Getting a port of a port isn't as out-of-place as you might think, as developers occasionally like bringing an experience from one console to another, then roll the dice to see how it fares on, say, the handheld or iOS front. That's the case with Ninja Gaiden II, which was reborn on the PlayStation 3 a couple of years back as Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and now comes to the PS Vita with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. Confused yet? Don't sweat it, it's all a matter of how entertaining it is chopping enemies to bits as a bad-ass ninja.
The story is nonsense, with a dark, shadowy force attempting to gain control of the planet, and it's up to Master Ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, to cut them down to size and keep the planet safe. At first, it's a matter of stopping sword-wielding and clawed ninjas, but soon monsters enter the fray, including gigantic spider beasts, dragons and werewolves. Again, doesn't make much sense, but when you're slicing and dicing, who cares?
The gameplay retains all the charm that the series has become known for. Ryu's versatility and move list is damn near unlimited, as you can perform combos, counters and defensive techniques with ease, then move in and brutally finish off an opponent literally on their last legs. And over the course of the game, you're introduced to several new weapons, including Wolverine-esque claws that can turn anyone into sushi and a pair of scythes with razor sharp appeal.
Over the course of the game, you can modify these weapons to increase their power, while also making a stop at a shop to stock up on health supplies and ninpo – your ninja magic, which can have quite an effect when the screen is full of enemies.
The main game will take you a while to get through – especially on the hardest difficulty – but there's more to it than that. The extra missions let you tackle enemies with three additional characters – the buxom hammer-carrier Rachel, the powerful staff-wielding Momiji, and Dead Or Alive alum Ayane. In addition, a new Ninja Run mode is included, where you have to keep a clock going by rampaging through enemies as quickly as possible, comparing your best times with other players. Both are challenging and fairly entertaining, especially if you've mastered what the characters have to offer here.
As jam-packed as the transition is, it isn't quite perfect. The graphics do look good in terms of PS Vita standards, but there are consistent frame rate drops that are hard to get over, especially when more than three enemies appear on the screen at a time. In addition, the default camera angle can be tricky at times, as you can't always see enemies that are surrounding you, nor get the bead on a platforming jump unless you have absolutely flawless timing. This is especially true with a later level in the game, where you have to climb up moving gears while fending of an onslaught of enemies.
At least the sound is okay, with solid "ninja kill" music to rock out to and some cheesy voicework that's par for the course. What else did you expect from Ninja Gaiden?
The series may have moved on – Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is coming to PS3 and Xbox 360 next month – but Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus remains an above-average staple in the series, and seeing it on the PS Vita, flaws and all, is nice, especially since we're really craving a good action game right now. The addition of Ninja Run mode, along with an ever-changing single player campaign and co-op missions, makes this bloody package one you should put in your handheld system without hesitation.