Ninja Gaiden (Sigma) 3: Razor’s Edge (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £39.99 for the Master Collection), Gaiden Sigma 1, 2, 3 included. Controller necessary.
Where To Get It: Steam

Hrm… The Ham is strong with this one… I mean, it was hammy before, but Razor’s Edge… Yup, this is the hammiest of the Ninja Gaiden games, and also the one that brings in annoying stuff earlier, but… I have to admit, if it weren’t for the whiny voice of the first villain (as opposed to the mastermind), I think I’d have enjoyed the early portions of the game a bit more.

I will admit though, watching the Prime Minister get ganked, even if it’s not the right one, is oddly cathartic.

I still enjoyed them a fair bit, because slicing foes up in this one is fun, the blood is on by default, the ham is pretty hammy, and because unlike the other two, I gave in and played on Hero mode. Yes, I am not the best at these kinds of things. Yes, I still came extremely close to death several times in the first two levels alone, as while there is regeneration of health after fights, your max health lowers if you’ve taken serious wallopings until you can regenerate it all back at a health point.

Anyway, yes, Ninja Gaiden is a character action game, a game of jumping and running and clambering over maps, beating the snot out of enemies with combos and special attacks and all sorts of different weapons you can theoretically switch quickly between, ninja magic (Ninpo Arts), instakills on wounded enemies, and Flashy Boss Fights. It is my jam, even if I’m not terribly good at them.

Yes, I chose the edgiest costume. Because why not?

Still… It’s time to mention the thing I really should have mentioned for the first two games, but will mention here because it’s pretty much mandatory to get the hang of from level 2: The bow. Is. Trash. Yes, it will instakill some enemies. Yes, for some enemies, it will auto-target. Yes, if you hold the aim button, you can switch enemies easily and it locks on most of the time. But also yes, this takes up valuable dodging time, murdering time, and seeing projectiles coming at you time.

Graphically, it’s solid. I won’t say it’s the prettiest, as it feels a little out of date, but it is pretty, the characters are designed well, and I can definitely tell when someone’s pulled out a gun. The music, also, is nice, it’s largely accessible, with subtitles and so on, it’s checkpointed well…

Just visible are one of several assholes which require the godawful bow to kill. Joy.

And of the three Sigmas, it’s… Not the one I’d most recommend. The other two bring the bow in a little later, as mentioned, it’s the hammiest of the three, and it’s also the one that uses the buttons most of all. Is it still good? Aye. Is it still peanut buttery, and not beginner friendly? Even the easiest difficulty is, make no mistake, a bit of a git… A fair bit of a git. But, since you’d be getting these in a trilogy pack anyways, well, at least try the peanut butter, since you’ve already resolved to taste it with one of the other two.

2 is still my favourite of the three, though.

The Mad Welshman wonders if we can get a BoJo mod, one where the model of the PM is slightly different, and there’s loud cheering and applause when… No? No? Well, it didn’t hurt to ask…

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £39.99 for the Master Collection), Gaiden Sigma 1, 2, 3 included. Controller necessary.
Where To Get It: Steam

Now that I, Ryu Hayabusa, ninja who has gone from blue to deep, edgy black, have learned that Triple Buffering is bad for my games, I can properly be an awful ninja who forgets how to block and dodge, despite those being terribly important things, in the second installment of Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden, Sigma 2. Which is, honestly, a friendlier game, for the most part.

As in the first game, however, the camera can be your worst damn enemy.

Not the biggest fan of RB being “snap the camera back to somewhere over Ryu’s right shoulder” and hold RB for “Show me the path to go”, not only because that makes things awkward, but also because the way not to go often contains goodies, and the way to go inevitably contains fights I’m not so hot at with anything between two and… does a fingermath… Silly amounts of enemies (Okay, okay, the upper limit’s generally about eight, with more spawning in in longer battles.) Once again, controller mandatory, this is a character action game, so there’s a lot of blocking, dodging, combos, special Ninpo Arts, weapon switching, item switching, camera struggling… Less camera struggling than the first game, but definitely not free of it…

There be a lot of buttons, although your main ones are the fighty ones. Switch items mid-battle when you’re good at it, and maybe choose Hero mode.

However, when it’s not, congrats, you can enjoy some fun murdertimes.

In any case, the second installment is much more bombastic from the get-go. The team of Eeeeevil Ninjas, the Spider Clan, are once again up to no good, trying to claim demon artefacts to get demon powers while also being very devilish themselves, and your first boss fight is against… Buddha. Okay, okay, a gigantic Buddha statue, but it allows me to say that Ryu Hayabusa is a big believer in “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”

Aesthetically, it’s definitely an improvement, pretty solid by today’s standards, visually nice, good music, much more organic sounds of death and blood, and, in a nice touch, you can either have the censored version’s purple smoke for blood, or, y’know… Blood. Oddly, the censors still allowed dismemberment. Maybe because it’s such a big part of the game. Cut a limb with a weapon off, bam, they’re less useful. Cut a leg off, they’re not going to do much, movement wise. Cut both legs off a Spider Clan ninja and you’re silly enough not to use the simple instakill-when-wounded of “Hit Y when you’re next to an enemy for a kill animation”, and they’ll try to grab you and self destruct.

