Ninja Gaiden: Sigma

Preview: First impressions from the demo

Tecmo has released a Ninja Gaiden: Sigma demo via the PlayStation Network in Japan and the US. As soon as we heard the demo was live, we plugged in the Japanese PS3 and chunky step-down power converter and got to work downloading the meaty 900MB playable demo with one thought on our minds; would it really be any different to Ninja Gaiden: Black on Xbox?

Downloading the demo gives you access to the first chapter in its entirety as Ryu and one Ninja Gaiden: Black-style mission featuring Rachel as a playable character. Both options are available in normal, hard, very hard and master ninja difficulty levels, giving you plenty to chew on for a demo. Thankfully though there are plenty of health packs (Elixirs) to aid your quest.

The fact that there's a new character to play with, and that fact that it's Rachel, is one of the biggest draws to Sigma for those who hammered the Xbox version to death. And I proudly raise my hand as one of them. The demo is also the first time we've been able to get our hands on Tecmo's PS3 remake, since Eidos is being tight with playable code for us websites.

Rachel's playable mission level is brief, to say the least - especially if you know what you're doing. Still there are four difficulty levels to play with. Taking place inside the Monastery where Ryu fought her sister Alma, it gives you a good feel for how Rachel controls. She's not as fast as Ryu, she can't run along walls, and her weapon of choice is the powerful War Hammer.

With the block button held down (R1) she doesn't evade enemies as fluidly as Ryu. Instead of rolling from side-to-side she pirouettes in the direction you aim for. Ryu could roll far enough away from an attack to give him space to breath but Rachel's ballet-twists still leave her in harm's way.

When facing three or four enemies that crowd her it can be difficult to make enough space for yourself to be able to swing the hammer without consequence. Blocking and dodging attacks is every bit as important to Rachel's gameplay as it is with Ryu's, if not more. The sheer power of the hammer and her Ultimate Technique also compensate for her slight sluggishness.

Rachael can accessorise her earrings and hairstyle in the final game but there are no options to make changes in the demo. Swapping Rachel's earrings is effectively the same as Ryu changing Amulets. Each one has a different affect on offensive and defensive abilities. The playable mission is a brief but pleasant taste of what to expect from Rachel.

Back to Ryu and the entire first chapter though. It's good to see that you get a maxed out Dragon Sword to play with as this means there are various combinations unlocked for your learn right from the start. In the final game you can't begin to upgrade your sword until much later on, as the bloke in the shop is always out of the needed materials. Other weapons available from the start of the demo are the Nunchaku, Dabilahro, Lunar and Dragon's Claw & Tiger's Feng.

Structure-wise the free demo level is exactly the same as Ninja Gaiden: Black. If you know where to go and what to do with the Fangs of Samurai you can clock the level in around 15 minutes. Once you've done that you then open up the next level of difficulty, and so on, right up to the Master Ninja level. If you thought playing Halo 2 on Legendary difficulty was a challenge, you ain't seen nothing yet.

On harder difficulty levels it's possible for enemies to hit you while you block. So rolling around the environment and running along the walls to gain a height advantage to attack them from becomes imperative. Quite simply, you won't stand a chance unless you block and roll around your foes.

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