Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS [Review]

  • Platform: PlayStation Vita
  • Published by: Tecmo Koei
  • Developed by: Team NINJA
  • Genre: Action
  • ESRB Rating: M for Mature
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: February 22, 2012

The legendary Ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, is back with all of his high-flying action, sword slashing, and this time in the palms of your hands in Team Ninja’s re-imagined Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the new PlayStation handheld, the Vita. The game is a port of Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PlayStation 3 (which also happens to be a port of Ninja Gaiden Black but I think we’re going off on a tangent here) with some new features including making use of the Vita’s touch and motion functions. The game brings back all of the action you love and the impossibly challenging gameplay. However, this version comes six years after the game’s (Ninja Gaiden Sigma) release, so how does it hold up on the portable?

If you have already played Ninja Gaiden (Black, Sigma, etc.), unless you like to inflict torture on yourself with the franchise’s over the top difficulty levels, there are few reasons to come back to play the PlayStation Vita version. Essentially, you are playing the exact same game. The few differences you will find with Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS feature-wise are: For PlayStation gamers, Ninja Gaiden Sigma did not include trophy support. Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS includes a full trophy list (51 trophies, Platinum and all) with a lot of challenging tasks to accomplish. In addition, the game includes new Ninja Challenges which are mission-based battles apart from the game’s story mode. Still, if you would like to play the game anyway, go for it, it was still a great ride even all these years later.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS follows the story of Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja on a quest to reclaim a stolen sword his clan was sworn to protect from getting into the wrong hands and also to avenge the deaths of that very clan. The story, spanned across 19 chapters,  never stood out to me as a main focus in Ninja Gaiden and Sigma PLUS does little to change that. The few cut scenes that do bring the story together a bit look great graphically and being on the Vita’s vibrant OLED screen helps in that matter. You will find yourself in battles all over various maps and levels against some fierce fiends, monsters, ninjas, and soldiers, all while trying to reclaim that sword. The main allure of the Ninja Gaiden series however has probably always been the stylizes action and combat. Sigma PLUS includes all of the different weapons and fighting styles and upgrades that come along with them including, the Dragon Sword, Lunar, Nunchaku, and projectiles like bows, bombs, and shuriken plus so many more (my personal favorite would probably have to be Dabilahro).

Combat and control-wise, Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS is a hack and slash, button masher in a way. Although that may be true, difficult combat requires you to be smart about how you execute your attacks and defensive maneuvers. The controls on the Vita work great for combat, square for basic melee attacks, triangle for heavy, circle for projectiles, and of course the cross button for jumping. In addition to these basic button controls, the Vita implements some touch and motion features. Unfortunately, these Vita exclusive features are not executed very well. In order to use your special attacks fully (Ninpo) you must use the touch pad on the back of the Vita and follow the onscreen commands. That doesn’t really add much to the experience, on the other hand, it may possibly detract from the overall fun in the combat and battles. What’s more, Sigma PLUS adds a first person view for your projectile weapons when you touch the screen. This way you can aim a little more precisely with the zoomed in feature and motion controls by moving around your to Vita help you aim. There was an instance or two in the game where this was required, however, overall it’s a feature that mainly went unused by me personally. Chances are, due to the fast paced action you will not use it much either.

As has been one of the highlights with the Vita, dual analog sticks are perfect for controls in this game. However, the Ninja Gaiden series has been a little notorious for having issues with the camera. You do have control over the camera to a degree with the Right analogue stick, yet the camera is still a little broken with this version of the game. There are times that you will have to scale walls and it turns out to be impossible due to the fact that the camera will not budge. Eventually it might flip around and you are successful at reaching the next platform, but it can be a nuisance at times. Other than those few issues, the controls still hold up pretty well on the Vita’s PLUS version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma.

Graphically, this is a dated game. Sigma PLUS is not a remake yet a port of a 6-year-old game, so the graphics are not anything that we may see coming from new AAA titles today. That said, Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS still looks great. The graphics are smooth and colors vibrant. The details are right up there with the PS3 version of the game, if not slightly better. Maybe that’s the OLED screen that gives it that extra glow of magnificence. Being on a handheld, there may be concerns that the full scale and magnitude of the game is lost, but be assured, it has not been compromised. There’s no need to squint or try to figure out what’s going on. The frame rates look smooth, and the details are great coming from the Vita’s 5-inch screen.

Sigma PLUS offers a lot of gameplay and replay value. Coming in at 19 chapters in the story mode, you will find yourself playing for some good hours especially taking into consideration the game’s difficulty levels. Unlike the console versions, Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS’ difficulty levels are split in three, a new ‘Hero Mode’ which is pretty much the “easy” version of the game where auto block is enabled and the difficulty level isn’t too impossible. Still, that takes a bit away from the whole gist of a Ninja Gaiden game – to rip your hair out and raise your blood pressure while trying to slay these fiends! Beside the ‘Hero Mode’ there are also the ‘Normal’ and ‘Hard’ modes you can start out on. Unless you are a master at Ninja Gaiden, I would suggest starting out on Normal and then make your way up to ‘Hard’ if you want that challenge. But be warned – it is seriously almost impossible. Or maybe I just suck at this game. Let’s say it’s impossible. During the game you also have the opportunity to level up your character, collect all of the weapons, and level those weapons up all the way too. So there’s a bit of time that you can invest in the story alone.

In addition to the different difficulty levels you can play through on the game, there are ‘Ninja Trials’ a set of missions that will offer you various challenges to complete. These challenges include some new Vita exclusive ones that will test your skills as a Ninja with the weapons that each specific mission provides you with. There are some that you will have to beat the clock, others – defeat all enemies, still more, hit targets with your projectile weapons. There are at least 76 different Ninja Trials for you to complete so you can expect to spend a lot of time in there as well. In addition to all of these features, if you are a trophy hunter, there are loads of trophies that you can collect that will require you to invest a lot more time in the game including some that require you to get 1,000 kills per each weapon in the game. If you want that shiny platinum trophy, sit back, and expect to spend quite a long time with Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS. That’s a great thing, it offers some great bang for your buck.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS did not add anything too new to the game. If you are a proud new owner of the PlayStation Vita and have never played Ninja Gaiden before, then get Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS because it’s a good action game to play as a launch title. If you have played Ninja Gaiden before, unless you want the trophies, then you can probably pass on this one as it’s essentially the same game you played already on your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. The Vita functions did not add anything spectacular to the game, and the camera controls are still a little crooked, yet Ninja Gaiden stood fast the test of time and provided an exciting and challenging combat experience on the go.


(A free copy of this game was provided GamerXChange by Tecmo Koei America for review)


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