“Ah. Clearly, this is Thursday. I never could quite get the hang of Thursdays…”

It’s still a peanut butter style deal, still not an entry level character fighter (although it’s likely as good as you’re going to get in this combo heavy, don’t button-mash but consider your movey type deal), but I’d more comfortably recommend this one to players looking to get into games where single people (sometimes different single people in certain chapters) beat the living snot out of multiple people at once, then beat the living daylights out of a boss, usually a loud and powerful one.

The Mad Welshman would kill the Buddha on the road, but the Buddha’s kind of far away, and he’s rather tired, and just not up to it. Here, this Buddha’s yours…

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £39.99 for the Master Collection), Gaiden Sigma 1, 2, 3 included. Controller necessary.
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Ryu Hayabusa. You’ve gone through a few changes over the years. But it’s mostly been an upward trend. And Sigma is… Alright. Solid character fighter, with some good enemy designs. Although that assessment isn’t without its qualifications.

He is such a badass, he knows exactly how to hold a sword to make it glitter in your face.

In any case, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is an action game in which the aforementioned Ryu Hayabusa must recover the Demon Sword that was in his clan’s care (It’s been taken and used for evil before, after all), and to take vengeance for the murder of clan members, slashing and polesmacking and generally murdering a bunch of enemies, from other ninja clans to an authoritarian military to demons, and finally, the Big Bad. Fun stuff. And definitely controller mandatory.

Or rather, it would be fun stuff if the camera weren’t my deepest enemy, and if Triple Buffering is turned off, because otherwise the game’s framerate drastically drops.

I freely admit, I didn’t get very far in playing it, because of these very frustrations. Jumping is… Finicky, the camera can sometimes just look straight down and obscure my view of anything, as sometimes happens in character action games in confined spaces do (and there are quite a few confined spaces. Usually with enemies in them.) If there’s enemy lockon, I couldn’t find it, and so, awesome moves like the swallow blade (jump, press Y to muller somebody’s head off in a diving arc) are also finicky.

It’s actually kinda pretty, too, for something that was originally a PS3 title. Not mind blowing, but you can definitely say, at points, “Damn, this scenery, huh?” or “Hrm, that sure is a tank, wonder if it- YES, IT’S MANNED, KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT WITH FIRE.” A combo of hard buttrock and traditional Japanese music makes the soundtrack, and the sound effects… Well, those feel a little older than they maybe should, but hey, not everything has to be awesome.

Why yes, I would like to juggle you to death, thank you for being co-operative with that!

Still, from what I’m aware, it has some frankly baffling level design decisions at some points. Okay, yes, you, uhh… Don’t have much of a move set underwater, Ryu. So why did they put you through a swimming level, mmm? Or the labyrinthines sewer level, just a bit earlier.

Look… Look… People. Hate. Sewer Levels. They’ve hated them since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. Also, the subtitles I saw were missing about half the time, which is a problem (both accessibility wise and generally), and the easy difficulty mode is only unlocked by dying a whole bunch… So, definitely a mixed bag, even today.

To be honest, Ninja Gaiden Sigma’s gameplay, janky as it is at times, is a peanut butter situation. If you’re not a longtime “Make combo and guard to kill enemy, use different weapon which do different thing for different folks” type player, this definitely isn’t an intro level game, and it likely won’t appeal that much.

The Mad Welshman is, on the one hand, not a fan of peanut butter. They are a fan of character action games, even if they are not the best at them.

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Stranger of Sword City Revisited (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £44.99 (Both this and Saviours of Sapphire Wings, £9.99 for each of the two soundtracks)
Where To Get It: Steam

Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Bated breath and everything. Actually, it’s nice that my breath isn’t bated anymore, it was a real hassle. But yes, Stranger of Sword City is being Revisited, and I am very much down for trying it.

After all, when I last saw it, that one samurai guy kicked my ass, and I want to return the favour this time around with more quality of life, y’know?

Why yes, that is a Japanese schoolgirl with a big honkin’ sword, demon armour, who’s just sliced up a giant monster but good, why do you ask?

So yes, as mentioned in the Saviors of Sapphire Wings review, this is bundled with said game, and both are step based, grindyish RPGs in the vein of Etrian Odyssey or Wizardry, where you have to take the time to get powerful enough to beat that next asshole that’s blocking progress. You explore maps, you get random encounters and not-so-random encounters and bosses (I wouldn’t dare call any of them, except the beginning goblin, a miniboss), and you try and level up to get more special bosses murdered, to eventually…

Ahhh, but here we get to story, and honestly, I like this: You’ve been transported to a different world, a world where the detritus of multiple worlds ends up, including ours. And you are a chosen soul. Think that’s cool?

