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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review

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On 03/25/2013 at 12:00 PM by Daniel Iverson

The Dragon Ninja returns with enough suffixes even Capcom would blush.

The PlayStation 3 version is still the best way to play Ninja Gaiden II.

Like a photocopy of a photocopy, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus reproduces the content of its original source but degrades the quality. The source is Ninja Gaiden II: Team Ninja's hack-and-slash action adventure game released for Xbox 360 in 2008. A port would be released for PlayStation 3 in 2009 (hence the Sigma) and again for PlayStation Vita in 2013 (hence the Plus). What we’re left with is that third clone from Multiplicity.

Ports of older games are always tricky to tackle, so I’ve decided to break down my thoughts on Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 into two handy sections. First, let’s talk about:

The Game Itself

Ninja Gaiden II is the quest of Ryu Hayabusa, Dragon Ninja of the Hayabusa Ninja Clan, to stop the Black Spider Ninja Clan from resurrecting the Archfiend Vazdah for reasons the game doesn't share and quite possibly doesn't actually know. The story unfolds between chapters via short cutscenes with bad writing that failed to interest me whatsoever. But Ninja Gaiden, with its late '80s arcade roots, isn't about story; it's about hacking and slashing whatever the game throws at you. And fortunately, that's its biggest strength.

The combat in Ninja Gaiden II flows with blistering speed and mechanical depth that’s second to none. Ryu employs a large variety of combos that blend ninpo (magic-based attacks) with melee and ranged weapons to vanquish foes with brutal and satisfying animations. Combat basics are easy to learn, but the system as a whole is deep enough to be challenging for even seasoned players to master.

Although you'll spend the majority of Ryu's quest fighting hordes of demons, the segments connecting these battles are less expertly crafted and wholly less enjoyable.

Stage design is basic and easy to navigate, usually limited to small corridors with occasional branches. Holding the right shoulder button will cause Ryu to focus on his destination, but I was rarely ever unclear about where to go. The greater use of the feature, I discovered, is to go the opposite way from where Ryu suggests, because inevitably it leads to a collectible.

Platforming, although fortunately rare, is often frustrating because Ryu can't be trusted to go where you would expect based on the commands you issue. Wall running is particularly unreliable, and failing often requires backtracking for 10–15 seconds.

Ryu may upgrade weapons by using blacksmith shops encountered periodically. Upgrading grants access to additional combos but doesn’t fundamentally change or improve combat, and the linear progression is hard to get too excited about.

So that’s what I think about the game in a nutshell. Let’s see what’s new with:

The Vita Release

New for the Vita are additional costumes, a "Hero Mode" (easy) difficulty setting, a "Ninja Race" time attack mode, and touchscreen controls.

Hero Mode may be the most significant addition to the core game. Fans that enjoy the series for its challenge are unlikely to care, but newcomers for whom Ninja Gaiden's legendary difficulty was a barrier to entry may appreciate this easier option.

While the other Vita-exclusive features don't significantly add to or subtract from the game, "Plus" is a questionable suffix because the Vita release also removes content added to the Sigma version. Online multiplayer is gone, replaced with less satisfying AI co-op, while the option for Japanese voiceovers was also removed.

NGS2P aims for 30 frames per second but often fails to perform at that framerate. Dropped frames are highly noticeable due to the precision of battle. Oddly, the game tries to maintain its framerate by reducing picture quality to the point where the image is visibly pixilated. I might be able to forgive the game if it either dropped frames or reduced the picture quality. The fact the game does both and still can't maintain its framerate speaks poorly of the programming.

Ninja Gaiden's suitability as a portable title partly depends on how you play. I played the digital version provided for review and found I was able to stop and start without losing my place simply by sleeping and waking the system. Your mileage may vary if you're going to be swapping cartridges or playing a harder difficulty requiring more focus

Some form of Ninja Gaiden II is worth playing if only for the combat, but the Vita release is difficult to recommend unless you value portability above features and performance. Otherwise the PS3 version is the one to buy, should you have the option.

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.




03/28/2013 at 08:34 AM

This review sort of reminds of the two ports FROMSOFTWARE did for Tenchu Sans Portable and Tenchu Kurenai Portable on the PSP about a few years ago; Initially, I was disappointed that they weren't planning on releasing them to the west anytime soon. But upon finally playing them I discovered that both games didn't run as well or looked as good as the systems they were originally released on. 

It's a shame really, cause I really would have liked to have, a well polished version of these games that I could play on the go, kind of like the original for release Monster Hunter Freedom and Me and My Katamari.

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