Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review
Here we go again. Ninja Gaiden 2 was the beginning of the troubles the series is currently enduring. The lead designer at Team Ninja, Tomonobu Itagaki, left the company during development of this title. The end result was an unfinished mess with ideas that went nowhere and a buggy presentation that only aggravated the fan base. While this story has been told time and again, one would think after two more iterations of the same title, Team Ninja would have delivered a final product that at least came close to the original vision. The newest version of this game is now released on Sony’s PlayStation Vita, and many fans were hoping it would be the final statement on Ninja Gaiden 2.
It’s a final statement, alright, but not one Team Ninja may have been hoping for. Before we get to that, however, let us all understand that Ninja Gaiden 2 has managed to flip flop on its own themes and execution to such an extent that one could be seriously confused even before turning on their Vita. For starters, Ninja Gaiden 2 on the Xbox 360 was designed with a theme of brutality and gore. When they released the first Sigma version of the game on the PlayStation 3, the entire theme was blunted and all of the gore removed (lilac smoke?!). Now, on the Vita, the gore has been put back in and the theme of the original title restored. Basically, one can assume that this version is the update to the Xbox 360 original, with the improvements of the Sigma PS3 version included. Confused yet? Just wait…
The Vita, obviously, is a handheld with less power than its PS3 sibling. That being the case, the graphics, framerate and screen resolution has been seriously gimped in order to deliver the title. For example, the game now runs on the vita at 30fps as opposed to the 60fps of the PS3 version. There are noticeably fewer enemies on screen at any given moment, and the texture resolution is much lower. Several background environments tend to look like low-res gifs one finds on the Internet, posted by someone who doesn’t know how to use Photoshop. The jaggies present in some of the key battles in the title are just ridiculous.
Now for the giant “WTF?” with this title. The Sigma version on the PS3 contained a co-op mode that was a welcome addition to the series. Now, it should be known that Ninja Gaiden has always been a single-player experience, but when the PS3 version went Sigma this addition was a welcome treat. In this Vita version, however, players are given a “tag mode” that enables players to hone their ninja skills against waves of enemies with an AI partner. That is, when the screen can refresh fast enough to even play it. Yes, tag mode is a stuttering, framerate nightmare that should have been left out altogether.
So, where does that leave the fans? Well, if the series is what you crave, you may be able to overlook the flaws that hold back this title from true greatness. Nobody is a bigger fan of this series than the reviewer who wrote what you’re currently reading. Ninja Gaiden Black on the original Xbox was a cornerstone title for those who dare to call themselves true gamers. Nobody “wanted it” more than I. Suffice it to say, I have played through all three versions of this game that was doomed from the moment it was conceived. This current Vita version, most offensively, is far too easy and far too nerfed to even have been a pure Ninja Gaiden experience. So, what’s the final verdict?
Despite everything wrong with it, the game can still be enjoyable. Despite every graphical glitch, camera lock and cheap death you will experience, it can still deliver some sort of intense thrill on the harder difficulty levels. If you’re a fan of the series and are willing to forgive a lot, you may actually find the title enjoyable if not a bit too easy. One key point: Be sure to crank up the camera speeds all the way to fast in the options menu before you even start playing. Apparently, the game shipped with a bug that causes massive framerate damage if the settings are lower than that. Although this next thought may prove to be a rough one for some to stomach, it appears to me to be the harsh reality…
If you can’t get past the flaws Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is rife with, you may find your ninja combat needs satisfied by another title with similar gameplay and a more polished and thought out presentation. That title is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Yes, that title, at times, is more Ninja Gaiden than this one or even the putrid offering that was Ninja Gaiden 3.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
This review is based on a digital copy of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus for the PlayStation Vita provided by Tecmo Koei.