Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review
I still remember shaking off the cold sweats after an eight hour play session of Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox.
When the game was first developed by Team Ninja back in 2004, it heralded a marvelous new era for the third person character combat genre, and for the title main protagonist Ryu Hayabusa. It was the first 3D game in the series and introduced a storyline that took place before the events of the veryfirst Ninja Gaiden, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988.
Four years after the release for the Xbox, Ninja Gaiden 2 hit the Xbox 360. That’s the foundationon top of which Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus for the PlayStation Vita is built; it’s basically an enhanced version of the Xbox 360 version featuring the entirety of the original story mode as well as other enhancements made to improve the game. Like other games in the series, it was developed by Team Ninja and published by Tecmo Koei
The game picks up around a year after the events of the first game. While searching for our masked hero, a CIA agent named Sonia is kidnapped. Enter Ryu, who slices up some bad guys and learns of a plan by the Black Dragin Clan to steal the Demon Statue from Ryu’s father. The plot eventually moves to an erupting Mt. Fuji with the fate of mankind lying in the balance. The ove hermes rall story definitely has some emotional flair and finds its roots in Japanese lore.
But what this game lacks in narrative, it certainly makes up for in visceral, gorific action.
Make no mistake, this game is ultra violent. You can turn off the gore, but it lessens the experience. One of the new features in Sigma 2 is the ability to chop off the limbs of your foes (this was in the 360original, but was taken out in the PS3 version). It an almost comical effect as cutting off limbs does not kill your enemy, it merely hinders their ability to attack. It’s gruesome and violent, but also very satisfying seeing a gaggle of one legged badies in chase.
Aside from limbs, enemies can also be decapitated using a fatality type move. It’s a gruesome, but rewarding way to end a fight, and fortunately decapitated enemies do not give chase.
Gameplay in Sigma 2 plus is similar territory. The weapon selection is vast and each can be upgraded, making them not only more powerful, but bigger and more bejeweled.
Thankfully, each weapon feels unique, from the long range weapons, like the Lunar Staff, to close melee weapons such as the Falcon’s Talons. Each have their own pros and cons; for example weapons like the Lunar Staff are great for boss fights, but terrible if you don’t block properly.
I chose the Vigoorian Flail for its massive limb cutting ability. There are also secondary weapons like the bow, as well as a cannon. The bow is the most handy and even helps in a boss battle or two.
Aside from weapons, hermes Ryu also possesses magic like power attacks called Niinpo. Like the weapons, some Nipon are more powerful than others, and each has its own look and effect.
Surviving the onslaught of enemies in Sigma 2 plustakes some getting used to and I died often until I got used to the play style. This is yet another game where button mashing will lead to dismemberment, and not the good kind.
The key to winning battles, especially when outnumbered, is three fold: learn each weapons attack combinations, master block and counter attack and finally r hermes oll and jump away from trouble. It took a few chapters to get used to these three core mechanics, but once I did, I was cutting up dudes like melted butter.
The graphics and presentation in Sigma 2 plusare a mixed bag. There are a ton of well detailed environments to explore, from the sewers of New York, to traditional feudal Japanese villages, and even an erupting volcano. The levels look great, especially on the Vita OLED screen, but sometimes the textures appear low res and pixelated.
Also marring the experience is sometimes sloppy level design and clunky platforming, but thankfully it’s more good than bad. The player models are well detailed as are the vast array of enemies. Character animations are also a standout; the fluidity between animation, especially in combos, remains a series strength.
But the main problem with Sigma 2 pluslies in something that has marred the series since its Xbox inception: the camera placement. The camera in the game remains, for the most part, fixed. Though the right analog stick can pan and tilt the camera, it still remains where the developer placed it.
Herein lies the problem; the camera seems to be in th hermes e wrong place at least half the time. It’s incredibly frustrating getting attacked by an enemy just outside of the camera view or to die during a platforming section because of poor camera placement. It’s too bad the developer has yet to fix this problem on what is the third iteration of this game.
Making up for the problems in presentation are some breathtaking boss battles. Ninja Gaiden has always had some great boss fights and Sigma 2 plus ratchets up the size and ferocity giving some of the largest and most disturbingly great bosses in the series. Whether it’s being attacked by an angry Statue of Liberty or engaging full on dragons, the bosses for me highlighted every chapter. Each boss has its own attacks and patterns that must be mastered and some have multiple forms.
Overall, I got my butt handed to me in the boss fights, often dying multiple times before finding success. I did find numerous videos online where players were able to attain perfect no damage taken boss battles, so like most complex systems, I probably just needed more time. I imagine it would take at least one more play through to get a real sense of mastery.
With all the camera problems, slow down and sometime clunky level design, I still enjoyed Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus on the Vita. It may not be more than the sum of its parts, but it’s still a fun action adventure and definitely a worthy sequel to Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Just don’t expect to be blown away by the sometimes convoluted story.
At the end of the day, this game for me was akin to watching a classic kung fu movie; it’s a whole lot of fun while it lasts, but I could’t begin to tell you what it was about the next day.