Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - Review

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Tomonobu Itagaki has left the building, and yet, the show must go on: what’s left of Tecmo’s Team Ninja studio have gotten together to develop Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for the PlasyStation 3 console. As expected, development head Itagaki’s departure has had significant effect on some of the key elements of the game.
The Two Ninja Clans
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
You can either look at this game as a sequel to Ninja Gaiden Sigma, which was released on the PS3 in 2007 or you could call it a port of Ninja Gaiden 2, an Xbox 360 exclusive released in June 2008. Whichever way you look at it, this Ninja Gaiden on the PlayStation 3 is a very different beast compared to its Xbox version.
Even though the game retains the dismembering Obliteration moves from Ninja Gaiden 2, blood is a rare sight in Sigma 2. Most enemies (like Spider Ninjas) bleed some kind of glowing liquid of various hues, while others have green blood or oil oozing out of their dismembered corpses. Overall, gore in the game has been drastically toned down.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Additionally, veterans of Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox will find Sigma 2 far easier to beat – almost a walk in the park. Enemy encounters in a chapter (or level) have been reduced and the number of enemies you find at a time on the screen is also low. In spite of more bosses in the game, the battles themselves are far easier to win as the damage done by the player is greater and no longer dependent on which body part is hit.
Ninja Dog
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Playing on ‘Warrior’ difficulty, which is the highest level available during the first play-through, I was able to breeze through the first eight or nine chapters without the need to cast Ninpo (magic) or purchase any healing items. In fact, Ninpo feels more like an added luxury rather than an essential strategic addition to your arsenal, as one can beat the game without ever casting Ninpo.
But there might be a positive to this, depending on where you come from: Ninja Gaiden has always been reputed to be a difficult franchise to play, let alone master, and that has made the games elitist, to a certain extent. With rebalanced difficultly, more people should be able to enjoy the awesomeness that is Ninja Gaiden since the game still retains its tight combat mechanics.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Ryu’s weapons stash has changed a bit compared to Ninja Gaiden 2. There are two ranged weapons available now, including a new one called Howling Cannon. All other ranged weapons from the X360 version have been left out. Simple shurikens are permanently mapped to a button on the gamepad and always available to be thrown in conjunction with any of the other two ranged weapons.
On the other hand, all melee weapons have been retained; additionally, Dabilahro makes a comeback in its new avatar of Enma’s Fang. Upgrading weapons does not cost anything in this version, but it is tightly controlled by the game: Not all Muramasa shops will have the option of upgrading weapons, and the upgrade level is locked with progress of the game.
From the Dojo of Colossal Bosoms
Rachel, the demon huntress from the first Sigma game, makes a comeback as a playable character. Joining forces with her are two other familiar maidens: the ninja Ayane and the shrine maiden Momiji. They each come with their exclusive arsenal – a melee weapon, a ranged weapon, and a Ninpo power – along with the infamous Sixaxis Support.
There is also one level dedicated to each of the three characters, woven into the main storyline. Once you have finished these chapters, that particular character becomes available for the multiplayer co-op mode. These female characters may appear to be frail and even vain; however they are well-designed and can easily hold their own against the enemy horde.
Master Ninja
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Additional content comes in the form of alternate costumes that are available to be unlocked for all the playable characters in the game, including Ryu Haybusa. Also, there are new boss encounters in the game and at least one of them makes a return; apparently not satisfied with the ass-kicking he received in Ninja Gaiden 1.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Visually the game appears to be an improvement over the X360 version. It justifies the 3GB+ installation with visibly improved frame rate. The game can also output graphics at full HD resolution (1080p), something that is not very common on the PlayStation 3. Also, textures appear to be of higher quality and the colors are more vivid. On the flipside, however, there are stray issues with collision detection while in combat.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
After you beat the game on any difficulty, two new game modes are unlocked. ‘Chapter Challenge’ retains all the weapons unlocked during the single-player campaign, along with the upgrades you might have made. The objective is to play through the game once again, one chapter at a time, maximising the Karma score and then uploading the results on the online Leaderboards.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
The other mode is called ‘Team Mission’ and it challenges the player with waves of enemies while being confined to a fixed-sized combat arena. Again, the objective is to rack up Karma points; however, in this mode, you have a partner to help you and effectively share the glory of victory. One can choose their partner to be either A.I. controlled or team up with another player on the PSN network. In addition to the game’s protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa, you can also choose to play or partner with Ayane, Rachel or Momiji.
Teaming up with your partner when casting magic will result in what the game calls “Ultimate Ninpo” – an explosion of epic proportions. If your partner loses all hit-points, you have to rescue him or her; otherwise you will fail that mission.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
At the end of a mission, the game tallies and rates your Karma score and displays breakup of the kill-ratio between you and your partner. From here, you have the option to upload your Karma score, save video of the battle in ‘Ninja Cinema’ or to simply move on to the next mission. There are a total of 35 Team Missions to beat with an increasing level of difficulty.
Playing online was mostly a pleasant experience with only the occasional lag – given the frantic pace of the game, it’s understandable. It usually takes a few minutes for your Karma score to reflect on the Leaderboards; however, sometimes, it takes a very long time. All in all, the game’s net-code is pretty solid and co-op missions are a welcome addition.
Feat of Hundred Slashes
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
If you have not played Ninja Gaiden before due to its challenging combat, we would suggest giving this one a go. Even though this game is not as simple as most of the other beat-’em-ups, Sigma 2 has been rebalanced to favour the player.
Relatively speaking, the game also packs a lot of content – for a first timer, the single player campaign can take about ten hours to complete. After you’ve done that, there are ‘Chapter Challenge’ and ‘Team Mission’ modes to keep you busy for another few hours. At the end of all this, if you are feeling cocky, you could attempt to beat the game at Mentor and subsequently Master difficultly – not simple tasks by any means. If you like collecting game trophies, there are trophies for mastering all four playable characters, their weapons, Ninpo and even some special moves.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Ninja Gaiden is one of the best action game series ever made and if you are apprehensive about investing in this one, you should at least try the demo of Sigma 2 which is available on the PSN store – you may be pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 4/5


