Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review: Carrying Forth Tradition
Quick Take: PS Vita gets its second Ninja Gaiden Sigma title which fits nicely alongside the first.
It was inevitable. A year after bringing the Ninja Gaiden Sigma series to the PS Vita as a launch title, Tecmo KOEI and Team Ninja have now ported the second game, aptly called Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, to Sony’s powerful handheld. While the first game was a masterful reproduction in almost every way (read our Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus review), and included some “+” content that made the game seem fresh and exciting – even after eight years – Sigma 2 Plus’s source game, 2008’s Ninja Gaiden 2, hasn’t been out of the public conscious long enough for nostalgia to set in. With that being said, can Sigma 2 Plus build on the greatness that was arguably one of the best launch games in the PS Vita’s lineup? In a word: yes.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus picks up a year after the events from the first game. A CIA operative named Sonia has tracked Ryu Hayabusa to Muramasa’s shop in downtown Tokyo in hopes of hiring the elite ninja to help stop the Black Spider Clan from resurrecting the greater fiends and bringing hell down on earth. Sonia is attacked and kidnapped as Ryu arrives, which sets the ninja on a path to save Sonia and stop the Black Spider Clan, and their leader, Genshin, once and for all. You know, standard Ninja Gaiden fare.
Sigma 2 Plus has included additions and enhancements to the original game. Joining Ryu are three female characters from the Ninja Gaiden series: Ayane, Momiji, and Rachel. Each character has a playable chapter, and each character has their own weapons, skills and move sets. Momiji, for example, has a double jump technique when the jump button is pressed twice, and Rachel’s weapon has a longer reach than most of the other characters, and it is devastating. Since this is a Ninja Gaiden game, and it is developed by Team Ninja, all female characters (playable or otherwise) are well endowed in the chest region and each female character is dressed in S&M-style leather or tights and ridiculous boots. There are additional costumes for each character (including Ryu), both unlockable and as DLC (or pre-order giveaways).
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus includes a few new game modes, such as Tag Mode and Ninja Race. Tag Mode allows for the player to choose two characters and switch out, or tag, them in and out depending on the situation. Ryu is fast and deadly, but the aforementioned double jump from Momiji can come in handy in certain situations. In Ninja Race, the player tries to complete a level in the fastest time. There are different essences, which help to add time to the clock or give the player “Ninja Speed.” The Comb kill counter also aids the player has the higher the combo, the more essences they can collect. Hero Play also returns, which gives a character a stat boost when they are near death. Auto-blocking and the ability to pull off ridiculous moves are just part of Hero Play.
What Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus does best is continue to highlight the power of the Playstation Vita handheld. While the element of awe in the fact that the game is so smooth on a handheld now gone, the speed of the game does not lag at all and Ryu is just as fast and deadly as he is on the console versions of the game. The 5″ OLED screen works perfect with HD quality graphics and there is zero frame rate stutter, even when Ryu is zipping across the screen performing devastating slashing moves with the dragon sword, or the ever-deadly Ultimate Techniques. I have noticed a bit of pixelization around the character models when standing close to flames or other background movements, but it’s not reproducible, meaning it comes and goes depending on the situations.
Ryu also has new kill moves that literally carve enemies up. Each limb can be severed and the kill animations are gory and gorgeous. As a lifelong fan of the franchise, every time I pull off a devastating move or kill, I feel a little giddy. This is the badassedness of Ryu Hayabusa fully realized, and on a handheld!
Also, the PS Vita’s touch screen is once again used for the bow ranged attacks, which offers pinpoint accuracy. Switching between the bow and the melee weapon of choice is also done on the touch screen, creating seamless flow in the gameplay, even during the ridiculously tough boss battles.
The stereo sound out of the PS Vita’s speakers is decent, but the voice acting is drowned out by the music and/or sound effects. There is not a slider to lower the volume of the music or to raise the sound of the character’s voices, so hearing what is being said in an already convoluted story is difficult without headphones.
The LiveArea contains the user’s manual and links to the Dead or Alive 5 and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus websites. There is also ample trophy support for this title.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus continues the greatness of the Ninja Gaiden franchise on the PS Vita. The game looks and plays wonderfully, and the new additions like playable characters, new weapons, and game modes give Sigma 2 Plus a decent level of replayability. Sadly, the only thing missing from this great game is some kind of online component, whether multiplayer or even with just worldwide leaderboard (especially with the Ninja Race mode). While this is not a deal breaker in any way, it would have been nice to share my Ninja Race times with other players, or even participate in an online tag mode with another person.
Shop for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus for PS Vita at Amazon.com (February 26, 2013 release date).