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7/26/2012

REVIEW: Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (Vita)



Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is yet another remake of the awesome classic released originally for the Xbox back in 2004. Developed by Tomonobu Itagaki’s Team Ninja, it features a very bloody and extremely difficult adventure by super-ninja Ryu Hayabusa for revenge against the evil Vigoorian Empire.

The PS Vita version is actually a remake of PS3’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Every extra that appeared in Sigma, like Rachel’s chapters and the Ninja Trials are there but the Vita entry includes even more and most of the changes are pretty cool, while another is actually a bit annoying and just doesn’t feel right for a game that many consider the best action-adventure game ever made.

But let’s first start with what the game is about, just in case somebody still doesn’t know. Ninja Gaiden (Sigma Plus) is an action adventure game where you’ll be controlling Ryu Hayabusa (and in this case, a VERY beautiful demon hunter named Rachel for a bit), exploring areas, fighting many challenging enemies and bosses and using all kinds of ninja weapons against them, both melee and ranged. This game has always been considered to be very, very hard, especially if you attempt the high difficulties. But unlike games like Demon’s Souls, Ninja Gaiden is not broken or cheap-hard. Every enemy can be beaten if you’re good, you use a weapon that deals more damage or simply by creating a good strategy on the go. The Sigma versions have a “Ninja Dog” difficulty especially made for casual players but I truly recommend going for “Hard” or “Very Hard” if you really want to experience how the game must be played.

The game starts with Ryu’s Village getting burned down by samurai from the evil Vigoor Empire. The Emperor wants to steal the Dark Dragon Blade, a very powerful sword capable of inflicting and absorbing evil. They succeed and Ryu goes in a quest for revenge and claim the sword back. In his adventures he’ll meet Doku, a dark evil samurai, the purple-haired Ayane from Dead or Alive and as I mentioned before, Rachel, a very hot demon-hunter with her own playable chapters and ninja trials.

Graphically. NGSP looks very good in the Vita, with an HD screen, the portable console manages to bring the already-great visuals of the PS3 version everywhere you go. The textures are very nice, especially on the most important characters like Ryu himself, Rachel, Ayane, Doku and Murai. Some of the environments look a bit bland and the water isn’t very good but this is because they use the same textures from the Original Xbox version, and that one came out back in 2004. Fortunately, you won’t see much of those.

The game manages to run at a steady 60 frames-per-second which make the lightning-fast gameplay look very smooth and natural. The areas are big enough to move around freely and comfortably and the lightning effects, while not top-notch, are very nice in the Vita screen. It’s impressive how such an old game manages to stay with such quality for so many years.

In sound, the game is a bit of a let-down for fans of the original entries. The Vita version does NOT include the Japanese voices from the Xbox and PS3 versions so we’re all forced to play in English. The English voices aren’t that bad but they just feel out of context and if you’re a fan of the original version and Dead or Alive, it will take a lot of time to get used to Ryu speaking English. On the other hand, the rest of the sounds are very good, the environment, enemies, spells, weapons and objects sound very realistic and help with the immersion in the game.

The soundtrack in NGSP is quite nice as well. Fan-favorite songs like “Revival of the Dead” “Go the Distance” and “Iron and Sword” are still there and accompany players during the difficult adventure in an excellent way. Most bosses and areas have an exclusive song and in general, they’re very good. So no changes there from the PS3 version.

Gameplay-wise, the game is pretty much the exact same as the PS3. You run, attack, evade, block and jump in the same ways but there are two important changes to be noticed in Sigma Plus. First, the ninpos now require you to touch a specific part of the back of the Vita while they’re being charged so they come out stronger (the PS3 version only required for the controller to be shaken) and the bow is now controlled mostly by the touch-screen. This is very bad because it forces you to let go of the buttons to aim and shoot so doing that mid-fight is definitely a no-go since the game is very fast-paced and in the two seconds you take for aiming, an enemy will grab you and take half your life. This new gameplay mechanic is especially annoying in the military chapters where there are two extremely close and challenging boss fights against a couple of tanks and a helicopter and the only way to destroy them is with the two special arrows. The fights become quite confusing and sometimes Ryu simply won’t aim and shoot where you want him to. In my run, these were the hardest bosses to defeat while in the Xbox and PS3 I can take them on very easily.

Fortunately, the rest of the gameplay is still very fun and fast-paced, even with the Vita analog sticks. Running and controlling the camera at the same time feels very natural and pulling out combos with weapons like the Dragon Sword, Vigoorian Flail and Lunar Staff is still very, very cool. All the challenging bosses are there: The fat guy at the top of the zeppelin, Alma, the dinosaur skeleton, Doku, etc. The challenges where you have to take on a certain number of enemies for an extra item are also there and they come quite handy for practicing combos, building up kills for trophy-hunters and just for the rewards themselves (except in Rachel’s case where you simply get a hair-style, oh Team Ninja).

There are five difficulty settings for Story Mode: Ninja Dog, Normal, Hard, Very Hard and Master Ninja and the story itself has 19 chapters including three for Rachel, each one with bosses, sub-bosses, many enemies, secrets and places to explore. You can buy items and upgrade weapons and accessories in Muramasa’s shop and in Sigma Plus; you’ll be able to equip masks and bracelets that add cool tweaks to gameplay like increased damage, less defense and such. These can make the whole game easier or insanely more difficult, depending on what you equip and they’re a very welcome addition to the game.

Outside the story, there are many Ninja Trials to play where you’ll be put in a specific area with a specific task like “destroy all enemies”, “burn down the tower” or “kill the boss”. These are available for both Ryu and Rachel and the variety is quite impressive. Each trial gives your character set equipment and will rank your result depending on many things like your total time, life remaining at the end of the mission and enemies killed. Ninja Trials will add many, many hours of gameplay to the game even after you’ve finished the story a few times. And of course, most of them are very, very hard to complete. Sometimes they’re just ridiculous, but awesome anyway.

As mentioned, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a game that can literally last several hundred hours. With all the difficulty settings, weapons to try out, golden scarabs to collect, trophies to get and ninja trials to finish, the game will prove to be quite long. When you look at it from that perspective, it’s no surprise that it’s considered to be one of the best games ever made. Unfortunately, the Vita version is not the best out there, especially because of the bow-and-arrow issue. I’d personally have to go with the PS3 one if asked, but Sigma Plus is still an amazing game and definitely one of the best in the Vita catalog right now, even if it is just a remake of a remake, taking Ryu’s revenge with you anywhere is priceless.


Pros:

-          Excellent challenging and fast-paced gameplay.
-          Many different weapons to use.
-          Great boss battles.
-          Lots of extras outside Story-Mode.
-          Very good graphics and sound.
-          Very hard but very rewarding.
-          Excellent controls for moving, ninpos and melee weapons.

Cons:

-          No Japanese voices.
-          Forced touch-screen controls for Bow and Arrows.
-          The later Ninja Trials are just ridiculous.



-          Graphics and Visuals…….…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects….....8
-          Gameplay……………………9 
-          Replay Value………………..10

Overall Score……………….. 9 / 10

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