Ports are exciting when it comes to new handheld ventures: it’s a chance to experience some of your favorite console action on the go, which usually ends up being hugely satisfying. In the case of the new PlayStation Vita, there seems to be more potential than ever. Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a great example of what a port on the new system is capable of, though this now eight-year-old title is beginning to show its age. For players new to the series, however, it’s a great starting point.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a port of a port, having originally debuted on the original Xbox, then making its way to the PlayStation 3 to reach a wider audience as Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Sigma Plus is, in essence, the “younger brother” of the PlayStation 3 edition, and thus textures and visuals are noticeably downsized from the home console, as to be expected. As far as content goes, campaign mode has been lifted and virtually untouched from Sigma to Sigma Plus, retaining the ability to play as Rachel, additional areas to explore, the same moves you remember, and every secret locked away waiting for players to discover.
Throughout Ryu’s journey the same fast-paced, often frustrating action is present — you’ll need to learn to block, and block often if you want to make it anywhere. Simply launching full-frontal attacks with no regard for defense will get you killed. It’s prudent to make yourself acquainted with every single move in the Hayabusa ninja’s repertoire, or you’ll find yourself dying plenty of times, especially should you choose to play on one of the higher difficulties. You’ll be assaulted by enemies on motorcycles, inhuman enemies, and everything that runs the gamut from pedestrian to supernatural, each of them wanting your head on a silver platter.
You will turn the game off at some point out of sheer aggravation, and you will likely be moved to seek help online (unless you’re a series veteran) or inspired to come back to the game in a few months once the rage has cooled off. That’s the inherent attraction of the Ninja Gaiden name, and it’s here in full force.
Sigma Plus incorporates many of the new functionalities that come along with the Vita, such as the touch screen. At times when you’re faced with utilizing a bow and arrow it can be difficult to get a feel for aiming, and the rear touch screen feels a bit awkward when you’re asked to touch the correct areas in order to unleash powerful abilities. Still, it feels like a fresh addition to what could have easily been a vanilla port with no effort put into modernizing it on the handheld on which it now resides.
Familiar camera issues and few save points throw a couple of wrenches into the system, but they aren’t localized to Sigma Plus — these issues have always been present over the years, but for the love of creating another port, some work obviously could have been put into making this version of the game the best it could be. At the very least Ninja Trials and additional missions included with the game make up for the lack of “extra” polish and go a long way to keep players coming back for more abuse.
With Ninja Gaiden 3 on the horizon, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is an affordable way to whet your appetite for all things Ryu Hayabusa until you can take the latest plunge once again with the bloodthirsty ninja. It isn’t perfect and it doesn’t bring its A-game as far as optimized ports go (at least it does integrate touch screen technology) but it’s classic, frenetic, frustrating, and fun Ninja Gaiden, the same game you remember and probably regret picking up for all its nightmarish difficulty. If you’re new to the series, give it a try to hone your ninjutsu on the go. It’s certainly the best ninja tale you can currently unravel on the PlayStation Vita.
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