Ninja Gaiden was originally released on March 2, 2004, and it was accepted far and wide for its innovative gameplay and its incredibly high difficulty. Since then, it’s been remade for the PlayStation 3 as Ninja Gaiden Sigma and now for the PlayStation Vita as Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. This “port of a port” doesn't sound like it would be good, but it's still part of the original Ninja Gaiden vision. Does the once-acclaimed “hardest game ever” still live up to its namesake, or does Ryu Hayabusa need to take a much-needed break?
For the first hour or so of playing this game, after having played both previous versions of it, I found myself quite surprised and intrigued by having this game on a handheld console. For about 95 per cent of the game, the frame rate is absolutely glorious, allowing for fluid and action-packed combat. The overall game still has its high difficulty, though my previous experiences left me quite aware of what I must do to survive. Still, I was caught in many situations where they got pear-shaped quite quickly, on account of the game's AI being so challenging. Gladly, for the sake of this ported-now-handheld game, most of the Ninja Gaiden namesakes hold up very nicely.
Team Ninja has included a special game mode dedicated to certain tasks throughout Ninja Gaiden, such as assaults, boss fights, and even in-game events. Players can select different missions to complete, earn ninpo—which is figured in a leaderboard system—and even used unlocked costumes from the single-player story. Most of the missions take at the most of ten minutes or so, depending on performance, and boss cooperation, so this mode is definitely meant to appeal to small bursts of portable gaming. In hindsight, most levels of the single-player experience take around 20-30 minutes, so most of the game is very well-applied to a handheld medium. The only issue I have with this mode is that weapons are selected for you for each mission. Point being, if you suck with a certain weapon, you will have to use it eventually, which is both good and bad, depending on personal outlook.
On top of this, this second port also features a very easy game mode, where Ryu will automatically block when required. This may appeal to newcomers, since as mentioned the game is notorious for its high difficulty. I would recommend experienced players to avoid this mode, on account of it almost feeling unnatural, but it can definitely help bring many new players through the experience and help get acclimated to what Ninja Gaiden has to offer.
Throughout the game, however, I found quite a few performance issues, some of which were new and some carried over from previous versions. At certain points, random points, where I would get a multitude of blue ghosts on screen, the game would lag until I killed them. Perhaps the graphics weren't entirely optimized for the PS Vita's perform-ability, since the game seems to get caught under its own heft on a handheld. Still, the scenario felt very random, since I'd have other areas where I was surrounded by ninjas flying all over the screen and the game performed perfectly.
Loading was a problem that was carried over from the previous versions. Though the initial loads for each level are surprisingly quick, I still loaded randomly when mingling through levels, and especially when I backtrack through them. The fact that loading has to happen that way through a second port looks very, very sloppy; unless this issue makes you strangely nostalgic, it won't be a pleasing experience.
Certain features of the original game were adapted to fit into the PS Vita's ability for physical interaction. That may sound good, but I was never quite enthusiastic about either of the two functions. The first is using the front touchscreen to shoot the bow. Instead of having to aim with the joystick, players can simply click on a location on the screen and the arrow will shoot at the indicated location. In theory, this feature sounds great. However, getting accuracy with that function is harder than it looks. The game doesn't have any sort of aiming reticule, which is a carry-over feature from the original game, but hitting anything either takes luck or a lot of wasted arrows. The aiming function is activated by simply pressing the front screen anywhere, and Ryu automatically goes into the aiming mode. Even in mid-combo, if you accidentally hit the front screen while mashing together a sick combo, you will go into first-person and have to struggle to click the little X in the bottom-right corner of the screen to make it go away, all the while enemies are tearing you apart.
The other adapted feature is for the Ninpo, or magic, abilities. Instead of mashing buttons to strengthen the magic, players now have to use the back touchscreen to either quickly press the prompted area or click a string of different areas in a chain. Once again, the function sounds good in theory, but it's incredibly difficult to feel like the magic abilities are even being powered up at all. In the original and PS3 port, simply mashing buttons powered it up and it definitely felt much more authentic while the new function feels clunky.
Fortunately, all of the sights and sounds of Ninja Gaiden are properly preserved and adapted to the PS Vita, completely rendered down to look as appealing on its OLED screen as it would look on a 40” LED TV. With the way that the game plays exactly like the other two versions, apart from a few interactive issues, this port is successful enough. I, being an avid Ninja Gaiden fan and one of the few players who was able to beat the original Ninja Gaiden back in the day, found this port to be quite entertaining, walking through memories past as I cut down enemies with the Dragon Sword. But, I can't say that a port like this fully justifies the $40 price tag.
On the other hand, Sigma Plus gives newcomers full access to all of the content that veterans have had with the original game, and also offers increased replay value through the Ninja Missions. Nonetheless, not a lot has changed, and some functions prove to be very irritating. Team Ninja classed this game up a little bit, but it didn't fix many of the previous problems that the other port did have, and it added a few more adapting functions to the PS Vita hardware. Regardless, it’s still a competent and clean port, and it's definitely something that long-time veterans would want to have on their PS Vitas.
|Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review by Timothy Nunes|
-The Final Word-
A clean port of an old classic, though a bit rough on the edges