Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review (PS Vita): “A More Ambitious Port Than Its Predecessor”

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Wallpaper

In 2008, Xbox 360 owners got their hands on a highly anticipated sequel to one of the greatest action games, Ninja Gaiden II. Almost a year and a half later, the sequel received the “Sigma” treatment, coming exclusively to the PS3 with better visuals, an online co-op mission mode and other tweaks. When the Vita released, Team Ninja created a portable version of the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma (NGS+ for the Vita) for launch day. One year since the PS Vita’s launch and we see Sigma 2 coming to the Vita. However, is this port better than Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus?

Story: 3/5

Ninja Gaiden’s story for the sequel remains unchanged from what was released on the 360, in addition to the scenes added in Sigma 2 for PS3. The game starts off in Sky City Tokyo, where CIA agent Sonia is speaking with Muramasa of the whereabouts of Ryu Hayabusa. She mentions that she needs to speak with him of a matter concerning the archfiend. Immediately, Muramasa’s shop is attacked by the Black Spider Clan with Sonia being captured (although she does attempt to fight back). Enter Hayabusa, coming in secretly, stylishly and deadly as hell. From here, Hayabusa will soon rescue Sonia and be brought in on the details of why he is needed. Elizébet, the Greater Fiend of Blood, is looking to resurrect the Archfiend and bring the world into chaos, being overrun and ruled by fiends. Hayabusa will find himself returning to the iconic Hayabusa Village, New York City, Venice and other key locales to try and prevent Elizébet and her group of greater fiends from this catastrophic resurrection.

Ninja Gaiden’s story is entertaining, but nothing great by any means. It serves the purpose of the player understanding why Hayabusa is going to each location, but never gives the feel of wanting to advance to see where the plot goes. In the NES era, Ninja Gaiden was synonymous for its story, whereas the newer ones (except for Ninja Gaiden 3 / NG3:Razor’s Edge) seemed to step away from that a good amount. What’s here is decent, but certainly the weakest element of the game.

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Gameplay: 4/5

If you’ve never played Ninja Gaiden II / Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, but played the first game, let’s quickly touch up on how the gameplay evolved. First off, the combat is faster, slicker and more visceral than its predecessor. Also, while the original was more of an adventure, the sequel is set on a more linear path, with some exploration and platforming to be found. Combat is handled with light and strong attacks, while emphasizing the blocking mechanic if you want to have any chance of success. Combat has always been one of the key components as to what made the recent Ninja Gaiden series what it is, as well as its menacing difficulty. This sequel introduced the ability to dismember your foe, while also introducing Obliteration Techniques, which allow you to decimate your enemy for good. When you dismember an enemy, they’re not quite down yet, as they’ll do anything they can to grab onto you and inflict severe damage on Ryu. If anything, they’re more deadly dismembered than fully intact. When defeating enemies, they’ll leave essence orbs behind: Yellow for currency, Red for ki and Blue for health. They’ll automatically come to you when they hover in the air but if you block and attack, they remain there. The reason? You can charge up your strong attack to initiate an Ultimate Technique, a devastating move that will allow Ryu to pull off anywhere from 20-60 hit combos easily. If there are essence orbs in the area when charging up this attack, they’ll all absorb directly to you to immediately grant you the highest charge, at the expense of the essence effects. It helps make the combat a bit more complex by making you think if you’re willing to sacrifice the essence effect for a quick charge UT to help make it out of a tough battle.

