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Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (Vita) Review

/ May 26th, 2012 No Comments

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for PS Vita

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for the PlayStation Vita is the fourth iteration of the 2004 Xbox classic, Ninja Gaiden, and an updated port of Ninja Gaiden Sigma (2007/PS3). Further capitalizing on the franchise’s success, Temco brings the vengeful quest of Ryu Hayabusa to the small screen. Challenging gameplay and quality visuals are hallmarks of this popular hack n’ slash, and its PS Vita port doesn’t disappoint. Much like the way of the Ninja, this game requires patience, skill, and persistence. Sigma Plus is not one for the weary gamer, but rewards, in the form of bragging rights and gorgeous CG cut scenes, await those who persevere.

The story begins with protagonist Ryu Hayabusa infiltrating his uncle’s fortress, ultimately leading to a boss fight that prepares you for the carnage that is to come. You quickly learn to observe your enemy’s moves in order to evade and counter. After overcoming your battle with Murai, Ryu’s uncle and Master Ninja of the Shadow Clan, you soon learn that Hayabusa village is under attack. Fighting your way through the ravaged village, you come to learn the Dark Dragon Blade has been stolen by the samurai Doku. This leads Ryu on a 19-chapter quest to retrieve the powerful weapon while extracting revenge on his sinister enemies. Along the way you encounter an ally in Rachel, a rather busty fiend hunter, who is now a playable character (since Sigma on the PS3).

Gameplay

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for PS Vita

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for PS Vita

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a game in which the storyline is meant to accompany the gameplay rather than drive it. What it lacks in great depth of story, it makes up for in highly-addictive and varied combat. Defensive tactics like rolling, dodging and blocking your enemies’ attacks are crucial skills to master. When it’s time for offense, a variety of combos and special moves keeps things interesting. A good grasp of both offensive and defensive tactics is necessary; sorry, this is not a button-masher game. You start off with the Dragon Sword and a few basic skills, but you can earn more along the way by progressing in the game or purchasing them from Muramasa—resident weapon smith and shop keep. To further mix it up, Ryu also has Ninpo power. Ninpo are the spiritual and mental arts of the Ninja; basically, it’s Ninja magic, and comes in handy in a pinch. Ninpo works especially great against certain tougher enemy hordes and bosses.

Nothing’s perfect, and Sigma Plus isn’t without its flaws. Like its predecessors, the notoriously wonky camera plagues this port just the same. I find myself having to reorient it multiple times throughout the chapters, further solidifying the importance of the Vita’s dual analog sticks. The touchscreen and rear touchpad implementation is also less than stellar. It’s ridiculously easy to accidentally tap the bottom right corner of the screen, very inconveniently bringing you into first person mode when you least expect it. I also found using the touch screen for shooting arrows to be an exercise in futility. The rear touchpad Ninpo power-up feels a bit gimmicky too. Additionally, the “loading” delay is so early 2000s. These are, however, very minor inconveniences in what is otherwise an excellent game. The satisfaction of decapitating one’s foes more than makes up for it.

Graphics

NGSP Vita Screenshot

NGSP Vita Screenshot

Sure, more modern games built specifically for the PS Vita are going to have more textures and details, but Sigma Plus certainly is no slouch in the graphics department. The action is smooth and the framerate is respectable. The CG cut scenes look great on the Vita’s gorgeous OLED display. And while the game’s color palette may not be as rich as some others, the animations are very well done and hold up well against today’s standards. As an unapologetic fan of fan service, my keen eye noticed a great attention to detail paid to the fiend hunter’s scenes, which are especially enjoyable.

Sound

The soundtrack to Sigma Plus is minimal in the sense that it doesn’t overwhelm the game and blends nicely into the background. The voice acting is well done, but as a purist I’d love the option to switch to the original Japanese cast with subtitles. An excellent clashing of steel on steel comes nicely through the PS Vita’s front-facing stereo speakers. The audio can also serve as an effective queue to jump out of the way of the exploding shuriken you didn’t notice fly past you.

Replay Value

NGSP

NGSP

Sigma Plus doesn’t skimp with the extras. With 3 difficulty settings and a rating system at the end of each level, the game encourages you to test your skills over and over again. The fluidity of the fighting, combined with the excellent selection of weaponry and ninja techniques gives each play-through a feeling of excitement. You can also test your skills outside of the story mode in the Ninja Trials, an enhanced version of “Mission Mode” from Sigma.

Overall

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus doesn’t offer much new to the seasoned Ninja Gaiden vet. Like Sigma, it offers extra chapters, new bosses, and the ability to play as Rachel, the fiend hunter. In addition to that, Sigma Plus offers new costumes and touch controls. Sigma Plus is a great way to relive the excitement of the 2004 Ninja Gaiden or Ninja Gaiden Black if you haven’t played it in a while. It’s also a great point of entry to the franchise if you’ve been sitting on the fence all this time. Despite its minor setbacks, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a true classic hack n’ slash for gamers looking for a real portable challenge.

Overall Ratings – Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (PS Vita)

Gameplay:

8/10

Graphics:

8/10

Sound:

8/10

Replay Value:

8/10

OVERALL SCORE:

80%

Joe Van Fossen

Joe Van Fossen

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Joe Van Fossen is an avid gamer, film nerd, and unabashed gadget geek. When he's not playing games, watching movies or gadgeteering, he's writing about it (or he's off playing music in some seedy bar somewhere in L.A. or Orange County).
Joe Van Fossen

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