And despite Team Ninja’s assurances that Ninja Gaiden Sigma – the new, PlayStation 3 revamp of the game – is conceived as a Ninja Gaiden for everyone, this is still very much the same game. Most of the time, the game sits just about on the right side of challenging. Even if there are some gruesome difficulty spikes, you’re nearly always left feeling that the fault is with you and your inability to rise to the challenge. Even when the game smacks you hard against the tarmac time and time again, you’re sure that if you could just time your moves right, adjust your tactics and make every hit count, it might be your turn to triumph next time around.
But there are definitely times when Ninja Gaiden Sigma takes this one step too far. Fighting wave after wave of aggressive heavy-hitting zombies should be an unnerving experience, not an exhausting one where your main concern is the tiresome half hour of gameplay you’ll be forced to repeat should your hero collapse. Stacking tough encounters one after another in a game without a checkpoint system is a hideous practice, while the use of respawning enemies in frequently passed-through locations should have been outlawed years ago. Changes have been made to accommodate the less proficient, with the odd added save point or a new potion and upgrade store chiselled in, but be warned. If you play games just to enjoy the experience – rather than to prove to yourself that you have the ‘L33T’ skills of the true cyber-ninja – Ninja Gaiden Sigma has several brick-wall moments where those of us with jobs, hobbies or families to contend with may be tempted to find a more rewarding use for our time.
Nor are these the only times when we’ll be thinking that maybe we’re getting a little old for this kind of thing. Team Ninja clearly liked the original game’s supporting heroine, Rachel, enough to give her the starring role in a handful of levels of her own in Sigma. The unfortunate thing is that she’s actually a bit of an embarrassment: a fourteen-year-old boy’s leather-clad, ridiculously bosomed fantasy of a woman who totters around on high heels while wielding a massive hammer.