While playing through the 17 chapter campaign, you’ll also take control of Momiji, Rachel and Ayane in their own exclusive chapters from Sigma 2. Each character plays entirely different from each other. Momiji dishes out some serious damage while also being agile and being able to double jump. Rachel wields a war hammer that’ll crush anything in her way, while also taking out foes with her semi-auto rifle. In return, she also handles combat the slowest of the characters. Ayane’s light, yet deadly, blades make her the fastest to handle but not the strongest. These characters all play to their advantages and help keep the gameplay fresh when giving Hayabusa a break. When taking control of Hayabusa, you’ll have a plethora of weaponry that he can wield. From the signature Dragon Sword, the vicious Vigorian Flail, deadly Lunar Staff, Dual Katanas, Kusari-gama, Tonfas, Enma’s Fang (which was new for Sigma 2), and the Eclipse Scythe, Hayabusa has a deadly arsenal. As you advance through the campaign, you’ll be able to upgrade these weapons whenever you reach Muramasa’s Blue Lantern shop. As you upgrade them, the move sets will become more diverse and they’ll also change cosmetically. You’ll also be able to upgrade your Ninpo when you find a Jewel of the Demon Seal that are hidden in boxes/chests.

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When it comes to the Vita edition of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, there are a few things that were added into the game. First thing that’s worth mentioning are the touch screen controls. In the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, if you even slightly touched the screen, it would go into first-person mode. That has been removed here thankfully. When you want to use your bow or cannon (yeah, Ryu gets a beast of a gun in the first half of the game), you’ll simply tap the icon on the bottom left of the screen and go into the over-the-shoulder perspective to aim (without Sixaxis motion aiming). You can assign the aim and projectile weapons to be triggered with the game’s rear touchpad, but it’s completely optional. Also, there’s no Ninpo enhancing rear touchpad feature like in Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. However, the one addition I did like that was brought back from Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword was the ability to double-tap the screen to fire off a projectile weapon. If there’s a hovering enemy on the top-right corner of the screen, you can double-tap on him and your character will fire a projectile at him. I found myself doing this often and it came in handy. The one negative element that actually hurts the gameplay a bit in the Vita version is the framerate. When the framerate chugs at times, the input responses lags and just ruins the game’s fluidity that it has been known for. While it doesn’t happen the entire time you’re playing, there are times it will kick in and it’s noticeable. Although, even when the framerate slows down a bit, the game is still more than playable.

Upon completing the game, there’s a great amount of replay value. First off, there’s Chapter Challenge, which lets you replay any of the game’s 17 chapters on a variety of difficulties. You’ll still be able to save at checkpoints when playing this mode and at the end of each chapter, you’ll be graded on your performance based on kills, time and karma score. Next is Tag Missions, which is basically the PS3 version’s online co-op mode. However, since the game turns off all network connections when playing, online co-op is now replaced with you and an AI co-oping the missions. The AI is actually pretty competent at holding their own but should they go down, you’ll need to head over to them quickly and revive them. A nice addition here is that you can switch between the two characters at anytime by simply pressing down on the D-Pad. Prior to starting these missions, you’ll have to choose the loadout for both you and your AI partner. This will include the character of choice, their main weapon, projectile weapon, ninpo and costume. You’ll be able to play on various modes here, which is new from the PS3 version. Normal mode will be like the PS3 experience. Practice mode will grant you and your partner unlimited revivals during missions. Then there’s a “Turbo” mode you’ll unlock, which increases the game’s speed 1.5 times faster.

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The last mode that’s brand new and exclusive for the Vita version is Ninja Race. This mode has you trying to complete a course from the campaign as fast as possible, with a very limited amount of time. You’ll start with a set time but as you kill enemies, they may drop green essence orbs that increase your time by either 3.5 or 7 seconds. You’ll also need to chain kills together and you’ll have a meter that depletes in betweens kills. Should you take damage, the meter will deplete quicker. Some enemies may drop white essence orbs that add an additional combo bar to increase the meter’s time limit. If you lose the combo kill meter, you’ll be missing out on scoring some big points and the higher medals. Occasionally, enemies will drop purple essence orbs that you’ll collect. These will grant you the ability to trigger you and the enemies around you into “Turbo” mode. Like I mentioned in the Tag Missions section, “Turbo” will make the game run 1.5 times faster than before and due to the strict time limits, you’ll need this to reach the end of the course in time. Each course will contain checkpoints that increase your time limit dramatically. It’s an incredibly challenging yet addictive mode that I would love to see in future NG installments, especially with an online co-op buddy.

