Ninja Gaiden Sigma (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 Xbox in 2004, Ninja Gaiden was a challenging action-platformer following the revenge story of Ryu Hayabusa. Then in 2007, Team Ninja released Ninja Gaiden Sigma, bringing a more complete version of Ninja Gaiden 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 in this Rapid Review.
The Dark Dragon Blade
Ninja Gaiden Sigma features a basic, yet effective story. Simply put, Ryu Hayabusa’s clan has been slaughtered and an ancient relic, the Dark Dragon’s Blade, has been stolen by evil. As the last member of his clan, Ryu must take back this relic and save the world. Though this plot is simple, it establishes the premise of the game well. This game also features minor arcs for players to follow, further immersing them in the characters and world. These short storylines attach players to each character and make them significantly more meaningful than had they been excluded. These characters are also interesting, further enticing the audience to pay attention. For example, certain dead ninja corpses have diaries for Ryu to read, building lore and establishing connections with non-playable characters. While not groundbreaking, the story supplements the gameplay well.
The game further develops the story with its tutorial system. Helpful tips are thrown towards the player on messaging kunai. Though in the beginning, it seemed strange to receive these tips, their presence gets explained from a lore perspective. Moreover, they are nearly crucial to the gameplay. Most gameplay mechanics are explained, and other helpful tips are provided as well. One minor grievance with these tutorials is that they disappear once read. Generally, tutorials disappear once the player figures out how to perform the action. A text-based tutorial does not allow for active learning and can leave players confused. Furthermore, if the circle button (the button used to interact with the note) was held too long, it would immediately acknowledge the note as read. This infrequently burdened my play experience, as some notes were missed. Overall, the tutorials were thematic and properly conveyed the information the player needed.
This tutorial system allows players to immediately understand the fundamental gameplay principles the developers included. Throughout the game, the player discovers new techniques to master. Even in the beginning, Ryu is amply prepared for battle, equipped with the Dragon Sword and shuriken. As the player progresses, they receive additional weapons such as bows, flails, and smoke bombs. This variety in weapons allows players to create their own playstyle. Moreover, certain areas would incentivize the use of certain weapons, encouraging the player to learn all playstyles. The diversity in weaponry was done well, adding customization and reason for players to revisit this title. Not only does the player encounter new weaponry, but they also develop additional skills. From counterattacks to Ninpo (a type of magic), the player must constantly work to master their potential. These dynamic options ensure that combat is fluid, precise and requires mastery of the mechanics.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma demands mastery of mechanics with challenging bosses and enemies. Although they are tough, the player has the resources to combat them effectively. Initially, some enemies are overwhelming. For example, one enemy runs the player over with a motorcycle, dealing hefty damage. The player must learn their patterns and understand their weaknesses. To supplement player skill, the player is given proper startup animations, ensuring each hit is deserved. Player skill is the main determinant of success in Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Unfortunately, some enemies did detract from the overall experience. Certain enemies have grappling moves (attacks that grab the player), leaving them vulnerable. These attacks work fine but many have cutscenes that interrupt the flow of gameplay. This also leaves the player feeling helpless, as they watch Ryu get tormented. Despite some enemies breaking the flow of gameplay, the combat was extremely rewarding and satisfying.
Watch Out for my Stun Gun
Ninja Gaiden Sigma also features a large variety of boss fights. Bosses all feature unique patterns, and for the most part, are memorable. Some bosses felt mildly unfair, as they could do massive amounts of damage at little consequence. One boss rapidly shot a pistol at me, putting me in a stun for long enough where it was ineffective to rush him down. To combat this, I could outrange him and force him to approach. This made for a disappointing fight, as fast frantic gameplay is the main appeal of the game. Though not all bosses were perfect, most were excellent tests of challenge.
These bosses often taught players elements of the game that could be used elsewhere. In a fight against a frozen worm, ice shards appear seemingly out of nowhere. However, upon closer inspection, the player can look closely on the ground and see a flash of light where they will approach from. This same technique is used later when fighting other enemies. The boss fights ended up being one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game, offering rewarding skilful gameplay.
