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Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Rachel's bringing sexy back to the hardest ninja game ever!

By now you should all know the story behind Ninja Gaiden Sigma on PS3. You should know that it's a remake of one of the best games on Microsoft's big black box. You should know that tons of new stuff has been added and you should also be aware that it's all been wrapped up in bright sparkling HD graphics that only PS3 can do. If you liked the idea of Genji: Days of the Blade but were disappointed that the game was actually crap, we guarantee that Sigma will plug that gap.

If you're ever played Tecmo's Dead or Alive boob-fixated beat-'em-ups on Xbox then the main dude in Sigma should look familiar. Yep, Ryu Hayabusa is the ninja bloke from DOA who's so hard he's been given his own game. In fact Sigma is the latest Ninja Gaiden title in a series that dates back to the arcades of 1998.

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There's a lot of history and folklore attached to the series which fans love to obsess over. All you need to know is that these stories basically boil down to Ryu stepping up and destroying whatever dark enemy fancies a shot at global domination next. He's a bit like Batman, only with ninja skills and allies who all have enormous inflatable-looking norks.

Feel free to completely ignore Sigma's storyline or take it as seriously as you like. It won't make any difference to the heart-pumping, ridiculously challenging action game that lies between the pages of the plot. If you require a little bit more info though, the story centres on the Dark Dragon Blade, which has been kept safe by warriors of the Dragon Lineage for years. The Dark Dragon Blade is nicked when nobody's looking by the next supernatural Samurai vying for world supremacy and it's up to fearless Ryu and friends to go and fetch it.

As well as a complete graphical overhaul, Tecmo has included Rachel as a playable character. Previously you only got to drool over her in cutscenes, but in Sigma she plays a side-quest besides the main one with Ryu.

In terms of new stuff for the PS3 version, the addition of Rachel the Fiend Hunter in playable form is by far the biggest draw. Her quest to find her sister is intertwined with the main adventure. So you'll do a few levels as Ryu then skip over to Rachel's part in the adventure. Sweet.

What sets Ninja Gaiden apart from other third-person games is its intense combat system. Many of those Xbox people moaned and groaned that it was just too hard and as a result a lot of players lost interest and put the pad down a few levels in. If they'd had any patience at all they would have realised the combat system requires you to know what you're doing. Randomly hammering buttons will only get you killed. God of War II, this isn't.

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The key to Sigma's combat is in blocking, moving around the environment and picking the right moment to strike. R1 is block and you'll to get to know that button really well, it'll quickly become your best friend.

A good rule of thumb is to have R1 pressed whenever you're not attacking. That way, any new incoming strikes - that you might not have even seen - can be parried giving you a split-second to counter. Ryu can swipe enemies into the air (a bit like Kratos) and this is where he's most effective.

As Sigma is essentially a Dead Or Alive fighting game expanded into an adventure, you need to approach the combat in the same way as you would the classic versus bruiser. The AI of the enemy is impressive and it'll take every opportunity to cut you down. Swipe an enemy upwards, perform a quick mid-air combo and then finish by plunging your sword into their bellies as they fall to the ground.

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