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Graphics: 4/5

I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again: The PS Vita cannot replicate exact PS3 quality graphics, but it can certainly come close. That being said, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus had to have some sacrifices made to fit onto Sony’s handheld device. The cutscenes are all pre-rendered from the console versions (360’s for most since the gore effects are intact for cutscenes, PS3’s for the additional exclusive scenes and/or you switch the gore off) which is fine…until it transitions to the gameplay. From here, you’ll notice the resolution isn’t as sharp but what’s here is still great. The environmental textures are still pretty sharp for the most part and character models, while scaled down, still look really good. However, the main element that hurt the score a bit in this department was the framerate. NGS+ ran at 30 fps, which fans weren’t too keen of since the NG series demands quick reflexes. NGS2+ also runs at 30 fps, however, can dip down to 20 fps depending on how many enemies are on-screen and how much is happening in the environment. Interestingly, the framerate can be a bit smoother if you switch the gore off to the infamous purple mist and increase the camera sensitivity to the highest settings. It’s a bizarre fix but helps the game maintain the 30 fps much more. On the flip side, the environments haven’t lost much detail at all, including the Temple of Sacrifice which has all the flying fiends in the background in full effect. The animations are still as smooth and fluid as ever before. They definitely packed as much visual content as they could into the game and it still looks great honestly. You just need to adjust to the framerate decrease from the console versions. If you’ve never played the console versions, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for you.

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Sound: 5/5

If there’s one thing Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus has, it’s incredibly strong audio. The audio ported over really well, with the sounds of decapitations, swords clashing and environmental effects sounding superb. The voice acting is pretty good and helps carry the story along. However, the real knockout here is the phenomenal soundtrack. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus’s hi-energy, varied soundtrack really gets you pumped for the action on-screen, as well as the exploration involved. Every single track truly captures the game’s moments and immerses you into the game. Plug in your headphones and crank up the volume to the max, because this is one killer audio experience!

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Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a much more ambitious port than last year’s original and is still a great game on its own merit. Compared to Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, this sequel has a much better “on-the-go” feel to it thanks to more frequent save spots and faster gameplay. However, if you own a PS3, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is best played on there. If not or just love the NG series, then Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus will do very well in your Vita collection (as it is still one of the best action games ever made). Framerate complaints aside, it’s still the great game it was on consoles. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus packs a ton of replay value that will keep you coming back for quite some time.

PROs:

+ Intense combat system

+ Outstanding soundtrack

+ Plenty of replay value

+ Ninja Race is a great new mode

CONs:

– Lower framerate

– Story was, and still isn’t, anything great

– Online Co-op removed from PS3’s NGS2

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Box Art Revealed

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Later next month, Vita owners will be able to pickup Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, practically one year since NGS+ was released. While this edition appears to be receiving more additional treatment than NGS+, we still haven’t seen any footage that showcases the game on the Vita. However, the box art has been revealed:

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It’s more or less the same box as the PS3 except the blue arc and feather on the left side of the box are additional. Hopefully we’ll start seeing how the game is shaping up for the Vita soon as we near the game’s release.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is slated for release on February 26th, 2013. Will you be picking it up? Sound off in the comments below!

Team Ninja Very Interested in Developing More Wii U Titles

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In an interview with Official Nintendo Magazine, head ninja Yosuke Hayashi stated that he’s very interested in bringing more titles to the table for the Wii U. Here’s what he had to say:

“We are working on an action game, and we are looking into other titles for Wii U.”

“One of the reasons we decided to develop Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was because we heard about the development concept of Wii U itself early on. I think that starting development early was what allowed us to create a game that fully takes advantage of the hardware specs and special features.”

