Scenes with additional overdraw due to alpha effects such as explosions, also blatantly remove polygons in the Sigma edition in order to maintain frame-rate. This particular example shown below exemplifies how dramatic that impact can be in terms of the make-up of the overall scene.

explosions360
explosionsps3
Individual scenes are carefully budgeted to maintain performance. Processing transparent alpha textures, such as explosions, is particularly costly on PS3.

Another unique architectural feature is Xbox 360's unified shader set-up - a "next generation" GPU feature at the time of launch, and not found in the RSX, even though PS3 was released a year later. In general, unified shaders are a great thing - they allow developers to use all the available GPU shader power for whatever task they want. However, there is by no means an infinite amount of resources available here.

Ninja Gaiden 2's extremely heavy use of vertex shaders means that there are less available pixel shaders to hand in the unified setup (another reason perhaps why the game is sub-HD on 360). While RSX might not be as flexible as Xenos in overall structure, the reserved pixel shaders have been put to good use by Team Ninja. In the shots below (and in the bonus ones found in the gallery), the Sigma edition shows a lot more detail, with added bumps on just about every corner.

pixel360-1
pixelps3-1
pixel360-2
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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 often has the visual edge, not just thanks to its massively increased resolution but also through the accomplished use of the RSX's pixel shaders.

The real bonus for PS3 owners comes in the form of palpably more impressive-looking lighting, as you can see by checking out the full gallery. By comparison, the Xbox 360 game looks a little flat in many scenes. The Sigma version's excellent use of pixel shaders produces more effective lighting and highlights, making the overall look that much more attractive.

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You can't ignore the huge impact the different lighting schemes have on each version of Ninja Gaiden 2. The Sigma edition almost looks like a brand new game in places.

Also interesting to note is that the Xbox 360 version of Ninja Gaiden 2 effectively has static lighting, whether you're in the shade or not. Compare and contrast with the PS3 version...

staticlighting360-1
staticlightingps3-1
staticlighting360-2
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The lighting isn't just prettier, it's almost more accurate technically in some cases. In these two shots you can see that 360 Ryu is lit just the same regardless of whether he's in shadow or not.

Perhaps the only area in which 360 comes out better overall in terms of lighting is in the use of bloom - the fiery mountain level in particular benefits. However, that said, the Sigma team used bloom in a more subtle and dynamic manner on PS3, as can be seen via more examples in the gallery.

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Xbox 360 pulls some points back in the lighting department through its use of bloom, considerably dialled back on PS3, but effective where it is used.

The pixel shader difference extends to the use of wet materials in-game, and despite the lower detail level, the Xbox 360 version doesn't hold back. In the cave level, Xenos's point-filtering in combination with the wet shader produces one of the most visually impressive levels in Ninja Gaiden 2 (to clarify, point-filtering is a pretty cheap form of texture filtering on Xenos... however, the shimmering artefacts it produces simply work well in this setting). In comparison, the PS3 looks less polished with less shader detailing and lower levels of geometry.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

More articles by Richard Leadbetter

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