By William Shelton
Release Date: July 3, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed) PSVita
Developer: Team Ninja
Metacrtic Score: 88
Hearing that Team Ninja’s new game might be a Dark Souls like game set in ancient Japan (something I’ve wanted for a while now) I decided to give their previous work a look. After getting only 6 chapters into Ninja Gaiden Sigma I can say with absolute clarity that I am no longer excited for Nioh. This is, without hyperbole, one of the worst games I’ve every played and probably the worst I’ve reviewed thus far.
The first of many issues is the games story. From what I gathered it’s about a Ninja named Ryu looking for vengeance after a Demonic Samurai burns down his village. A simple tale, to be sure, but I liked more than a few games that offered even less in terms of story. Ninja Gaiden’s issue is that it doesn’t know how much it cares about it’s story. Just like in DMC each mission is bookended by short cutscenes which were fin on there own, but the first ones are always preceded by a text box that tells you pretty much the exact same information. I’d be fine if all the developers wanted to do was set up a scenes and get the players to the action quicker, but the way they went about it makes seem like either they really wanted us to care about the moronic story or that they didn’t think we were smart enough to read the boring text boxes. And worst of all, when you die (which you will do a lot) the loading screen is the story text box from the beginning of the game. This means you are contently being force feed a story you don’t care about hearing from a team who doesn’t care about telling it.
But that alone wouldn’t be much of an issue. I liked The Swindle, I liked DMC, I liked a lot of games with little to nor stories and I liked a few with bad stories too. The real issue here is the game play and how Team Ninja managed to completely miss the point of “challenging” game play. As the game starts things look pretty good as the combat is obviously meant to mimic Devil May Cry, a franchise I’ve long been a fan of. But upon encountering the first group of enemies the first of the games issues pops up: there’s no lock on. This means that as my opponent ninjas would leave the screen I’d have to take vulnerable time trying to find them, usually this meant they would get in a nice back attack while I was wrestling with the god awful camera. Say what you will about the fixed cameras in the original “DMC” or “God of War” but at least in those games you knew where your enemies were at all times. Here the camera is always in need to adjusting, either being too low or looking to far down. Another “fun” idea the developers had was that when you enter a new room the camera should be pointed at your character instead of the room itself, which is usually packed full of enemies. With both the lack of a lock on and a camera that is never where it should be, I often found I’d be attacking while being too far away to hit anything without knowing how much distance I needed to close.
And that’s just the tip of the mountain of shit that is Ninja Gaiden Sigma. While the basic attacks work fine, pretty much every other important technique you’ll need to know and use is untutorialized or just don’t work like they should. For example, the game tells you you can counter by pressing either Square or Triangle while blocking. This worked all of 3, maybe 4 times per level. I had to look up how to use magic, and once I learned what I had to do I still only got that to work twice in all, and never while enemies were on screen. Combos are all useless as no matter what I pressed Ryu acted before the I was done interning commands, so throughout my time with the game I just kept hitting square with the occasional heavy attack to break through blocks. Even when they did work, there are so many combos with the same command that choosing your attack is as much a lottery as a display of skill. One of the attacks I’d use the most was an in air heavy attack that dashed me towards an enemy…when it worked. Another attack that used the exact same command would see Ryu jumping up then slamming down on whoever was underneath him. As I was using this to get closer to enemies, this usually meant I’d just jump and slam into nothing while an off screen enemy hit me with throwing stars.
All of these issues come together in a climax of awful in the games boss fights. Not being able to get a real scene of how close I was to a boss meant not knowing when I’d trigger a melee attack from a boss who focused mostly on ranged combat, a boss on a bridge would run away from me then strike me from behind while I was trying to find him again. I can honestly say that I didn’t beat any of the bosses I fought, I lucked my way through them.
I ended up quitting the game 6 missions through the 19 available. Why? Because I saved with low health due to a fight right outside the save point, thinking nothing of it as there is a vendor around the corner. After dying and being sent back to the checkpoint the enemies that lowered my health to the point it was when I saved responded right outside save point. This is just bad game design. I was dying moments after loading the save because enemies I could not see where throwing exploding knifes at me. And yet, that;s still not the thing about this game I hate the most.
Every few deaths the game asks, as many do, if you’d like to lower the difficulty. If you say “yes game, I’d like to lower the difficulty to compensate for the incompetence of your creation” the game mocks you for this. The game literally chastises you for not wanting to deal with it’s mountain of bullshit and bad design.
The soul good thing on offer here is that the sound track has a nice Heavy Metal theme too it but that is far too little too late.
What really boggles my mind is that reviewers at the time of the games release were calling this “the best action game to ever come out” at the time. It’s not. DMC 1,3, and 4 were better. God of War was better. 2007 alone gave us Bioshock, Uncharted, Metroid Prime 3 and The Witcher. How anyone could think this game was even close to “good” or even “passably mediocre” is beyond me. This killed my excitement for “Nioh” and only made me wish I could replay DMC again, or any game that wasn’t made by morons who think their game will be good because Ninja’s are inherently cool. If you want to play Ninja Gaiden I whole hardheartedly finding a copy of the original Ness game. Emulate the damn thing if you have too, just don’t wast your time on this crap.