Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Review
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Box Art
System: PS Vita
Dev: Team Ninja
Pub: Tecmo Koei
Release: February 26, 2013
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 544p Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity
Ninja Dog Ugly
by Shelby Reiches

You are pissing me off, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, and it isn’t just your over-long name doing it. I don’t know whether to love you or hate you, and maybe, in the end, that puts me somewhere in the middle of the road, shaking my head incredulously at your hodgepodge nature.

I’m confused about your frame rate, still at the 30 frames per second that made your predecessor, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, so painful to play. I’d figured Team Ninja would pull some technical magic out of their behinds, seeing as they’ve had a year to tool around with the Vita since their first game and have promised 60FPS for the upcoming Dead or Alive 5 Plus, but performance this time out is arguably worse. At least the previous game managed to maintain a constant frame rate, rather than plaguing me with the frequent slowdown that NGS2P offers. It’s particularly frustrating when Ryu is reacting to button presses full seconds after they’ve been entered.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Screenshot

This slowdown occurs regardless of whether “gore” is turned on or off, the distinction being in the number of body parts strewn about during a match, the ability to behead foes, and whether their severed extremities part ways in clouds of purple mist or sprays of crimson blood. It occurs despite a resolution that seems suspiciously low, with obvious aliasing along the edges of the game’s lower-detail character models, especially obvious when held up against the cinematics that so frequently play. These were originally in-engine, but are clearly pre-recorded in the Vita release. Ryu’s costume does not change to match his in-game appearance (it did in the original Ninja Gaiden 2), the other characters are far more intricately modeled, and the frame rate is smoother.

But, despite all that, this is still Ninja Gaiden (Sigma) 2, and it generally plays like it. The rebalancing from the PlayStation 3 version is intact, with many of the changes (such as infinite arrows, third-person lock-on targeting for the bow, and the removal of end-of-level ratings) serving as hints of what was to come in Ninja Gaiden 3. Enemies are less aggressive, particularly with explosive projectiles, than they were in the Xbox 360 original, attack in lower numbers (though with increased health), and the essence they drop goes exclusively toward health and ninpo refills. Upgrades are handled by specific, easily distinguished Muramasa statues and handed out sparingly. I really like this change, since it encourages players to avail themselves of Ryu’s entire armory, rather than rely on one or two core weapons that they upgrade at the expense of all else. Even the additional missions in which one stars as Momiji, Rachel, or Ayane are all enjoyably constructed.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Screenshot

In the realm of entirely new, NGS2P introduces Tag Missions and a Ninja Race mode. These are, perhaps, a response to the exclusion of online co-op missions, which had originally been added into the PlayStation 3 version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Tag Missions are more or less the player and an A.I.-controlled companion against a few waves of enemies, though the player can switch which character they control at any time. There isn’t a whole lot to this mode and the score you receive for completing it is functionally void since there aren’t any online leaderboards of which to brag.

Ninja Race is a bit more interesting, since it tasks the player with navigating entire levels of the game under a strict time limit. The player begins with only a short time on the clock, which can be extended by picking up green essence. That same essence, however, must be consumed if one is to use Ultimate Techniques in the midst of combat, forcing the player to make split-second decisions as to whether it’s faster to slay their enemies immediately with a powerful ultimate or put more time on the clock and hope that they can defeat their foes in less time than that in a protracted battle. There is also a power-up in this mode that temporarily increases the speed of the game, adding yet another layer of strategy since one must choose when to use it. Again, though, the lack of online leaderboards really stings.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus Screenshot

Other changes and additions to Sigma 2 Plus are fairly minor. The Hero mode returns, providing a crutch for inexperienced or unskilled players, as does touchscreen aiming. The latter is vastly improved over its implementation in the first game, no longer forcing the player into first-person mode, but firing their equipped projectile weapon immediately. It can also be used during over-the-shoulder aiming, and feels far more accurate. There are back-touch control options as well, but they can blessedly be turned off, and gyroscopic aiming appears to be a thing of the past.

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