, every level offers unexpected surprises, both big and small. In some cases, it's as simple as different items found in treasure chests. In others, the significance of the adjustments will catch you off guard, but pleasantly so." "The changes are great, and they do more than throw in stuff for the sake of stuff," says VanOrd, though he notes one exception: "The only questionable one is the ability to shake the Sixaxis controller to give more power to your ninpo skills. It feels needlessly tacked on, and shaking the controller doesn't really jibe with the general slickness of the other controls." In all, however, VanOrd appears satisfied with Ninja Gaiden's PS3 debut. "Whether you're a series veteran or a newcomer, the in-your-face action of Ninja Gaiden Sigma is as exhilarating now as it ever was, and the new, slickly embedded content is surprisingly meaty," he concludes. "Play this game." Despite earning a slightly lower average review score than the original Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden Black, Ninja Gaiden Sigma appears to be a safe bet for those looking for a solid action game. PlayStation 3 owners should be especially appreciative of Sigma's appearance, given the console's currently limited software library, and the title could prove to be one of the PS3's top sellers for weeks to come.

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