Genre: Action, Beat 'em up

Developer: Team Ninja

Publisher: Tecmo, Techmo Koei


PlayStation 3

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - Review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a follow-up release by Naughty Dog to 2007’s runaway hit Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Among Thieves does not add anything significantly different to the series; it continues to be everything that made the first game so much fun, only with a lot more polish. The visuals are slicker than last time, thanks to coupling smoother animation with improved lighting and physics. This game has all the elements you would expect to find in a typical summer action flick – a reluctant hero, camaraderie, betrayal, romance and some over the top set pieces.

This time around, Nathan Drake is on the trail of Marco Polo’s ill-fated return journey from China, in a quest to find the Chintamani Stone and discover the fabled city of Shambala. Joining Drake on his adventure, are two new characters: Harry Flynn, a long time friend and his female associate Chloe Frazer. Making a comeback from the last outing are Elena Fisher and Drake’s most trusted friend, Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. The game introduces a few more characters as the adventure will take you from Istanbul to the jungles of Borneo, and from the urban streets of Nepal to the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains.

Drake’s Fortune Endures
Just like in the first game, you’ll be solving puzzles and scaling heights as you inch closer to your destination. For combat in the game, it retains a cover-based shooting mechanism coupled with occasional melee bouts. While the use of stealth in the game has been expanded, the system is anything but perfect. In fact, it could use a lot of polishing!

Everything else pretty much remains the same, thankfully, since there was not a lot in the first game that needed fixing. You can still carry only two weapons – a side-arm and a primary weapon – along with a limited number of grenades. Speaking of which, it has become a lot simpler in this game to control the throw of a grenade. There is a decent variety of weapons in Among Thieves, and certain set-pieces are designed tightly around the usage of the right weapon. Platforming remains an integral part of the game, but this time, expert use of dynamic camera angles gives it a more dramatic feel.

High tension, the constantly changing locations and relentless action adds excitement to what would otherwise be a repetitive task of ducking and shooting. The more tranquil parts of the game, which are spent solving puzzles and finding your way around, are nicely filled with well-directed cut-scenes and banter between the game’s characters.

Last Action Hero
Just like an action movie, this game requires suspension of disbelief in order to truly enjoy the roller-coaster ride that it offers. Stage and puzzle design sometimes seem a bit too convenient giving the impression that the ancients designed the place specifically for someone like Drake to access.

During gun-battles, you will be up against what would otherwise be considered overwhelming odds. By the time you are done with the game, you will have destroyed a decent-sized, well-armed battalion backed up with some heavy-duty firepower. So to get the best out of Uncharted 2, you’ll probably have to suspend logical reasoning for the 10-12 hours it takes to finish the game.

Extra Booty
Earning medals by locating hidden treasures and achieving combat-related landmarks will bring greater reward this time around. Each time you earn a medal, the game rewards you with in-game dollars which can be used to unlock bonus content like concept art and behind-the-scenes videos. Majority of this reward will be spent unlocking character models, skins, and weapons for the games multiplayer mode.

