reviews\ Feb 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review (PS Vita)


Ever since its introduction on the Xbox eight years ago, Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden has been infuriating gamers, demanding their utmost skills as they battle rogue ninjas, demons and other crazy enemies, using the power of the Dragon Sword and whatever other weapons they come across.  Since the initial game’s release, we’ve seen it revisited with the even tougher Ninja Gaiden Black, and the fairly decent port of Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PlayStation 3.  Now Ryu Hayabusa brings his cut-and-run act to the PlayStation Vita with Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, and while it does show its age in certain areas, there’s no question it still cuts like a knife.

You know the drill by now – a sword that was being protected by Ryu’s clan, with the kind of power that can change the world, has been stolen.  As its sole guardian, he sets out to get it back, only to run into all kinds of dangers, including unspeakable monstrosities and soldiers that will do anything to put a bullet in the pesky ninja.  It’s up to Ryu’s impeccable battle techniques – and amazing physicality – to save the day.

Like in the original games, technique is everything.  You don’t want to just run through the game tapping the attack button.  No, you need to work up style with your attacks, such as going with an aerial slice, getting a few quick cuts in the air, throwing a couple of shurikens and then slamming them back down to the ground – and this is just in the first stage.  The game gradually picks up in difficulty as you go along, so the sooner you learn Ryu’s techniques, the better.

You’re not stuck out in the cold, though.  Along with excellent ninpo and other secondary weapons you pick up over the course of the game, you can also lean on Hero Mode, an exclusive addition to the PS Vita version of Sigma.  Here, when you’re running low on health, you have immediate access to Ninpo, along with automatic blocking.  It’s a decent change of pace for rookie players, though veterans can turn it off if they think they can handle the pressure.

Most of the gameplay still works, though we weren’t crazy about the touch-sensitive additions.  The rear touch pad is used to summon Ninpo, and it’s not bad, but the front screen tap and gyro-sensitive aiming is average at best.  Half the time we couldn’t even get it to work properly, mainly because enemies moved so fast.  Do yourself a favor and stick with manual controls.

In addition to the main game, which will take you a few hours to get through, you can also try out some exclusive Ninja Trials, a series of endurance tests where you test your ninja skills and unlock even more exercises.  They’re not nearly as fierce as the ones featured in Ninja Gaiden Black, but they help prolong replayability – always a good thing for a ninja title.

Though dated, the graphics are fantastic on the PlayStation Vita.  The animations are smooth and some of the battle techniques, like the fire ninpo, are outstanding.  On the other hand, the camera needs work, as you’re constantly readjusting to see where enemies are at.  The audio’s not bad, with plenty of groovy Team Ninja-produced music and decent voice work – even if female characters are a bit whiny.  (Aren’t they ninjas, too?)

While Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus has trouble showing its age and can’t quite fully convert into the touch-screen era, Tecmo Koei did a very good job bringing the hack-and-slash action to the handheld.  Besides, considering how bad the competition is – we’re looking at you, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen – this is a clear-cut winner.


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