As a cut-scene lingers on a wobbling breast for the umpteenth time, you can’t help feeling that someone at Team Ninja needs to get out and meet some real girls. Worse, her slow movement and painful attack speed actually make you realise how awful Ninja Gaiden would be without the Ninja bit. In other words, the major new content introduced for the PS3 game is a series of dull, directionless and – seeing as they merely recycle enemies and environments from existing missions – utterly pointless levels. If you’ve already played Ninja Gaiden or Ninja Gaiden Black, there’s really no reason to return.
And this could be the game’s biggest flaw. It’s not that we expected Team Ninja to reinvent their game for the next-generation, but when you get beneath the new PS3 sheen, you’re left with what now seems to be a curiously old-fashioned game. Its lack of checkpointing or a sensible save system now seems archaic. The pauses between areas of a level and the restrictive, not particularly interactive environments place it in the era of Devil May Cry 3 and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, not Assassin’s Creed or even God of War. The emphasis on long attack combos, exhausting trials of combat and hidden treasures all pay testament to the old-school Japanese action game mentality. When we were used to Devil May Cry and Onimusha, this wasn’t a problem, but things have moved on in the last two years and Ninja Gaiden’s dated structure and game mechanics now stick out like a bruised and bloody sore thumb.
Still, if Ninja Gaiden Sigma can be a rather dated and adolescent experience at times, it’s hard to resist its gung-ho spirit or the constant, heady rush of its stylised violence. For every minute that you’re annoyed by the dated structure or frustrated by its ludicrous demands on your skill and stamina, there are ten when the action is exhilarating and the atmosphere totally immersive. For all its revamped looks it’s not a game that belongs in this generation; it’s too far away from the freeform, cinematic worlds we now hold dear. Yet it proves that when you add gorgeous graphics to the values of an older generation – breakneck pacing and a meaty challenge – the results can still hold water today.
Still beautiful, still brutal. Ninja Gaiden Sigma can’t hide its dated structure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a close-quarters action epic to be reckoned with.