Ok, seriously now, enough is enough. We all thought Ninja Gaiden was a good game. We enjoyed the extras thrown in for the PS3 Sigma version, but really now, a fourth release? We are of course talking about Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus on the Vita; a game that by now, if you had any inkling on playing, would have been picked up over the past eight years and for a fraction of the price. It seems that all the Tecmo/Koei merger has given us is Koei’s track record of releasing the same game over and over again (sorry Dynasty Warriors, I do love you but it’s time to move on). But no matter how many times a game is re-released with updates, HD or 3D specials you still need to review it on its merits and Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus still manages to outplay most other games on the market.
The original exploits of our swift moving ninja Ryu Hayabusa have not changed much over the years and this is a good thing; why ruin a masterpiece?. Starting off at a gentle pace you go through the motions, exploring the numerous ways Ryu can get around the levels and battling a few bad guys along the way. As we have come to expect from the series, very quickly Sigma throws some real tough bosses at you, with a nunchuck wielding master, a load of ninjas on horseback and the main protagonist, the dark samurai Doku. This last battle does not end well for Ryu, with the Dark Dragon Blade he was charged with protecting being stolen and his village being razed to the ground. Taking his only lead, Ryu then makes his way to the far off city of Tairon, the capital of the Vigoor Empire.
A lot has been said about the difficulty on the Ninja Gaiden games and this Vita version is no different, as even on normal it’s a tough game, giving just enough health and save points to survive. A new addition sure to upset those that spent days trying to kill a certain boss is the addition of the Hero Mode, which will come into play when your health goes into the red; with Ryu then auto blocking and evading and being granting unlimited Ninpo for as long as the Hero Gauge runs or you gain more health, giving newcomers or more casual gamers a chance to see some of the later levels. If going into battle with the right attitude the game shouldn’t be too much of a struggle as button mashing and luck will only leave you lying in a heap on the floor gushing blood from your throat. To become a true master you need to learn all of the moves Ryu has available to him with wall running, double wall jumps and running off enemies heads becoming second nature. With even the lowliest of goons offering a challenge the game is really all about learning how Ryu moves and reacts, as if you press an action he has to finish it before moving in, leaving you open if you miss or go in too early.
There are lots of basic moves to begin with, however Ryu can unlock even more via Technique Scrolls, with the Flying Swallow rushing blade attack pulled off with a quick jump and strong attack to chop off heads or the Izuma Drop which slams enemies to the ground. Ryu can also wear Armlets that also boost abilities, offering better defence power, increased Ki powers and stronger kicks and throws.
Just like any self-respecting Ninja, Ryu has an armoury full of weapons to bring the pain, like swords, dual swords, nunchaku and a Bo staff, plus projectiles like smoke bombs, incendiary shuriken and a bow and arrow which utilizes the touch screen with a choice of aiming with the Vita’s gyro, giving you a fantastic first-person view or you can opt to just tap the screen in the area you’d like to shoot.
As well as killer weapons, Ryu also has a selection of magical Ninpo moves to pull off. Ki gauge is charged by collecting yellow energy from defeated enemies, which once full allows you to pull off a Ninpo move. Once activated a small mini game appears, with you tapping the rear of Ninja symbols to increase the power of the Ninpo via the rear touch pad. There are a few to find including the Art of the Fire Wheels that spin fireballs around Ryu and the Art of the Ice Storm that creates a whirlwind of ice that surround and cut anything that gets close.
Dotted around the levels you will come across Muramasa’s shop, where you can upgrade and purchase new items. With Essence collected from felled enemies you can spend this on elixirs, new technique scrolls and also upgrade whatever weapons you carry. Hidden throughout the levels are also Golden Scarabs that Muramasa will take from you, offering rare items depending on how many you collect.
Aside from the main story you also have loads of extra missions to complete; with the mission mode offering a variety of quick paced missions like defeating a boss or taking out a set amount of baddies with a few new Vita exclusives thrown in to keep it fresh. These are graded by a star system, but be warned, even a one star mission is a tough battle.
Difficulty aside, there are still problems that have not been ironed out on even the fourth iteration, like a harsh camera that at times can cause death and make some platform jumps very difficult, all of which tarnish this great title a little.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is for those that have not had a chance to play this wonderful game yet and are more likely to play away from a big TV screen. It’s also for fans that just love to be humiliated again and again by this exciting but brutal game. Overall though, it’s yet another great game for the Vita.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: PS Vita)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is out now on PlayStation Vita. You can order your copy here.