It’s great to hear a developer fully backing a new console and it’s exciting to see what Team Ninja has in store. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was a great launch title (read our review here) for the console and it seemed they had a solid grasp on the hardware for their first title on the Wii U.

Excited to see what Team Ninja has in development for the Wii U? Sound off in the comments below!

Nintendo Direct: Upcoming 3DS eShop Titles

Reggie Fils-Aime announced during Nintendo Direct today that several exciting titles are due for imminent release on the 3DS eShop, including:

  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Crimson Shroud
  • Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels
  • Tokyo Crash Mobs

Several games that were previously only available in retail are currently on the eShop as well, including:

  • Super Mario 3D Land
  • Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
  • Starfox 64 3D
  • Mario Kart 7

For even more titles coming to the eShop, check out Nintendo’s sizzle reel below!

“Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z” Announced at TGS; A Team NINJA and Keiji Inafune Collaboration

During Team NINJA’s conference at TGS today, they made a surprise announcement that a new project is in the works for them. However, to make things more interesting, they are working alongside developer Spark Unlimited and the legendary creator of Mega Man himself, Keiji Inafune, to create “Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z”. Playing the role of a cyborg ninja (Yaiba) resurrected from the dead, you’ll be tasked with one mission: Kill Ryu Hayabusa.

According to Eurogamer, Inafune stated the following:

“The collaboration I’m announcing today is almost like a dream come true,”

“The reality, for a lot of creators, is that they can’t make the games that they really want to make. There are boundaries and rules and people that have some say. I’m very happy that I’m here today being able to make the games that I really want to make,”

The game definitely seems like an interesting concept and certainly a fresh take on the Ninja Gaiden universe. What do you guys think? Intrigued by the idea? Sound off in the comments below!

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Announced for PS Vita

During the PS Vita’s launch in February, early adopters were able to pick up Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, a handheld port of an excellent PS3 remake. Today, at TGS, Team NINJA held a conference announcing a few new titles. One of them was Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. While little to no details were announced, the one thing we do know is that it will release in early 2013. Here’s hoping they improve the framerate in this one…

Would you be interested in getting Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus for the PS Vita? Sound off in the comments below!

Top 10 Hardest/Most Rewarding Gaming Challenges

Many will say games are meant to be played for enjoyment. Others are masochistic and love their gaming challenges, no matter how extreme and demanding the game may be. We’ve all had our share of moments where not only did we play a game on the hardest difficulty, we’ve completed certain stipulations to unlock bonuses or just for that extra sense of satisfaction. Here are my top 10 hardest gaming challenges:

– Devil May Cry (PS2): Completing Dante Must Die Mode

The original Devil May Cry stands as one of my favorite games of all time. The fast, fluid combat system integrated with firearms and swordplay really worked well and the soundtrack was a driving factor for me to keep playing the game. However, I remember my friend telling me how he tackled and beat Dante Must Die mode and I thought, “What the hell. I’ll give it a shot too.” One of the most infuriating experiences I’ve ever had in gaming. The name of the mode was not kidding. The game was out to kick your ass inside-out. Beating this was rewarding as you earned Super Dante which allowed you to play the game over with unlimited devil trigger. Only thing was, you never wanted to see this game again for quite some time after proving that Dante Mustn’t Die.

– Ninja Gaiden (Xbox/PS3): Master Ninja Difficulty with No Upgrades

Another one of my personal favorite games. Ninja Gaiden has usually been a console seller for me. I got an Xbox just to play the original. I sold my Xbox to get a PS3 with Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Now, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is coming out for the PS Vita’s launch which will no doubt be my first game (alongside Uncharted: Golden Abyss). One day, I was talking to my brother about Ninja Gaiden Sigma and he was telling me how he beat the game without ever using Ninpo, upgrading health or upgrading any of the weapons because he simply was too engrossed in the game that he forgot about upgrading. Well, I decided to 1-up his “challenge” and thought, “Well, I’ll just do that but on Master Ninja difficulty.” Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever brought on myself as the game caused me to say words that many would find incredibly unpleasant. With some hardcore dedication, it appeared the impossible was actually possible…even beating Alma! You don’t earn anything for this specific stipulation other than pride. A proud achievement and one that I challenge those who haven’t dared this before.

