Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review: Raw Action on the PS Vita
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus
Team Ninja/Tecmo Koei
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is the first of several Tecmo Koei games to come to Sony platforms in the first half of this year. The common element between these three title s- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, Dead or Alive 5 Plus, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge – is that they are all ports of other games. Despite the negative connotations that come with the term “port”, few will deny that the Vita is in need of a steadier stream of worthwhile games. Tecmo Koei is looking to remedy that with some of the best that developer Team Ninja has to offer, starting with this version of 2008’s Ninja Gaiden 2.
This is not the first time that Ninja Gaiden 2 has gone through the port process; it began life as an Xbox 360 exclusive, and was ported the following year to the PS3 as Sigma 2. The original Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox went through the same process, and eventually came to the Vita as Sigma Plus this time last year. Confusing naming aside, both games were met with much praise in their initial releases, and later in their ported iterations. Sigma Plus was generally regarded as a good port, too; it looked great and packed the original content plus a few new modes to boot. Sigma 2 Plus, while still a great game, has a few missteps that keep it from standing quite as tall as its older brother.
For those that have missed out on these games over the past eight years, a quick recap; Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II are fast, furious, gory, and difficult action games staring Ryu Hayabusa, prominent figure in the Dragon family bloodline of ninjas. The accompanying story is less of a brilliantly orchestrated narrative and more of a hollow vessel for bloodshed- and it works well that way. Its ties into the Dead or Alive franchise can be interesting, but ultimately these stories are not the focus. The core of the series is the combat, and it is an absolute blast in most cases.
The first game is absolutely brutal in terms of difficulty, but Ninja Gaiden 2 has some exploitable elements that can make battles much easier. This holds true with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus; the ability to chain the ultimate technique can make lengthy battles as easy as taking down the first enemy. That said, there is still plenty of difficulty to be had; some boss battles are extremely hard. And the variety of extremely aggressive enemies with a plethora of varying attacks can prompt a change in player weapon, strategy, or both. These are all good and rewarding elements. However, they are tarnished a bit by the inconsistent reaction of attack versus flesh; sometimes enemies will be instantly maimed by an attack, and can be finished off. Other times, they will blow right through it, pin Ryu to the ground, and mess everything up. This can be the root of much frustration, but at the same time it keeps the player engaged and on their toes.
All in all, the main story mode, which lasts well over ten hours, is mostly unchanged and as good as it ever was. The Vita version of the game also features quite a few other modes. “Chapter Challenge” allows players to replay chapters from the story mode after they are beaten, and shoot for a high ranking by completing the level quickly and efficiently. There is also the “Ninja Records” mode that keeps track of of just about whatever anyone would ever need it to. Both of these modes were available in the PS3 release of the game. New to Sigma 2 Plus are “Ninja Race” and “Tag Missions”. The former puts players back into levels from the story mode, slaps a timer at the top of the screen, and puts many an enemy in the way. These races are extremely difficult to complete before time runs out, and will provide a good challenge for anyone that breezes through the story mode.
The “Tag Missions” mode is a bit curious. In the original release of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, players were treated to an online co-op multiplayer mode. Admittedly, these missions were not the highlight of the game, but their removal from Sigma 2 Plus was a bit disappointing. “Tag Missions” is here to pick up the slack; it pits two players against a horde of enemies on a small cutout of a story mode level. There are many different stages to play through, all featuring different enemies and challenges. This mode is actually a lot of fun, but the “second player” is actually an AI-controlled player, with no option for a human to jump in and take control. Thankfully, the AI is actually pretty capable, but it is disappointing nonetheless.
It would be a mistake not to discuss Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus‘ technical shortcomings. While the port of Sigma was beautiful and ran smoothly, the same cannot be said for Sigma 2 Plus. Unfortunately for Tecmo Koei, Sigma is quite fresh in the minds of many due to its free release on Playstation Plus in January, so Sigma 2 Plus‘ inferiority is easily noticeable. Cutscenes are beautiful and sharp, and the art direction in certain areas is great. But during the story mode, returning to the action from entering a menu, picking up an item, or reading a note will cause the resolution to be temporarily but significantly lowered before popping back in to place. Basically, the whole screen is really fuzzy for two to three seconds after every time the player exits a menu. The “Tag Missions” mode is also plagued by this problem during gameplay, likely due to the number of enemies onscreen. This may be a minor distraction for some, and a frustratingly ugly game-killer for others. Another common complaint concerns the framerate. Personally, framerates are only noticeably bad for me when they dip below 25fps, and I had no issues with Sigma 2 Plus in that regard. For those that do have an issue when playing, some have found that raising the camera speed alleviates this to a degree.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a great game. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a decent port, with some great additions, noticeable omissions, and a handful of technical hiccups. Ultimately, the issues do not prevent it from still being a great game; Plus just might not be the definitive version of Ninja Gaiden 2, despite having the two great new modes. Fans of Ninja Gaiden, come for the new modes. Newcomers, consider buying the first game instead.