Tecmo Koei is certainly getting the most out of the first Ninja Gaiden game, and by “first”, we mean first in the modern series for the pedants among you. Since its release on the original Xbox it’s also seen an upgraded (and considered definitive) release called Ninja Gaiden Black, then came another upgrade with the PS3’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma and now this brings us onto the Vita version of that game, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. Sigma Plus being proof that just because you can now fit something onto a handheld, doesn’t mean you should.
Now we don’t claim to be the greatest gamers in the world, we consider ourselves the everyman, and we easily made it halfway through the original Ninja Gaiden before running into trouble. With Sigma Plus however, the second level became a challenge. This can be attributed to old age (nine years since the original and all that), but it could also be caused by the horrendous camera and controls.
The genre has come a long way in those nine years, with Bayonetta still being the pinnacle, and Sigma Plus is starting to feel a little dated. Poor camera is something that has almost been completely obliterated and in a game that requires such pinpoint precision it is inexcusable. Coupled with poor controls and you’ll find that ninjas and demons aren’t the only thing you’ll be fighting.
Sigma Plus does come with a “Hero Mode”, this easier difficulty making the game less frustrating, but instantly taking away any real threat of death. When playing the game in Hero Mode once Ryu loses too much health then he will automatically start blocking attacks so you don’t have too. It only lasts a couple of minutes though so health will eventually need to be sought. It’s a mode designed for people who just want to bash their way through and enjoy the story and spectacle. Of course, meaning “story” in its very loosest definition. Even the spectacle has, like so much of the game, been diluted over the years in which we’ve seen the likes of Bayonetta and Asura’s Wrath taking it to a whole new level.
But that’s not to say there isn’t still something enjoyable at the core of the game. Graphically it looks nice on the Vita’s screen and there is still something satisfying about the combat. Especially if you enjoyed the olden days back when games didn’t hold your hand constantly, making completion a genuine accomplishment. It’s just that the core of Sigma Plus is buried beneath a layer of frustration that is hard to get through. And while it may have fit on the Vita, there is a definite issue with the amount of loading screens you’ll encounter. Not just going from each section, sometimes the game will actually stop mid fight as you get thrown from one section to the next. Many times during intense fight scenes the game would stop and the word “loading” would appear in the bottom right. Not the best when everything requires precision and dexterity.
If you’re a die-hard enthusiast of Ninja Gaiden then there are some differences in this Sigma Plus edition. Most notably using gyroscopic controls for first person mode and using the back tough pad to charge up ninpo power. Both adding very little to the experience. On top of this, if you never played the console version of Sigma then Rachel, the hilariously big breasted female lead, is now a playable character during her own unique missions. We don’t normally harp on about oversized women in video games, but really Team Ninja? Really?
It’s really hard to recommend this game to anyone except the most hardened of Ninja Gaiden veterans. Yet even those people may find this is one update too far. There’s not really enough here to justify a purchase, unless you fancy playing Ninja Gaiden on the move, and with the terrible camera and controls it’ll turn out to be more frustrating than challenging.