– Shinobi (PS2): Completing Super Mode

Another ninja game that drove many to the edge. Shinobi for the PS2 was a very good game in my personal opinion and had me hooked into trying to complete the game 100 percent. This meant getting every Oboro Coin in each stage and completing every difficulty. I heard that you unlocked “Stage-EX” for collecting all the Oboro Coins on Super Mode difficulty and since there was no video of what the level looked like, I was determined to take on the challenge. Well, for those who don’t know how Shinobi plays on the PS2, your sword has a meter that if not fed with the souls of those you kill, it will consume your soul. It was an interesting premise but on Super Mode, it was the complete opposite. The meter would deplete stupid fast and it was bad enough that the enemies did a ton of damage to you. Oh, and this game was old-school hard by not providing any checkpoints mid-mission. The only checkpoint you had was at a boss and this game had some of the most difficult bosses in gaming history…especially the cheap-as-hell final boss. Well, when all was said and done, I unlocked Stage-EX and expected something really neat. It was nothing but a ninja trial stage that tested your skills. Are you serious? Wasn’t completing Super Mode enough?

– Goldeneye 007 (N64): 00 Agent on the Aztec Level

Ah Goldeneye…so many memories, so many infuriating controller throws at the TV. Completing 00 Agent in Goldeneye was no easy task, but it was certainly doable with enough devotion, patience and memorization. Aside from the broken Train level where you had to laser the floor and escape with the brain-dead Natalya (who for some reason loved to stay in the train and blow up), there was one level that separated the gamers with the hardcore gamers, the Aztec.

When you start a level with the wall opening in front of you and a barrage of bullets are flying at you from far away (all with pinpoint accuracy might I add), you know you’re in hell. Once you got past the room where you had to escape the launch shuttle sequence by shooting a vent and going through there, enemies had Moonraker Lasers that did a ridiculous amount of damage to you. The easiest objective to do in this level was kill Jaws because you can exploit the AI into just running circles on the staircase and you pummeling him with lasers. However, once you beat him, you had to backtrack all the way to the beginning of the level and insert a tape in the bulletproof control center. Then, an onslaught of enemies would come after you and you had move forward again to insert another tape into the launch console. Finally, it was here where you were sweating bullets and hoping that no one would sneak up and kill you because you had a time limit that initiated the launch sequence. All you needed to do was wait for the launch to go off and stand your ground…until something wrong happens and you have to run and activate yet another switch.

Bottomline was that this level on 00 Agent was absolutely ruthless. Back then, there was no such thing as a regenerating health system. Hell, you couldn’t even replenish your health. The only item you could get to help you out with receiving a few extra hits was body armor, and even that was rare. Beating this mission on 00 Agent unlocked the Egyptian Temple, which many have never seen due to the ludicrous stipulation required to access this level.

– Battletoads (NES): Completing the Game in Co-op

Battletoads was an awesome game. Tight gameplay, good graphics and a ballin’ soundtrack (as I stated in my Top 10 NES Soundtracks) made this one of those must play games. However, those who complete the game know it’s a true testament of old-school challenge. The real challenge though is to complete it on co-op. You and your partner must be both pinpoint accurate with every action you two do. If one player loses their life, it will set both players back to the beginning of the level…oh and you can hurt your partner if the game wasn’t challenging enough.

