Game: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Available on: PlayStation Vita only
Following on from last year’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, Team Ninja have reworked Ninja Gaiden 2 for the PlayStation Vita. This enhanced version of the Xbox 360 (2008) and PlayStation 3 (2009) game adds a few minor adjustments, including new costumes and modes. But, more importantly, it’s a console-quality game now available on the Vita platform.
STORY: Carrying on the Ninja Gaiden saga, this sequel pits Dragon Ninja Ryu Hayabusa against the dreaded Black Spider Ninja Clan, a rival to the Dragon Ninjas who want nothing more than to obtain the mystical Demon Statue. What follows is a globe-trotting adventure as Ryu attempts to stop the Black Spiders using the Demon Statue to awaken the Archfiend, an ancient demon with the power to snuff out humanity forever.
It’s the standard Good versus Evil plot; a passable narrative that justifies the veritable goregasm that takes place as Ryu tears ninjas and demons limb from limb.
GRAPHICS: This port holds up surprisingly well compared to its console brethren. Obviously the Vita doesn’t quite have the grunt to match the high-resolution graphics of the PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360, but on the most part the graphics are great. The environments are detailed and sharp and the game regularly changes the graphical quality of the player character and enemies, no doubt to keep the framerate consistent For the most part, this does the job fine, however there are moments where the game is borderline unplayable due to the amount of enemies on screen and the detailed environments causing some pretty bad slowdown.
Another big issue is the camera, which regularly becomes a deadlier enemy to you than any of the game’s foes. 90% of the time it’s either too far away or too close, and environmental objects and other enemies regularly obscure your vision. The camera can be manipulated manually using the right analog stick, but this is incredibly difficult to do mid-battle, due to the game’s pace.
Sigma 2 Plus retains the gore content that you’d expect from Ninja Gaiden, and while it doesn’t seem quite as gory as the console versions, a fair few pints of claret spray from all angles as limbs are lopped off every few seconds.
SOUND: Much like the graphics, Sigma 2 Plus’ audio department is comparable to the console versions. The soundtrack mixes orchestral tracks with high-tempo electronic tracks for battles, with sound effects consisting of suitable grunts, groans and squelchy gore effects.
In terms of the vocal work, high-quality anime-style dialogue is the order of the day here. We’re talking Danish Bacon factory levels of ham here, but it’s of higher quality that many other games of its ilk.
GAMEPLAY: While Ninja Gaiden’s particular brand of hack and slashing may have been bettered in recent years, it’s still great fun. To have that gameplay in portable form is a great achievement by Team Ninja. It features the tried and tested button combos of weak and strong attacks, with the player also able to throw projectile weapons using Circle, and also use long range secondary weapons by touching an icon on the touchscreen.
Tons of enemies ambush you at once, and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming as many enemies use projectile attacks when they’re off-screen, making for a modicum of frustration. Luckily, the player is given an array of evasive and defensive manoeuvres such as dodging, counters and blocking. Though some enemies (including bosses) have almost unavoidable attacks, which can be rather annoying.
Over the course of the game, multiple weapons can be found, all of which can be upgraded over time using regularly found shops (where items can also be purchased). Save points are also common, allowing you to heal and save your progress at the same time. Sigma 2 Plus is pretty challenging, even on Normal difficulty, so these regular checkpoints can be a welcome respite from tougher battles.
Should the game be a little difficult for you, you can always start a New Game using Hero Mode. This added mode adds automatic blocking for a limited time when the player is low on health – a nice addition for Ninja Gaiden newbies, but one that I feel isn’t entirely necessary, as the standard Normal mode is generous with health replenishing items and save points.
Something that really impressed me about the game is that loading times are few and far between, even during the lengthier levels. This is crucial for a portable game, and with very few developers considering this, I praise Team Ninja for minimising load times.
LONGEVITY: With a challenging story mode that took me around 8 hours to finish on Normal difficulty, this game offers a sizable chunk of gameplay. That’s not taking into account other modes such as Ninja Run (a simple Time Attack mode), Tag Mode (a mission-based mode where players can choose two characters and switch between them at will) and Chapter Challenge (a Score Attack mode where you replay levels from the Story Mode).
Then of course there are harder difficulties to tackle, which should test even the most dedicated of Ninja masters out there. If you’re after those Trophies, you’re looking at over 25 hours of gameplay. If you have the patience and dedication, then you’ll find a lot of game here.
VERDICT: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a solid port that won’t offer anything new to those who purchased Ninja Gaiden 2 previously, but provides a hefty chunk of challenging hack & slash action. However, incredibly common camera issues and occasional problems with the framerate can make for a frustrating experience that takes the shine off a solid game.
It certainly isn’t the definitive Ninja Gaiden 2 experience (that would be Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 on PlayStation 3), but this is worth a look if you fancy some violence on the go.