Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review (PS Vita)
The ninjas within me skip a beat whenever Ryu Hayabusa, the ninja of ninjas, flies from rooftop to rooftop slicing demons with the legendary Dragon Sword. It’s a common Asian fantasy. Don’t judge me!
So it is with a heavy heart to see Ryu being pawned off in so many ports: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a handheld port of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for PS3, which itself is an enhanced port of Ninja Gaiden II released in 2008. In this way, it’s much like the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, a launch title for the Vita in 2012. But still, titles like these make reviewers toss and turn in the night. Do we lambast a title that’s almost five years old and whose adventure has been played many times before, or credit it for filling out the bare catalogue of the PlayStation Vita with one of the best action titles for the handheld?
How you answer that question will ultimately decide whether you should have Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus in your collection, but for this critic, this handheld port could have been improved. As you might suspect, it follows (yet again) the story of Ryu Hayabusa eradicating the rival Black Spider ninja clan for attempting to resurrect the Archfiend. Along the way to saving the world, he must travel from Japan to New York, rescue a CIA Agent named Sonia, heed the words of his father Joe Hayabusa, and share the spotlight with his lady friends Ayane, Momiji, and Rachel.
Oh, and he does a lot of killing—swift, bloody, unremorseful killing. Ryu has no qualms decapitating the limbs and heads of his enemies, juggling demons into the air and finishing with an izuna drop, or casting powerful ninpo spells that obliterate everything in his path. For particularly annoying sections, he can whip out a bow with infinite arrows and lock-on targeting in third-person, with quick-aiming assistance with the Vita’s touchscreen. If that isn’t enough, he can then switch between scythes, talons, tonfas, and flails—just to name a few—when the situation calls for them.
But where this Vita port suffers is in the presentation. It’s still irritating to get attacked by enemies outside of the borders of the camera, while the camera itself can get in the way of combat at times. The framerate sometimes drops to 30fps, particularly in the later chapters of the game, though turning off the gore helps a smudge. The cut-scenes also seem pre-rendered instead of being run at least partially by the in-game engine. Looking close at character models and environments will show some uncleanliness.
In place of online functionality, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus comes with two additional modes to the single-player campaign. The Tag Missions mode allows you and another character controlled by the computer to face off against waves of enemies, but now without the ability to join forces with another player online. The Ninja Race mode challenges Ryu to finish a level in a time limit, which can be extended by collecting green essence. Since this is the same essence used for Ultimates, it will force you to make tough decisions on how to use it. However, both modes suffer from not having an online leaderboard.
While fans of Ninja Gaiden II and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 will want to hold off on getting this Vita port, Vita owners who want to see some action on the handheld should think about adding this to their catalogue. Despite the occasional slowdown and sometimes unpolished presentation, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a fine, fast, and furious choice on the road. Just be on the lookout for other ninjas. They be everywhere.