Ninja Gaiden 2 was a sequel to the beloved reboot of Team Ninja’s franchise that took crazy ninja action to a whole new level. Beloved by fans of the hack and slash genre, Ninja Gaiden 2 was heralded as a fantastic addition to the series with a difficulty level that pushed anyone to their limit. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was the rerelease on PlayStation 3 that added additional content for fans of the game while still maintaining the aspects that many gamers fell in love with the first time. Now Sony is looking to bring the crazy ninja action to portables with the release of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, a follow-up to the previously released Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for the PlayStation Vita. Is the tale of Ryu Hayabusa still worthy of a third round? Sony and Team Ninja are hoping that newly added content and game modes can still keep fans coming back for more, while at the same time bringing in newcomers to the series.
The first thing anyone who is a fan of the series will notice is that most of the story elements are the same as previous releases. Not much has changed in the main story from the versions that have come out before, but those who love the lore of the Ninja Gaiden universe can be treated to a special motion graphic prologue sequence to the story available right at the start. For newcomers the plot is pretty straight forward, the story takes place one year after the events of Ninja Gaiden. Ryu’s village is attacked by the leader of a rival ninja clan, who steal a powerful artifact called Demon Statue. This puts into motion a series of events that have Ryu fighting groups of rival ninja, hordes of monsters called Fiends, and some crazy large scale boss battles. While a little bit cheesy in some aspects, the plot has just enough interesting aspects and cool moments to keep anyone interested for the whole ride.
On the PlayStation Vita the game looks pretty good. Much of the levels and the character models in the game look smooth and polished, with a variety of environments to fight your way through. Enemies throughout the game are diverse, with a lot of the more elaborate and interesting baddies showing up later in the game. The biggest issue that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus suffers from is the random slow down and pixelated moments. When multiple enemies and/or effects show up on screen, the frame rate can take a steep dip, going away once Ryu has killed off most enemies in the area. Yet what can be annoying at times is when everything on screen can become very pixelated after leaving a menu and jumping back into gameplay. At times when it’s necessary to quickly change a weapon or use an item with the D-pad, the game pauses for you to make a selection and then resumes, at which everything looks awful for a brief period of time. While this may be a cause from the menus in the game or result of porting the game to Vita, it is something that should have not been missed in the early stages of the game’s development.
The gameplay that is essentially characteristic to Ninja Gaiden is present and accounted for in this game. Traditional hack and slash gameplay elements is the core of the Ninja Gaiden series, with a variety of weapons and magic, or Ninnpo, to level up and use against all the enemies thrown at you. This game is all about skill, speed, and reaction to your surroundings in any given situation. Tackling bosses requires a little more thinking and planning outside of just mashing buttons for combos and magic use, but there are plenty of tools to utilize when tackling some of the bigger baddies in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. The additional use of the touchscreen is fairly helpful with some equipment and abilities, but will mostly be ignored in favor of more traditional button inputs. At the same time, the same issues with the camera from previous Ninja Gaiden releases is still here and can be a bit of an annoyance in some situations.
The new additions for the Vita are interesting and provide a decent distraction outside of the main game, but ultimately feel a bit meager. Ninja Race is a mode where you must speed through several check points and reach the end of the level in a record time, all the while combating various enemies that try to hinder your progress. In addition, there is also a new Tag Missions Mode where you and a CPU partner take on hordes of enemies in an arena style challenge. The Ninja Race levels provide a very steep level of challenge for everyone yet can be quickly over before you realize it, mostly ending in failure for some. The Tag Missions are pretty fun as they allow you to use any two of the playable characters in the game, along with any of the weapons and magic acquired in the main story, but only with a CPU partner. This is a mode that begs for Ad-Hoc or Online Co-op, and could have really been a fantastic inclusion to the game. While the computer partner’s AI is not terrible to say the least, being able to fight groups of enemies with another player would have been a thousand times better than being stuck with a computer controlled one.
As a package Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a great game for fans of the series. Anyone who owns a PlayStation Vita and is a fan of hack and slash titles will gravitate to this game. Those who found recent sequels to the Ninja Gaiden series to be lackluster may take this game as a breath of fresh yet familiar air. Newcomers to the franchise may feel a bit out of touch and given a harsh awakening if they have not played previous titles in the series. Yet despite some of the shortcomings and missteps, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a decent title for the PlayStation Vita’s library of games.
This review was based on a digital copy of the game for the PlayStation Vita provided by Tecmo Koei.