Well, it actually means everyone’s after either your allegiance or your head. And there are three major factions, each with their own goals to work with. It’s relatively minimal, with the focus more being on the world and its encounters, but it is interesting stuff, and the world is an asshole.

I do not wish to discuss the implications of your starting equipment at this time, thank you…

Aesthetically, it works a’ight. There’s a custom uploader for character portraits, but beyond this, and the great character/monster art already in the game, the UX is mostly workmanlike, pretty clear, everything important identified… It’s solid. I can’t really say the sound effects wow me, and the music’s alright, but overall, it’s solid, and that’s cool.

Mechanically… Okay, let’s get one thing out the way right now: If you want a game that respects your time, gives you an experience that doesn’t involve a whole lot of repetition, neither this or Sapphire Wings is it. This is an old school JRPG, and you either grind or die. Now that we have the turnoff out of the way, the game’s systems are relatively simple.

Creating multiple characters is a must for the game, as party members have a limited amount of resurrects, and if you’re not using those, they’re out for quite a while, several dungeon expeditions, in fact. Levelling and classes, well, they have fixed roles, fixed trees, and stat improvement is relatively slow, but consistent. What’s important here is that the game’s length is somewhat increased by keeping characters consistent in levels, and making sure you have backup roles, in order to ensure progression is relatively smooth.

At this time in the game, these are chumps to me. Their boss, on the other hand…

You will get caught off guard by bosses. You will run away from fights. And you will be making use of all your tools, including the new feature, Freemen. Technically, the other “new” classes are not, in fact new (the Puppeteer and the Clocker, who do enemy control and time fuckery respectively), but the Freeman most definitely is, and, at first? Doesn’t seem that useful.

However, even if they can’t take to the field like any of your other heroes, they level up in base like any other party member (At a reduced rate), and their levelling benefits… Make your life easier at home. Better experience gain for folks at the base. Better rates from the smith. Other fine benefits like that.

I could say a lot more, but, apart from the big caveat of “It’s an oldschool JRPG”? It’s a really solid game, and I’d already been looking forward to this Revisited version precisely because I already knew it was a cool member of its subgenre. It comes with Sapphire City, also reviewed this month, so it’s a solid purchase overall. Give it a go, JRPG fans.

I am no stranger to Sword City. We just never got past the hatesmooches phase in our relationship.

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Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Found thingumajigger type games can be interesting. When, that is, they properly open up. Or don’t tell a random person who found a random phone that they’re looking for a doctor who isn’t actually a doctor but travels through time and space.

Y’know, just normal found mobile game stuff, which wouldn’t result in the protagonist dropping the thing in the trash or handing it into a police station or… Look, there’s immersion breaking, and then there’s “everything about this feels wrong from very early on.”

Petronella…? Petronella, honey? UNIT is sort of meant to not talk about the Doctor so much, even if the Doctor talks about the Doctor the whole time…

None of the choices I’m given seem like something I would say in the situation. Some of the clues I’d like to pass on I can’t. I’ve been handheld for approximately 17 minutes (I’ll update as I go on.) For the first twenty minutes… I don’t feel like I’m solving anything.

It does, after this point, begin to open up. But… I still feel like I’m an observer of an observer, someone who’s more watching someone else click through a phone, listening to phone calls, talking to, as mentioned, someone who just casually mentions the Doctor like it ain’t no thing… A person I’m watching who doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, every time the Doctor comes up in conversation, I wince. Because, from the outside looking in, it feels so forced.

And, at times, I feel a frustration I haven’t felt in a long time. The frustration of having to go through all dialogue options to end the conversation in question, get back to the uploading of clues. And that’s forced in, most of all, when talking about the Doctor.

If they’ve bought the game, they know who the Doctor is. They know. They don’t need Petronella Osgood to forcefeed them.

Spooky! Scary! Neither of these adjectives actually held true for me!

It’s at this point that I feel I should point out that the history of Doctor Who games (and their quality) has been… Variable, but tending toward the lower end. Which is a massive shame, because it’s an interesting franchise, with some really memorable plots (and yes, some notable stinkers.) And yet…

It tries to jumpscare me, and I merely sigh. I see the staticky bits, and I tut, noting that this is not an epileptic friendly game.

And the mystery… After an hour or so, I stopped caring. I’m surprised I lasted that long, because apart from trips to jumpscare territory (and one unskippable video of a secondary antagonist, Mr. Flint), it… Didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. It was holding my hand for a fair few portions, and, honestly, it didn’t sell the concept it was trying to pull off at any point in that hour and a half. I come away disappointed, and the history seems on course.

I have more faith in Petronella Osgood than this, game, chatty though she may be…

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