23 Jun

The Tecmo booth was sparsely populated one by the time I had flown by, although to be fair to the company, it was in the last hour of that day. In a frustrating sort of hurry, I tossed a glance around the company’s offerings for something worthy of the Elder-Geek crowd, and settled on the row of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 booths that adorned the aisle side of the company’s space.

I had always found the Xbox controller to have a more native feel for Team Ninja’s frenetic control scheme, even with the Playstation controller having a more intuitive button layout. The comparison between the two I had made a couple years back with the release of the original Ninja Gaiden Sigma versus my friend’s copy of Ninja Gaiden Black still stood, as I still felt dangerously close to breaking the controller in two due to my furious button pressing. But, aesthetic semantics aside, the game had a swift flow and expectedly quick combat, and still felt like a lot of fun, even when my pathetic ass was getting destroyed.

The demo dropped me into the fleet-feet of series’ icon Ryu Hayabusa, beset on all sides by beautifully rendered classic Japanese architecture and nondescript ninja baddies in desperate need of my sword up their esophagus. The build of the game was much faster paced than the retail version will be, as nearly every room contained a power up for me to play around with, so that I could get a feel for the title’s full range of battle and magic tactics within the short amount of time. That being said not much can be spoken off for the presented story arch, although not much looked to be changed from the original 360 release.

What can be detailed, however, are the intricacies of the combat, which thankfully feel as responsive and unforgiving as they should be. Gaiden had always been an astute challenge for any haughty gamer, a proven franchise meant to test the very breadth of its player’s mettle. That being said, my dumb ass was incredibly lucky to have been situated in a rather easy portion of the game, with only ninja lackeys to contend with and only a demo-ending cinematic teasing a future boss fight. It was rough going in the first couple battles, the brutal enemy AI refusing to stand idly by as I carved one of their friends with my filet-jitsu, forcing me to adopt both an offensive and defensive strategy.

Dodging is incredibly simple, once the move has been unlocked, a flick of the analog stick and a hold of the shoulder button; flashing you behind whatever enemy you were facing in a wisp of smoke. Attacks, again, are an even spread of heavy and swift maneuvers that need to be combined – rather than mashed – to survive, it’s almost a puzzle game, the required player input for the various combos and executions you want to execute speeding by at an incredible rate. Or, if you want to cheat, you can just rely heavily on sweet, merciful air combos, to hack off most of your opponent’s health and remove you from a lot of possible damage from his companions.

As I advanced across the various wooden bridges and walkways with an odd sounding clomp movement (is my ninja wearing clogs?), the demo gifted me with several more magical moves from Ryu’s catalog, including several charge-to-use area effect spells wonderful for making an entrance with. Just never try to charge it up with even a single enemy standing, they’ll cut you. With these spells and dodge rolls equipped, I was finally able to face more than a couple enemies without pussing out like the little bitch that I was. As I managed several fluid hacks that sprayed blood across the screen in glorious gratuity, staving off the homicidal urges within in me for a few more minutes.

If fault is to be found with the game, aside from the casual complaint of its difficulty, it’s with the execution moves. If certain buttons are pressed near downed (but not out) enemies, Ryu will take it upon himself to finish off his enemies Mortal Kombat style, usually requiring the removal of several limbs or strips of flesh. While juicy and a pleasure to see, their frequency is a bit over-the-top, the thrill of enacting them lessening after the fifth time in the same fight space. That aside, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is the blood-soaked, hard as hell hack-fest that we all expected it to be, our Playstation controllers beware.

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Published by: Koei Tecmo
Developed by: Team Ninja
Rating: M for Mature
Platforms: Playstation 3
Release Date: 2009
Genre: Action-Adventure