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Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review

French poet Paul Valéry once wrote, “An artist never really finishes his work, he merely abandons it”. With the release of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for the Vita, it’s clear that the bosses at Koei-Tecmo feel likewise. Since being published in 2004, Ninja Gaiden has fought desertion with a steady succession of rereleaseseach offering slight tweaks and obliging additions to the familiar formula. Remarkably, these changes have allowed the title to remain gratifying eight years later, assuming players haven’t shadowed Ryu Hayabusa’s every wall scamper and enemy spearing.

Mercifully, time has been kind to Ninja Gaiden’s engaging combat system. Endowed with an ever-expanding repertoire of melee and projectile strikes, spinning piledrivers, as well as magical attacks, the title skillfully articulates the speed and efficiency expected from a seasoned assassin. Smartly, the protagonist’s abilities are matched by an incessantly effective AI, who persistently flanks and engages the player, creating an unremitting level of challenge. Although relentless blocking, evasion, and roundabout attacks on bosses are the general tenets of success, each new foe requires a slightly different battle tactic, forcing players to remain attentive at all times. Variety is advanced further by an assortment of different weapons, such as the powerful but sluggish Dabilahro, or devastating Nunchaku- which demands players be dangerously close to their opponent. Control across previous console versions was consistently flawless, but the imperative Reverse Wind technique (rolling out of a dodge) wasn’t as breezy on the Vita, sporadically not responding to a stick pull.

With even common enemies capable of draining the health gauge, Ninja Gaiden has developed a reputation for being extremely demanding, forcing gamers to acclimate to the title’s obstinate attitude. For players not up to this near-insurmountable challenge, Sigma Plus offers up Hero mode, a Vita-exclusive difficulty level which automatically blocks, evades and allows unlimited Ninpo once a player’s health level falters. Cleverly, this assistance in entirely optional and then only appears when players are in dire jeopardy, preserving the essence Gaiden’s arduous adventure.

While Sigma Plus’ other additions aren’t as indispensible, they are well implemented. While in first-person mode, players can use the Vita’s gyroscopic functionality to look around, with a touch sending a projectile to a precise target. Whereas Sigma for the PlayStation 3 compelled gamers to shake their Sixaxis controllers to power up their Ninpo, touches and swipes on the Vita’s rear panel amplify the potency of your magic. Perplexingly, the game’s menus fail to take advantage of the touchscreen.

Perfect for a portable platform, Sigma Plus’ Ninja Trials offer a nice selection of truncated missions for player to tackle. From rooms battles involves a flaming room full of infuriated enemies to destroying a tower with projectile weapons, many of these scenarios are culled from the main campaign, stripped of any superfluous narrative elements. Additional tasks unlock as players persevere through Sigma Plus, but it would have been gratifying to see leaderboard support.

Ninja Gaiden survived the transition to the small screen with most of its visuals intact, occasionally showing off the Vita’s power with pleasing depth of field effects. Although the console version’s faultless sixty frame-per-second framerate has been halved, the title remains much of its responsiveness of its predecessors. Particle effects from the Ninpo strikes have been marginally toned down, however, the the game’s feudal Japanese architecture, sakura-strewn locales, and Mayan-inspired temples remain untouched.

Gamers who have conquered any of the console iterations of Itagaki-san’s magnum opus won’t find much in the way of new material in Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, save for the privilege of carving enemies during morning commutes. Yet, for new Vita owners who haven’t experienced the title, Ninja Gaiden comes highly recommended. The game’s feverish combat and merciless adversaries offer an experience rivaled only by Koei-Tecmo’s next inevitable revision.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

22 comments

  1. Is this the one with the RPG guys? If so, forget it. That got me so frustrated.

  2. More Vita games?

    I can only blame all the people who made a big fuss saying “Whars tha Vita reviewz, doodz?”

    No offense, but I don’t plan on getting one anytime soon.

    • I don’t have a Vita (still too much money) but I like reading the reviews. They give me an idea of what I’ll buy once I finally cave in and get one.

  3. I’ve played NG on three system: original Xbox, Xbox 360 and PS3. Don’t really need to play it on the go.

  4. Well, at least there’s an easy mode. Does it still call you “Ninja Dog” when you fail too many times and play on easy?

  5. Is this selling for the full $40 or $30? Also, is it on PSN?

  6. Just got a Vita and need games for it. Which ones are the best ones?

  7. I haven’t played this in years. It would be awesome to play it on the go.

  8. You know Itagaki left Tecmo years ago right?

    • The day Itagaki left Team NINJA was like the day I found out that the voice of Santa Clause that was recorded on my YakBack was actually my Mom’s (now ex)boyfriend. I was crushed.

      And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to have a good cry so I don’t start weeping while we are recording the show tonight…

    • Yeah, but NG is still his game, even if other people have tweaked it.

      If an alien George Lucas added a few scenes to Star Wars, it would still be Lucas’s movie, right.

      Oh what’s that you say?

  9. Cabbage Patch Wino

    Ninja Gaiden, you were a cold heartless bitch that made happy and sad equally. You’re beautiful to look at (still) and a blast on weekends. As much as I want to leave you, I just can’t.

  10. Gaiden was one of my favorite Xbox games. When that game out I was hooked like a junkie. I still don’t think an action game has beat if for play. Graphics yes, playability, no way.

  11. Just bought this today. $33.xx. Loving it, kick ass combat.

  12. “French poet Paul Valéry once wrote, “An artist never really finishes his work, he merely abandons it”.

    (Rolls eyes) Really, Deagle? You know you sound like a douche, right?

    • pre·ten·tious/priˈtenCHəs/

      Adjective: Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.

      • Haha. I had to laugh at this. Sorry Deagle.

        I do thinks Des’s reviews are good but occasionally they’re hard to read. Maybe you can make them a bit more reader-friendly?

  13. The reverse wind technique sounds like code for code for farting.

  14. “save for the privilege of carving enemies during morning commutes”

    I’m looking for DesertEagle on the morning news. Big, Bald, CheapyD looking guy, right? haha

  15. This will be a must have if I ever own a vita, seeing as how ive missed every iteration on every console 😛