Really cool to hear Hebass! I'm going to take this oppertunity to gush about the game haha!
> more enemies, less damage
What's especially neat is that under the hood, most attacks deal very little base damage, most of it is %-based. This means that on a no-healthupgrade run, you take significantly less damage visually, really helps balance it all out. This also plays into what you note about the "lives of the gods", as using those also heals your healthbar. So they are more super-healing items than that they really make you live longer. Some attacks still have a massive, massive base damage (boss grabs for exampe).
> dog with hand
It's been a decade probably since I watched them haha, where was this one?
This is the big one imo. If you play your cards right, use UTs smartly etc, you can have the Dragon Sword maxed out before your get the Claws in Chapter 2. And that's without farming. It's nuts and allows for a lot of resourcemanagement again which I think is really cool.
> xbox 360 version
In a sense, it might be worth experimenting with versions. Some players have an almost flawless experience unpatched+uninstalled, others installed+unpatched, others uninstalled+patched - it's super random. I had one chest I could never open, others had other chests or rooms, game's a mess on the system sadly haha. There's a reason I bought the Xbox One X the second it went backwards compatible.
> move while shoot
Nope, doesn't exist.
> ranged UTs
Every weapon haha outside of Shurikens and the underwater gun (yes). Even Incendiary Shurikens and the Windmill have it and they're all really solid. The Arrow UT is especially cool since it has a huge delay on its absorb, so you can do an OLUT with it and immediately release, to pull essence near you but not absorb it. Fun stuff!
> extra steps
Yeah, like Sigma, Sigma 2 removed nearly all of the puzzles, backtracking etc. There's not a lot in it here for sure, but still more. What's fun is if you play NGS2 afterwards, it almost feels like there was a ninja that you're following that solved all the puzzles already, since they are still there but are 'solved' i.e. the rock is in its place or the card key is already inserted haha.
> rod of trials
The game has 'Test of Valor' which are huge ~100 enemy fights (a bit like those in NG:B), you can only access them if you have the rod. Not all chapters have them but most do. Some are worth it, some aren't, some are really fun, some are absolutely terrible.
Glad to hear you're having fun man, it's a fantastic game. Note that the jump to Mentor is absolutely mental and Master Ninja even moreso. Don't give in! And feel free to harass me any time of day to talk about it hahahah!