Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma: PS3 Not So Superior After All

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The upgraded PS3 port of Ninja Gaiden 2, Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma, was hailed as a huge graphical upgrade over its Xbox 360 original, but close observation reveals some very substantial compromises had to be made to accomodate the PS3’s differing capabilities, which some would say have resulted in a certain amount of downgrading…

Detailed analysis reveals that the the game was very heavily optimised for the Xbox 360 and had to be cut back in certain areas for the PS3 port, even as it was enhanced in other areas:

Team Ninja’s original code is based on exploiting all of the inherent strengths of the Xbox 360 platform, the intention being to push out as many polygons as possible based on the Microsoft console’s unique architectural advantages. A like-for-like copy at the same performance level would’ve been an almost impossible job to produce on PS3.

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Team Ninja’s original performance quest was so completely single-minded that it actually resulted in a game that ran at a sub-HD resolution on Xbox 360. Native 720p was dumped in favour of an 1120×585 resolution combined with 2x multi-sampling anti-aliasing.

Using a 32-bit pixel format and a 32-bit z-buffer, the frame could be entirely rendered within the Xbox 360’s ultra-fast eDRAM before being copied out to main RAM. Indeed, if our maths is right, Team Ninja’s selected framebuffer format uses 99.975 per cent of the available eDRAM.

The performance benefits are obvious: Ninja Gaiden 2 copes admirably with a vast amount of on-screen enemies and relatively complex environments.

The Sigma team’s solution to these problems is quite ingenious. It simply rebuilt the whole game completely from scratch with its own engine, “remixing” Ninja Gaiden 2 to play more to the strengths of the PS3 hardware. It’s a situation only seen before a handful of times in previous cross-platform projects (Oblivion and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars spring to mind).

Right from the outset, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 impresses. There’s a palpable resolution boost, for starters. The original sub-HD 1120×585 res on Xbox 360 is substituted for 1280×718 on PS3: essentially full 720p aside from pixel-thin black lines.

There’s even proper bona fide 2x MSAA included too, to reduce jagginess – though when the engine is stressed, edge-smoothing is dispensed with to maintain frame-rate.

It seems making multiplatform releases for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is a far more fraught process than developers tend to admit, with developers often taking shortcuts resulting in ports which are less than optimised.

This is sure to come to the fore with the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XIII, a graphically spectacular game many have suggested is being graphically downgraded on the PS3 to ensure an identical Xbox 360 release…

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