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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

The Ninja Gaiden franchise was once synonymous with its unrelentingly difficult 1989 NES ancestor, but now, 20 years later, it’s starting to look like the Field Of Dreams of videogames. Since being revived in 2004 as a separates-the-boys-from-the-men challenging Xbox game, it was subsequently refined, tweaked, and re-released twice over the next three years before reaching across the aisle and landing on the PlayStation 3 with Ninja Gaiden Sigma. And so, after last year’s release of Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360, its fine-tuned sibling Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is now coming to the PlayStation 3.

Sigma 2’s plot is as convoluted as its lineage: Essentially, über-ninja Ryu Hayabusa must hunt down a stolen statue to prevent the resurrection of a demon—though the trademark Ninja Gaiden over-the-top specifics include a lingerie-clad, bolo-tie-wearing CIA agent; sword-wielding wolves; a werewolf giving an impassioned speech; and the Statue Of Liberty going on a rampage that would make the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man proud. It’s all an excuse for another mindless killing rampage in the name of revenge, which would be fine, except the remixed package seems more arbitrarily nitpicked than polished. The previously notoriously gory game that had you hacking off limbs and heads has noticeably dialed down the blood, and dumbed down the quest by allowing a button-press to instantly signal where you should be headed at all times. Aside from these middling innovations, there’s also a crowd-pleaser: Jiggling the female characters’ already laughably inflated bosoms by seductively shaking your controller. Finally.

The bigger additions, curiously, are relatively short-lived. When they aren’t inflicting lower-back pain on themselves at your insistent jiggling, demon-hunter Rachel, shrine-maiden Momiji, and female ninja prodigy Ayane now each get their own individual levels interspersed throughout the course of Ryu’s quest, but they’re too short to serve as justification for hardcore fans to shell out more cash for the same game again. Online co-op in 30 different challenges is another decent respite (though it’s sometimes irritatingly laggy), but it mainly whets appetites for the more formidable, unlockable difficulties. If the last Ninja Gaiden you played came out before 2008, Sigma 2 is an acceptable way of checking back in with the series, but devotees will want much more, and not just a mode where you can play as a pair of boobs with a sword.