Riddle me This…
There are also many puzzle rooms that the player must figure out. These puzzle rooms range from finding various keys to finding out how to unlock a safe. These rooms were interesting and enjoyable, as they were never too harsh to uncover. The developers even bolded important phrases for the player to figure out. Occasionally, Ninja Gaiden Sigma would feature rooms that were difficult to navigate one way but could easily be traversed in another direction. This may confuse some players, thinking they cannot return when the intended route was to return the way they came from. There are no clues to help players who struggle with the advanced techniques required to traverse these areas if they cannot figure out specific manoeuvres. Despite that, the exploration aspect of this title was excellent and made the gameplay extremely enjoyable.
Hey! That is my Potion!
Another fundamental aspect of Ninja Gaiden Sigma was resource management. When enemies die, they drop essence. This essence can be collected and used at the shop to purchase health potions, additional uses of magic, and weapon upgrades. The player can also find weapons and health potions scattered throughout the areas they adventure through. Learning when to use these potions and when to hold on to them was a basic yet interesting aspect of the game. Players need to manage their essence, health, and weapon upgrades while ensuring they have enough essence saved for future fights. This added an additional level of strategy to the existing gameplay loop but was not too overwhelming. It offered much-needed assistance and while sometimes resources can be low, killing enemies and playing normally through the game allows players to rebound and recover healing items.
Due to the complex nature of the combat and emphasis on strategy, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is a challenging game even at the normal difficulty. To push more skilled players, the developers include additional difficulties, ensuring even the most skilled players are tested. The difficulty does not stop there. There are also optional rooms filled with challenging enemies that offer substantial rewards, such as boosts to the player’s total health. These both increase the players skill level and force the player to choose between short-term health, in the form of health potions, and long-term health, by increasing their base health. These challenge rooms were yet another way to motivate skilled players to perform well. There are even bonus challenges such as endless timed challenges, and a mission mode for players who seek more content. The difficulty is handled very well.
Only God can Save us Now
Despite difficulty being handled well, saving had some flaws. Overall, saving worked wonderfully. Players reached various totems that allowed them to save. The developers even included multiple save slots, so the player can save multiple runs. Unfortunately, there were some areas that should have had save totems but did not. The game is divided into nineteen chapters, and the end of each chapter marks a logical ending point for many players. This is reinforced by the boss fights that conclude each chapter. Dying after the chapter ends but before the first save point in the next chapter will force the player to complete a fight that they already assumed was complete. This hurts because the game highlights completion with a victory screen. These deaths will severely hinder the enjoyment of the player. Though occasionally the save points were withheld, save points were often placed frequently and were extremely effective.
Ninjas Should Not Make Noise
To supplement the gameplay, the game featured various cutscenes. Considering the age of the game, these are truly stunning. They immerse the player in the game and bring additional fast-paced action to an already exciting title. These cutscenes are done extraordinarily well. Whilst the presentation of the cutscenes was delightful, the in-game graphics were simply fine. Textures were occasionally muddy and certain key objects would blend into the background. Despite this, the visuals were also sufficient. Enemies stood out and had distinct designs that fit the theme of the game. Even boss designs were innovative. The presentation, though imperfect, had many strengths.
The sound, on the other hand, had fewer strengths. The soundtrack was reminiscent of a movie, bringing a suspenseful backdrop in various locales. This may even creep players out as they are playing. Though it sets the scene well, the music was not memorable and will not leave a lasting impact. The sound effects however were less impressive. They often sounded staticky and when many enemies died in quick succession, there would be a cacophony of staticky mess. Despite a mediocre soundtrack, the enemy death noises were truly disappointing.
Finally, the game performed perfectly. The game never froze or stuttered during my gameplay. However, at times, especially when travelling through city locales, a loading screen would begin in the middle of a fight, resulting in uncontested damage to the player. This is most likely a glitch that will be remedied by the developers, and it happened extremely infrequently (perhaps 3 times throughout my playthrough) but it is still important to mention.
Overall, Ninja Gaiden Sigma was an excellent title for those who are ready to test their skills and improve. It offers rewarding gameplay and challenges for those who desire more. It is a little dated, meaning visuals may not be as spectacular as players have come to expect. Regardless, the presentation is solid, and this game leaves me excited to continue in the Ninja Gaiden series. I enjoyed my time with Ninja Gaiden Sigma.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on the PlayStation Store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.