The most significant change in Uncharted 2 is the addition of multiplayer game modes – something that was completely absent in the first game. There are both co-operative and competitive game modes available for online play. Co-operative game mode supports a maximum of three players with missions similar to the ones you find in the single-player campaign. The four competitive modes with a maximum limit of ten players are: Deathmatch, Plunder, Elimination and Chain Reaction. All four of them are essentially variations of traditional multiplayer games such as capture-the-flag and last man standing.

Among Friends
The multiplayer portion of the game is updated using a content streaming method that we often seen in an MMORPG. The game patch and online updates collectively took a few attempts to execute and about 20 minutes to download. After logging on to the server, you have options to either join an existing public game or host a private game with gamers from your contact list.

We had little luck playing online – each time the game took a few minutes before finding an appropriate match. On a couple of occasions, we were kicked out of the game right after it started! This could very well be a case of bad fortune since according to the server stats, there were over 70,000 users connected at that time.

After a few attempts, we did manage to get into a game and stay there. The game selected for us by the server was a co-operative mode called Plunder, which is essentially capture the flag with ancient artifacts. We did not experience even the slightest lag during the 30-odd minutes we spent playing the game on our 512kbps connection. Taking down enemies, rescuing your teammates and completing the game objective, all earns you experience points that goes towards increasing your character’s level. Usage of certain weapons is restricted by this level. Along with experience points, the game also rewards you with currency just like in the single-player mode.

As bonus online features, the game allows you to save video grabs of your online matches on the PS3 hard drive and comes with a built-in support for Twitter.

X Marks the Spot
Overall, Uncharted 2 is a fun-filled proposition; however, it is not a perfect game by any stretch of imagination. We noticed several issues with A.I. scripts of both the enemies and A.I.-controlled companions. On occasions, we experienced game crashes and graphical errors. Also, the set-pieces are so tightly choreographed that once you have finished the game, playing it again on a higher difficulty adds very little to the challenge. So the game offers very little in terms of replay value, at least at the campaign level.

However, Among Thieves comes highly recommended even if it is only for the 10-12 hours of gameplay the excellent single-player mode offers. The game is a design success due to well-paced sequences of gun battles, platforming and puzzle solving. Game-play is further supported by cut-scenes with the right kind of lighting, camera work, voice acting, and fitting background score. The end result is something that has all the drama you would expect from a Hollywood movie.

If you own a PlayStation 3, Uncharted: Among Thieves (along with Drake’s Fortune) should be on top of your must-buy list. In fact, we say Uncharted 2 is the reason for the season!

Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform:PlayStation 3

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

God of War III: Demo -First Impressions

available to a limited number of people last week, and we can tell you that it’s got everything that has made the series such a big hit with the fans, times three.

The demo starts with what appear to be Titans laying siege to Mount Olympus; and they are accompanied by Kratos! Impeding Kratos in his quest are a ton of undead soldiers, harpies, a centaur and the god Helios.

As you would have expected, the game has improved lighting, higher quality textures and use of particles to add more zing to the weapons. Speaking of weapons, we did not notice any weapons that are completely new – all of them are just variation of the arsenal we have already seen in the series. Weapons like the Blade of Athena have retained the familiar set of combos; however, we did notice some new grappling moves.

One thing that really stood out in the demo is that God of War has gotten bloodier… a lot bloodier… like ‘Itchy the Killer’ bloody! Kratos bathes in the blood of his fallen enemies as he goes around ripping through their flesh and bones. [Spoiler Alert] The QTE finishing moves have attained a whole new level of gruesomeness, especially when you see Kratos ripping off Helios’ head in graphic (excuse the pun) detail.

Looks like it’s going to be a relentless and bloody month for PlayStation 3 owners come March 2010. We can’t wait!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Making your URL Short

Do you have problem typing or memorizing long URLs(Uniform Resource Locator; ie, then there are some websites that can help you shorten them. Here are two of them that I think are most widely used.

1. Tinyurl
Its the one from the past. It had been used enormously and still used. But now a days even the tinyurl is gettng hard to get because of its complexity. '', this is what it makes of

2. Alturl
I like this one to tinyurl. '', this is what it makes of That's why Alturl is better than tinyurl (see the difference?). However shortening the url is not just it. It has 'preview transition' and 'traffic counter'. The preview transition shows what the short url directs to. Then the traffic counter shows how many viewers has passed through the short url.