Ninja Gaiden Sigma
When I originally reviewed Tecmo's genre-redefining action-adventure for Xbox (way back in EGM #178), I honestly gushed, "I've never played a prettier game." Well, times change...and modern games such as Gears of War and Lair clearly push the graphical envelope far beyond Team Ninja's stunning last-gen achievement. It's impressive, though, that the visuals in this remake can still hang tough on PlayStation 3--thanks to some expert nip/tuck artistry, Ryu Hayabusa's adventure looks sexier than ever. It's a shame, then, that weird glitches (sync problems that make the screen "tear" when the camera moves, odd bouts of loading, even in combat) make it feel a bit like a slapdash port. Luckily, the fantastically deep gameplay overshadows any visual hiccups. Returning vets will adore Ryu's new toys (eviscerating enemies with dual katanas feels particularly brutal), and busty Rachel's all-new levels deliver an obscenely violent change of pace. Genuinely new content doesn't abound, but Sigma remains such an expansive, challenging, and wellpaced thrill ride that you won't care.
Ditto on the graphics. Even with those strange visual miscues, Sigma looks significantly better than both Xbox installments. But it's the brilliant gameplay that keeps Ryu at the top of the action crowd. The combat is extremely fast and fluid, and the formidable enemies force you to fight smarter. As far as the new stuff goes, though, I'm not impressed. The Rachel sections feel like an afterthought, and the pointless tilt controls (shaking the joypad to boost magic attacks) make me wonder why they bothered.
This being my first tour through this order, I had high expectations...and came away mostly impressed. Like these guys say, the fighting engine is divine. The graceful combat (minus some occasional iffy targeting) makes you appreciate the art of the counterattack. What you won't appreciate, though, is the godawful camera, which bogs down every big battle with bouts of babysitting. Given the game's age, though, the rest holds up remarkably well.