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Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review

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On 02/28/2012 at 09:29 PM by Nick DiMola

If you had some aching desire for portable Ninja Gaiden, your wish is Tecmo's command.

Only for fans of the game looking to have it in portable form.

No matter how you want to look at it, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a hard sell. Being the fourth rendition of a game originally released in 2004, chances are if you have an interest in the title you already own it in its proper home console form. If by some off chance you still don't own it, the Vita version probably isn't your best choice, mainly because the excruciatingly difficult game doesn't lend itself to quick burst, portable play, especially with its infrequent save points. If that isn't enough to scare you away, the full retail price surely will.

There's no question that the core Ninja Gaiden experience still holds up nearly eight years later. The fluid action game continues to provide a degree of control that's both refreshing and slightly daunting. You'll be forced to master a variety of attacks, as well as blocking, dodging, countering, and environmental maneuvers. Ninpos, shurikens, shooting a bow, and an ultimate ninja attack all come into play as well in your attempt to defeat the various enemies and bosses scattered throughout each level. It's no easy task to become a master of the action as every move you make must be considered before execution. When you do begin to master the game, it becomes an extremely satisfying and fulfilling experience.

If you haven't had an opportunity to experience all of this first hand, this Plus port is a bit hit or miss. For one, it lacks any sort of auto-save feature, just like all previous iterations of the game. While I completely understand the omission to maintain the difficulty of the experience, it becomes problematic when you're trying to play the game on the go. Save points are few and far between, so if you don't have ten to fifteen uninterrupted minutes to dedicate (assuming you don’t die), you won't be playing the game without putting it to sleep mid-level.

Carrying the Sigma name, you'll get everything - good or bad - that the Sigma version of the game had to offer. Rachel is playable and you do have camera control as introduced in Black, but the camera still does a poor job of highlighting the action occurring on screen. It frequently loses sight of enemies and can even make it very tough to see Ryu as he darts around the screen. While frustrating, it's not a deal breaker.

What's more concerning are the shoehorned, Vita-specific controls. You now must enter first-person mode by touching the front screen and shoot enemies with your bow and arrow by tapping in their direction. There's also a cumbersome aiming system that uses the Vita's tilt capabilities and augmented reality features to translate real world aiming to that of the in-game first person camera. Ninpo are activated with the rear touchscreen, yet another cumbersome and awkward change that does nothing to better the experience.

The only two new praiseworthy additions are the new missions and Hero mode, which lowers the game's difficulty by offering unlimited Ninpo among other tweaks. Though praiseworthy, neither is particularly noteworthy.

Visually, Sigma Plus doesn't quite live up to the high standard set by Sigma on the PlayStation 3. Sigma Plus is more on par with the Xbox release of the game, complete with a totally smooth framerate. The textures lack definition and the colors look faded and washed out at times, but on the whole, it's still a visually pleasing title.

Given the limited upgrades of this version, it's hard to recommend the game, especially at the middle-tier Vita price point of $39.99. It's undoubtedly great to be able to take Ninja Gaiden with you on a portable for the first time ever, but playing it intermittently isn't made easy by the limited save points and lack of auto-save feature. Those looking for the game in portable form can't go wrong, but everyone else should instead check out the Xbox, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3 release of the game for a better experience.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Our Take

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

03/02/2012 at 02:43 AM

I can respect the gameplay and the technical prowess that went into creating the visuals but Ninja Gaiden has always been too hard for me. I've never tried the Sigma version of the game, though; just the original and Ninja Gaiden Black on the Xbox.

The lack of a quick save type feature is disappointing. Something of that nature should be standard in all handheld titles.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/02/2012 at 10:51 AM

In my opinion, this is a much better console game than it is handheld, mostly because of the reasons you mentioned.  Difficult games that require this much focus just don't play well on the go, and implimenting a 'quick save' would break some of the games trademark difficulty.  It's a good game, just not a great portable title.

Nick DiMola Director

03/02/2012 at 11:27 AM

If they would've just allowed you to create a save state, I think they could've skirted the need to do auto or quick saves. Loading the save state would delete it, so you couldn't abuse the function to make the game easier.

But yeah, outside of that, it's not a game built for the portable platform and it shows.


03/15/2012 at 06:07 PM

I found that by simply changing the Contrast and the Gamma, the games looks SOOOO much better.

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