Ninja Gaiden returns to the PlayStation Vita with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. This port of the game Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, is wrapped up in promises of more high-flying action that we have come to know from the iconic ninja, Ryu Hayabusa. Tecmo Koei is calling it, the “ultimate Ninja Gaiden,” adding that the game is “faster, bloodier, and more beautiful than ever.” With Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus laying a solid foundation for the series on the new portable handheld, there are few reasons to doubt a delivery on those promises. How does the latest port of Ninja Gaiden 2 stand up?
For those who have played Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, the Plus version of the game will not have any surprises story-wise. The game is exactly the same in that respect. It’s not a remake. For those who haven’t played it and as a bit of a recap, we join Ryu Hayabusa once again on his quest to reclaim a statue stolen from his clan by the Black Spider Ninja Clan. The Black Spider Ninja Clan has an evil plan to resurrect a diabolical monster known as the “Archfiend.” Throughout his journey from his hometown, Ryu travels around the world, fighting off other ninjas and monsters, determined to stop this calamity from happening.
The story is set up and plays out just like the original. When you start the game and find yourself at the main menu, there is a prologue that will give you a bit of a backstory and understanding of the events yet to come. Throughout the main campaign of the game, there is a brief paragraph telling the story before each chapter. These are complimented with cutscenes that pull the story together. The story has never been a strong point of the Ninja Gaiden series, but it really doesn’t need to be. The substance of the game is found with the hack and slash gameplay and platforming that the series is known for.
Simga 2 Plus provides a wealth of gameplay. While there are no changes to the gameplay style from the original game, there are a few additional modes. The main campaign offers a good 10+ hours of gameplay on normal difficulty with about 17 different chapters to go through. Each chapter offers a new location for gamers to go through, fighting ninjas and fiends, collecting and upgrading weapons and ninpo, and platforming your way through the levels. Each chapter has at least one boss fight, others may include a few. These battles will range from small groups of attackers to massive monsters that you must fight. As with most Ninja Gaiden games, Sigma Plus 2 also retains its challenging gameplay, although it felt a little easier than the first installment of the game. Like Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus though, Sigma Plus 2 also sees the return of “Hero” mode for the campaign which offers a more simplified and casual gameplay mode for players who aren’t quite up for the challenge yet want to just hack and slash their way through the game. Other game modes include “Ninja Race” and “Tag Missions.”
Ninja Race is just like it sounds. You can pick one of four playable characters, Ryu or one of the tree female ninjas (Rachel, Ayane, Momiji), pick a location, and race against the time to finish the map. You will of course find obstacles in the form of enemies that you have to fight, and check points you have to reach before time runs out. “Tag Missions” is the same as was found in the PS3 version of the game with one rather significant difference – there’s no multiplayer or co-op. Tag Missions are strictly singleplayer this time around, but they do offer you the opportunity to seamlessly take control of an AI that replaces the co-op partner from the original game. Tag Missions provide an abundance of extra gameplay as you have the opportunity to go through dozens of stages testing your ninja skills. Stay alive and clear the course!
Since this is on the PlayStation Vita, no doubt some of you are wondering how the controls work. Well, Team NINJA did incorporate some of those Vita exclusive features including touch screen controls, sixaxis motion controls, and even use of the touchpad at the back of the Vita. The good news? All of those Vita exclusive features are optional. These controls are not forced down your throat, and while they are enabled by default, you can easily press “select” and change your control scheme from the settings menu. I find that the traditional controls worked quite a bit better than the touch or motion controls.
One notable difference in Sigma 2 Plus is the change to the gore factor of the game. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 lost a lot of the violent nature of the game as it was toned down and enemies spewed smoke after they were killed. That option is still there to censor the gore in Sigma 2 Plus, however it isn’t mandatory. There is an option to quench your blood lust if you so desire, enabling dismemberment and gore in the game – taking it to the Razor’s Edge level. So there are options for people, which is good. If you’re like me and don’t care for gore, you can keep the censor on; But then again, I know not many people will use the censor since the ultra violence is one of the franchise’s staples that attracts gamers to the series.
Overall, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus retains its full glory from the PS3 version but offers very little more to make it a “plus.” Still, the game’s saving grace as always is the action-packed, challenging, and fun gameplay. There are a few downsides to this port however. One major drawback comes with the framerate. You can be sure that the framerate does not go beyond 30 fps and unfortunately, slows down quite a bit at times as well. This causes severe blur and pixelation of the game, especially during large or fast-moving battles. It’s not a gamebreaker, but it does add a bit of an inconvenience. To remedy this, there’s a tiny fix that offers a minor improvement to the framerate. By adjusting the camera speed settings to the fastest possible, you might notice some slight improvements, but there are still problems that can not be unseen. The camera also suffers some placement issues that were present in the original game. What’s more, gameplay can be interrupted by random loading pauses in the middle of your gaming sessions.
When it’s all said and done, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is still a good game at its core. The action is still intact with all of the various weapons and modes to choose from. Although the game does suffer from some drawbacks, the solid presentation on the PlayStation Vita makes me wonder, “When will I see Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge Plus on the Vita?” While Sigma 2 Plus doesn’t offer enough new content for a replay from someone who already played Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, newcomers, die-hard fans of the Ninja Gaiden series who own a Vita, and those who enjoyed the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus on Vita will definitely want to pick this game up. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is far from a perfect game, but it’s still a good one.
[Note: A free copy of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus was provided for review by Tecmo Koei]