– Contra: Shattered Solider (PS2): Completing Game with S-Rank

Contra has always been known for it’s tough-as-nails difficulty and Shattered Soldier was up there. Here was the catch though. In order to see the best ending the game had to offer, you had to complete the game with an S-Rank. To do this, you had to destroy literally everything in a stage to get your Hit Rate to 100 percent. If you died, your Hit Rate percentage would subtract from your overall score. You needed 97% Hit Rate to get S-Rank which left room for only death per level and that’s only if you destroyed everything. As any other Contra installment, this game demanded complete concentration and memorization beyond belief. However, completing this game and getting the the best ending (even though it was lame) was one of the most rewarding gaming accomplishments one could earn.

– Super Monkey Ball (GameCube): Completing Expert Stage

Super Monkey Ball may appear to be a cutesy game, but it’s really the work of the devil. Completing the game’s 50 level “Expert Stage” was only meant for those with nerves of steel. Words can’t even comprehend how insane this game’s difficulty was. The first couple of levels start off pretty reasonable but once you get to floor 7, the game doesn’t hold your hand by any means. Oh, and you only had three continues at the initial start. Once you unlocked all three mini-games, you would start earning play points for just playing the game. Every 2500 points earned you an extra continue. Once you earned 9 continues and achieved another 2500 points, you unlocked unlimited continues. Even tackling Expert Stage with unlimited continues doesn’t necessarily make it easier. You still have to complete the 50 level endurance without shutting off the game. Despite the game’s asinine Expert Stage, the game was addictive enough for you to keep trying until you completed it.

– Demon’s Souls (PS3): Everything but the Final Boss

Seriously, Demon’s Souls is a brutal game. It has all the concepts that would normally make for a crappy game but executes it in such a way that makes it among some of the best. However, when the first level gives people such a tough time, to the point where they just give up, it’s evident that the game is pretty damn hard. Upon completing the first boss, you will have a huge sigh of relief that you conquered the boss battle. Mind you, I mentioned the first boss. The bosses truly defend what the definition of a boss is, someone who you should feel intimidated by and worried to confront. You will be jumping up and down cheering each time you finish off a boss in Demon’s Souls. The only thing that will make you not cheer so much is when you finish off the final boss. The final boss is a complete push-over and can be taken down with almost no effort at all. Either way, everything that led to this moment makes you feel like you gave the game your all and deserved to finish it. It is by far the most rewarding game this current console generation, hands down.

– The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES): Completing the Great Palace

The Great Palace serves as the final test in the game, and surpasses anything else you’ll face in the game. Not only is it massive, requiring extensive exploration and monster-fighting, but also ends with not one, but TWO bosses. As if the Thunderbird isn’t enough of a challenge, you need to fight Dark Link, a shadow version of yourself who knows all of your moves. Worst of all, if you die, you have to go all the way back to the beginning of the dungeon. The Adventure of Link may have received mixed reviews by the gaming community, but anybody who had the skill to beat it should be proud, for it’s one of the biggest challenges in video game history.

– F-Zero GX (GameCube): Completing Master Class

Now this one drove me over the edge…no pun intended. F-Zero GX goes down as my favorite racing game of all time but also the most difficult. I remember picking this up, booting it up and being blown away with…well, everything! The visuals are still some of the best, the controls were tight, the gameplay was lightning fast and provided one of the best soundtracks (in my Top 10 Nintendo GameCube Soundtracks) in gaming history that would get your adrenaline going. Regardless of what made the game phenomenal, the difficulty for the Master Class was beyond asinine. Completing the Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Diamond Cups on Master Class is what was required to unlock the AX Cup, which had all the levels from F-Zero AX, the arcade version. You could get those levels by bringing your memory card to the arcade machine itself and plugging it in, but not a single arcade had this game in my area so I had to earn it the hard way. Every race had you sweating for the top spot and when you’d complete the cup in first place by a narrow finish, you’d jump up shouting and cheering. The Outer Space level in the AX Cup was entirely worth unlocking. After all that hard work…my memory card accidentally got thrown out and I lost my file. I have yet to re-achieve this behemoth of a challenge.

What were some of your hardest, yet most rewarding gaming challenges? Sound off in the comments below!