Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus
Sony PS Vita
They say that time is the greatest healer, but unfortunately in the video game market time has a way of damaging something beyond repair and time has not aged Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus well. Technology has changed and the way we interact with it has also changed and sometimes re-releases work, the new technology breaths new life into them. The Metroid Prime Trilogy is a perfect example of new technologies making a classic game better. Others however aren't so lucky. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a perfect example of why re-releases even with the best intentions don’t always work out.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a the PS Vita port of the PS3 title Ninja Gaiden Sigma which is itself an enhanced port of the 2008 360 title Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Unless you've been living with your head in the clouds you're bound to have heard about the series and most likely played on one of the titles in the series. In which case you’ll probably be best staying away from this as it doesn’t really offer anything that would draw even the hardest Ninja Gaiden fan in. Although If you’ve never played the previous installments then given the story is pretty easy to ignore you may find some serious joy here.
Like the previous titles it features Ryu Hayabusa a master ninja and a descendant of the Dragon Ninja lineage. He wields his Dragon Sword and sets off to save the world again. For the most part the story is pretty linear and you’ll pay little attention to it. That’s because the combat although aged is still is the driving force here. Unfortunately time has meant that not even the combat can save the title from the obvious flaws.
At first you’ll find yourself butting mashing in order to defeat your enemies, however if you take the time to learn the combat you’ll be able to create devastating combos and moves that will help or even kill enemies in one single hit. That being said the combat isn’t what it used to be. For some reason you’ll kill some creatures with a single hit and the next will take more than ten, without any explanation being obvious. It can get frustrating to say the least. Along with combos Ryu can learn more powerful magical attacks that can be upgraded to target numerous enemies at once. These include fireballs, wind slashes and a rather cool attack involving birds of fire. Also like these magical attacks you can upgrade your arsenal at different locations. You’ll also find different weapons to use throughout the game including both swords and projectile weapons. These projectile weapons can be used by touching the Vita’s screen to aim and attack. The touch screen allows players to change into first person to aim, as nice as these touches are the PS Vita can do so much more. While they work, at best these features don’t feel like anything more than an add on and in some cases forced.
A staple in the Ninja Gaiden series has always been the difficulty, it’s brutal to put it pleasantly. Although in this version you’ll be able to play on hero difficulty. This mode makes the game far more accessible for the casual gamer or someone looking to enter the series. That being said it’s still no cakewalk, enemies are pretty strong and will do substantial damage; especially if you end up surrounded. Unlike other third person action adventure hack and slash titles Ninja Gaiden focuses on your ability to dodge and roll before attacking. You cannot just keep hitting enemies and expect them not to be able to hit you. You’ll need to pick your opportunities and deal without mercy if you want to come out of a battle unscathed. Should the worst happen though you’ll be glad to know that once your health reaches a critical state your attacks become far more menacing for a period of time. If you manage to kill everything within the given time limit you’ll live; if not and the time expires you’ll meet your grizzly end. This little addition makes boss fights on hero difficulty pretty straightforward. Most require you to just dodge their attacks and hack and slash when you get a chance. The boss designs are pretty varied even if killing them isn't, they range from a fight against the Statue of Liberty to an electrified steel dragon. If you’re after a bigger challenge then you can up the difficulty but be warned it’s not for the faint of heart, and given the price of the Vita compared to PS3 controllers you don’t want to be throwing it around the room.
If the game’s already brutal difficulty didn’t make it hard enough the camera is beyond shambolic. Honestly it’s dreadful. You’ll struggle to keep an eye on everything going on, meaning you’ll be left open to attacks. Puzzles become hard to complete as you’ll fall off ledges and fail to spot the correct solutions. Thankfully the game mainly takes place in open environments but when you find yourself in a small tight corridors the camera simply makes the game unplayable, and trying to control Ryu underwater is just pathetic.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus doesn't really show off what the Vita can really do. For the most part the levels are bland and the game does its best to keep you in the worst of them. When it works it’s great; standing on top of a skyscraper looking down at the world is one of the high points and looks pretty good but the game would rather keep you in brown, monotonous basements and sewers. The CGI and character animations are impressive and are one of the better aspects of the game’s visuals however sound effects here are pretty standard too, nothing to really moan about or hype up, the voice acting is alright but nothing special and the different tunes played while fighting are fine.
Sadly the game’s engine seems to be unable to handle most of what the game throws at you. Pick up new weapons and enter different menus and the frame rate falls apart, fight a large group of enemies and it’ll become unplayable, sometimes the screen even blurs for a significant period of time. Yes the PS Vita isn't as powerful as the PS3 but we’ve seen titles like WipEout 2048 blast along at a comfortable frame rate so it really shouldn't be a problem, at 30 fps Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus shouldn't cause the Vita too much trouble but unfortunately it does.
And the Vita’s apparent lack of power can only be the explanation for the complete removal of the online multiplayer here. On the PS3 version you could team up in co-op with a friend but here there is nothing. Not even local Adhoc is available. Instead you’ll get a tag mode which sees you team up with an AI partner to tackle waves of enemies. It’s a shame as the online co-op was seen as one the best features of the PS3 game and added lots of replay value. And again we've seen titles with online multiplayer on the Vita pull it off with ease so it is a shame to see no multiplayer here.
Thankfully the game is somewhat saved by simplicity, if you’re new to the series or just looking to simply play a gore fest third person action adventure title look no further. The game’s story lasts a respectable twelve to fifteen hours. Add on the extra missions, modes and extra difficulties and you you’ll be able to get your gore on for closer to fifty plus hours. It’s just a shame that the multiplayer modes were removed.
Given that the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus title on the PS Vita was actually a pretty good port this second is disappointing. The extra Vita features feel forced and unnatural and while the game still features its beautifully brutal difficulty, it’s not brutal because of quality but rather the terrible camera. Also the lack of any worthwhile multiplayer mode means this game will struggle to make its way into people’s Vitas. If you’re looking for Vita Ninja Gaiden then pick up the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. It’s a much more solid purchase.