"Sigma Plus Minus"
The Vita is full of possibilities. Now that we can have console-quality game on a handheld, it's only a matter of time before we're presented with a bunch of ports of already existing games for Sony's new portable system. In many cases, this is fantastic, as it'll provide some players with a guaranteed quality experience that they might have passed on in the past. On the other hand, gamers are looking for new and unique experiences, and what was once wonderful on gaming consoles may not be as amazing anymore. This is the case with Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus.
While Ninja Gaiden Sigma (an improved remake of the Ninja Gaiden game released on Xbox in 2004) was awesome when it came out for PS3, time has passed and new standards have been set. Of course, the question is, how fun is the gore-filled Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus on Vita? Luckily, I can still say it's quite fun, but... here's some food for thought.
As an action-focused adventure game, Ninja Gaiden Sigma could be better. It presents an engaging story about our deadly hero Ryu Hayabusa, and best of all, it gives you an excuse to go out there and kick butt wherever you go. However, its camera angles can get really bad, and there are some design choices that don't go well with modern action gaming, one of which is the level design; it's a bit confusing and leads to frequent and frustrating backtracking. As you advance in the game, you get the hang of it and learn to avoid this occurrence whenever possible, but that's something that always bugged me in the first game and continues to bug me here.
Also, although you learn to use a variety of combo attacks and blocking maneuvers to overcome enemies throughout Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, much of it can be done by simply button-mashing. More balanced doses of enemies could have helped to encourage strategic combo use, instead of ambushing the player with ten to fifteen enemies all of a sudden and then presenting lonely sections throughout. Moreover, boss battles are tough in proportion with the rest of encounters in the level, although at least these do stimulate the use of Ninpo (magic) powers, wall jumps, and strategic swordplay versus mindless button-mashing. If you don't keep yourself in check, you may quickly find things monotonous, so boss battles are a good wake up call.
For less seasoned players with an interest in this historically challenging series, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus offers a new level of difficulty called Hero, a mode of play that's more forgiving and often grants you unlimited Ninpo (magic) so you can get out of tough situations alive. This feature makes Sigma Plus a more compelling starting point for beginners, though the Vita's controls can't quite compare with playing this type of game with a real controller. For veterans, the harder difficulty modes present them with a challenge.
Another feature that sets Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus apart is the use of Vita-specific controls. Players are encouraged, for example, to use the rear touch pad for Ninpo attacks. You can also aim the bow or shurikens by moving the Vita itself from side to side, but if you're used to standard controls, you'll probably find the latter more comfortable anyway. These types of controls are only used in the game because they're available, but they don't make or break the game. If you want, you can turn off this control system during gameplay altogether. However, the menu interface uses either the touch screen or navigation stick / D-pad depending on the section; touch-controlled sections can't be managed with regular controls, which is strange. In truth, these Vita features aren't very groundbreaking and should only be used in games when it's actually more practical.
Fortunately, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus still has a lot to offer. It includes a lengthy campaign with enough variation in scenery and enemies, including the challenging and gratifying boss fights, and there's a brand new play mode called Ninja Trials, which gives players the chance to test their fighting skills by completing an array of missions where you get to kill waves of enemies in specific ways. This is also a nice change of pace for those who are stuck in the story or just want to fight and leave the story behind for a while, though it is challenging. I remember Sigma 2 also offered Ninja Trials and it was a fun addition that helped to extend the experience.
As far as presentation, the graphics look good and varied, but they're also a bit outdated. This was a gorgeous-looking game when it came out for PS3, but time has passed and even on the Vita's smaller but hi-res screen you can tell they're not as defined or detailed as newer games in the series. It is a handheld game, that's true, but the Vita can offer so much more. Also, the soundtrack offers the right vibe for the game, but it's not very original. Sadly, you can't choose to play the game in Japanese with English subtitles, which is something many genre aficionados tend to enjoy. Oh well.
Ninja Gaiden II and Sigma 2 improved upon questionable gameplay choices made for Sigma, which makes me wish they had remade Sigma 2 instead. With Ninja Gaiden 3 on the horizon, it's tough to simply accept Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus as is. It seems like a tease for what's to come! Still, it's loaded with pure ninja action and if you are okay with its few shortcomings, you should have a blast.
GameDynamo's Score for Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (PS Vita)
An enthusiast of gaming adventures as well as party and puzzle games. Writer, editor, translator, graphics designer, and a multitasker at heart. Maria has worked in the gaming industry since 2007, though she's been a gamer since the eighties. She proudly wore her Spain jersey when they won the 2010 World Cup!
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