Ninja Gaiden Sigma II (part of Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection)
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA Corporation
Genre(s): Fighting, Action-Adventure, Hack and Slash
Platform: PS4 (also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 10/06/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Released on the Xbox 360 in 2008, Ninja Gaiden II was a challenging action-platformer following Ryu Hayabusa, an acclaimed ninja warrior. Then in 2009, Team Ninja released Ninja Gaiden Sigma II, bringing a more complete version of Ninja Gaiden II to the PlayStation 3. Now, in 2021, Team Ninja has released the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on most modern consoles. Featured in this collection are Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Do these titles still stand today? Find out my thoughts on Ninja Gaiden Sigma II in this Rapid Review.
Cutscenes of Glory
Like its predecessor Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma II features a simple story. Enemies of Ryu have stolen an item that will help them resurrect the archfiend, an evil being capable of massive destruction. Ryu must step up as the chosen ninja and prevent the world from falling into disarray. While simple, the story sets the scene very well and players will comprehend this title even without playing the first Ninja Gaiden.
To supplement the story, there were animated cutscenes that play to further establish the game’s context. These are well-crafted, and fully immerse the player in the game. Even though they were enjoyable and helped the game flow, they did not consist of invigorating action as frequently as the first one. Often, they would simply show Ryu walking into a new area or leaving, being used as a plot device rather than something to excite the player. Regardless, they heightened the experience and I enjoyed their presence.
Back at it Again
Though the story serves its purpose, the main component of Ninja Gaiden Sigma II is the gameplay. The developers did not stray from the gameplay of Ninja Gaiden Sigma whatsoever. Many of the mechanics, abilities, and enemies are taken from the original title. This lack of originality was a little disappointing because the enemies were mostly recycled from the previous game and the abilities of the player were mainly the same. There were a few additional abilities granted to the player that flesh out the title. For example, Ryu can use a finishing move to execute his enemies before their death, forcing the player to react to visual cues. Even with these excellent minor changes, the game does not feel like a new experience if the player has played the first title.
On the other hand, though all original weapons return, they are brought back alongside some new weapons. These new weapons give additional depth to the gameplay, changing how the player plays and what they focus on. The game even incentivizes experimentation via the game’s upgrade system. Upgrades are granted at marked shops. In such shops, the player can upgrade a weapon one time. Players cannot upgrade weapons completely until they progress to a certain area. This forces players to use those upgrade points on other weapons. This encourages players to try out new weapons, as they must upgrade them regardless. I found this to be more enjoyable than how the developers implemented upgrading in Ninja Gaiden Sigma, and it allowed me to experiment with weapons I otherwise would not have.
No Longer Given the Toughest Battles
With such great weaponry, the enemies must be powerful to stand a chance. They are well-crafted, and the attack patterns are fair and give the player proper response time. However, in comparison to the last title, there are far fewer enemies to fight between each checkpoint. This segues into one of the largest grievances I had with the game. Though the difficulty title is the same, due to the various changes implemented in Ninja Gaiden Sigma II, the difficulty is significantly reduced. This was not communicated to the player. Considering many introductory levels are basic, it may be a while before the player discovers that they are better suited for a more challenging mode, and at that point, it is inconvenient to change the difficulty.
The population of save points was not the only factor in making this title easier than the last one. Ninja Gaiden Sigma II also replenishes the player’s health at each checkpoint which was a very welcome addition. This ensures that the player is granted enough resources to get through the level even at lower skill levels. What was less enjoyable was that the developers included two different types of health. All damage received during a fight lasts for the duration of the fight. They also added another layer to the health system. There is lasting damage. This damage lasts until healed, meaning it lasts even after the battle. All damage other than lasting damage is healed after the fight, making each combat insignificant. In Ninja Gaiden Sigma, combat was deliberate due to the difficult and precise combat sections. This system makes combat less precise and does not require skilful gameplay.
Brand New Bosses
Despite this lacklustre difficulty, the combat was still enjoyable, and this was especially true during the boss fights. Many were completely different from the fights in the prior game, giving new foresight on how to master the Ninja Gaiden series. Moreover, the execution technique mentioned earlier takes a large role in many boss fights. Often Ryu must execute the bosses, or the fight continues. This requires that the player approach the boss and that they understand the mechanics and spacing well. Boss fights were enjoyable but were still a bit easy due to the lack of resource scarcity that was present in the previous title.
The changes to the boss designs were mainly positive, but the level design was not as well thought out as the previous title. The map is no longer interconnected, and the player randomly shows up at a location at the beginning of many chapters. This is not inherently bad, but in comparison to the immersion featured in Ninja Gaiden Sigma, this was a bit of a let-down. Moreover, instead of exploring dungeons, finding keys, and navigating a treacherous unknown landscape, the levels are linear. There are no puzzles or interwoven paths. The game simply focuses on combat. This was disappointing, as I enjoyed the exploration sections of the prior title. Regardless, this design decision makes sense. It also allowed for an extremely handy mechanic, a button that faces Ryu in the direction needed to progress, something that would have been difficult with an interwoven map.
Despite being brought down by the linearity, changes to difficulty and lack of innovation, the gameplay on offer in Ninja Gaiden Sigma II is enjoyable and it was still quite fun to blast through waves of enemies. It was just not the Ninja Gaiden game I was expecting. Luckily, there are multiple difficulty modes and additional challenges, such as racecourses and specific trails for players who want more. On subsequent playthroughs, players will be engaged and more aptly challenged.
Even though the gameplay of Ninja Gaiden Sigma II was similar to the gameplay of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the visuals are completely overhauled. The art style is stunning, and the UI flashes much better than before. Enemies stand out from the background and are distinct and colourful. Even weapons change their appearance when upgraded, showing the subtle details the developers put in. The visuals are delightful.
The sound is adequate. The sound effects serve their purpose, giving player feedback on their hits and acknowledging them of their shielding. The music was fine as well, but nothing special. It still felt like the backdrop of a movie and set the scene ominously. The sound never stood out as spectacular, but it was not bad either.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma II is an extremely faithful sequel to Ninja Gaiden. Despite the lack of innovation and more specific scope, this title is an excellent purchase for players who loved the combat of Ninja Gaiden Sigma and want more. Even though I was let down by some aspects of the title, I still had a really good time playing it.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase Ninja Gaiden Sigma II on the PlayStation store here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.