Game Review: Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (PS Vita)

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus PS Vita

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is an action adventure game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The game is an improved port of the PS3’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma, which itself was released across all territories between June and July 2007.

There are two game modes consisting of a single player story mode and ninja trials. The majority of the single player story mode sees you following the story from the perspective of the main character Ryu Hayabusa for sixteen of the nineteen chapters with the other three chapters being played from Rachel’s perspective; Ryu is a dragon ninja, while Rachel is a field hunter. The story sees Ryu fighting to protect his village from the Black Spider Ninja Clan that sets him on an epic adventure across various locations ranging from his home village to an airship and even ice caverns during his journey, while seeking revenge on those who are responsible.

The ninja trials game mode is essentially a compilation of short missions that provide a pick up and play feel to the game for people that want to play Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus on short journeys that may not have the immediate amount of time required to play the single player story mode. There are fifteen ninja trials consisting of five challenges in each with a sixteenth ninja trial called Eternal Legend that is only unlocked after the rest of the challenges have been completed totalling to seventy-six challenges. The trials are spread across eight tiers with each containing two sets that are progressively unlocked as you complete more challenges at higher difficulty levels. You earn coins depending upon which difficulty level you choose. You start out with just the normal difficulty level, but you unlock the next difficulty level by completing the current highest available difficulty level.

You will be rewarded with a bronze coin for completing a challenge on the normal difficulty; a silver coin for completing a challenge on hard difficulty; a gold coin for completing a challenge on very hard difficulty and a platinum coin for completing a challenge on master ninja difficulty. The missions range from destroying all of the enemies or objects such as radio towers to defeating the leader of a clan, while some of the missions are timed missions; not all of them are. Ninja trials allows you to choose between two characters including Ryu Hayabusa and Rachel. Ryu starts out with just his battle suit, although there are another three unlockable costumes, while Rachel starts out with her leather suit and has a further two unlockable costumes. Once you have completed a mission, a screen will be displayed showing that you have completed the mission and informing you of the amount of karma that you have received from completing the mission as well as if your performance has set a new personal best.

The inventory is split into four categories including: equipment, supplies, accessories and info. The equipment category is split into three sections covering melee weapons, projectile weapons and ninpo. Melee weapons are used for close quarters combat, such as a Japanese sword from the descendants of the Hayabusa Ninja Clan which is carved out of the fang of a dragon called the dragon sword and the legendary nunchaku; while the projectile weapons are used for combat from distance, such as the crossbow with a variety of bows ranging from standard bows to explosive bows and the cross shaped throwing star called shuriken; and ninpo provides special abilities, such as the art of the fire wheels that allows Ryu to create fire wheels that circle him. The supplies category is split into two sections covering items and valuables. The items include various elixirs that increase your health when you are near death in battle and the valuables include anything that you have collected that could be sold in the Muramasa shop to help fund other purchases of weapons and elixirs or pieces to a puzzle that must be placed in a certain location to unlock your path in order to progress.

The accessories category is split into two sections covering armlet and enhancements. The armlets provide you with improved capacities, such as increased strength, increased ultimate technique limit and faster ultimate techniques; while the enhancements provide increased projectile weapon strength and boosting the power of ninpo. The info category is split into three sections covering archives, technique scrolls and maps. The archives include various letters that you have received along your journey; technique scrolls inform you of how to use your special abilities and the maps show a detailed outline of various levels that you have collected maps for along your journey.

There are some puzzles that you will encounter along the way during the story, which really adds to the depth of the gameplay as it sets it apart from other hack and slash games. The camera angle is always fluent with a default camera angle that can be moved anywhere around the main character. The health mechanic in the game sees you using elixirs when near death, but you can also regularly be rewarded with health in the form of blue orbs after having defeated a group of enemies, while karma is earned from defeating enemies and creating long combos and is essentially a scoring system.

The default controls are easy to master, despite a long and evolving moves list. The controls consist of pressing square to attack, triangle is the special attack, O is to use the projectile weapon or to interact with an object when close by such as opening a door and collecting a weapon or elixir, X to jump, O and triangle together to use the ninpo, X and square together to use the wind run, L to guard, R to centre the camera, left analogue stick moves the character, the right analogue stick moves the camera, a tap of the touch screen sees the camera enter the first person view which is ideal for aiming arrows from your crossbow, using the Vita’s motion sensor functionality to move the positioning of the camera angle while in the first person view, using the rear touch pad to tap symbols to boost the power of Ryu’s ninpo, select to display the map (once you have found the map for that particular area) and the start button pauses the game to take you to your inventory.

If for whatever reason you do not like the default controls, they are fully customisable from the button settings screen within the controller settings section of the options menu; as are the projectile controls, which can be changed from pressing a button to using the touch screen. Pressing the square button to attack three times in quick succession will result in a quick and effective combo, while pressing the X button with the left analogue stick held upwards near a wall will result in your character running up the wall and jumping backwards at the peak of the wall or alternatively press X again while ascending the wall to jump backwards off the wall at anytime before the peak of the wall. There is a moves list that details the controls for each of the weapons, which is accessible by pressing the start button, choosing your weapon from the equipment menu and pressing the triangle button. The moves list provides a long list of combos that are referred to as techniques, such as pressing square twice and triangle twice to perform the Fang of the Wolf move with the dragon sword.

Graphically, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is just as good as its PS3 counterpart with crisp textures, lighting and shadows. All of the characters and enemies are well animated and there is no drop in frame rate or screen tearing at anytime no matter how much action and how many enemies are on screen at once, which is of huge importance to a game like this that belongs in the action adventure and hack and slash genres. The game is very gory with lots of blood and violence that is depicted in immense graphical detail.

The presentation of the game is solid with a combination of a touch screen and face button based navigation of the user interface across various menus such as the main menu, save and load menus and the inventory. The audio is of a high quality standard with rock music providing the soundtrack during the menu screens and atmospheric music during gameplay, while you can hear every enemy in agony from their Ryu inflicted wounds and every clash of swords. There are also great voice overs during video sequences and scrolls containing words of wisdom and guidance.

The trophy list includes fifty-one trophies with forty-two bronze trophies, five silver trophies, three gold trophies and one platinum trophy. The trophy list starts out easy with trophies earned for completing the first chapter, obtaining a scarab and completing the fifth chapter, while there are some easier trophies that require a longer period of time to earn such as completing the fifth; tenth and fifteenth chapters, completing all of the chapters, but these will come in time with perseverance. There are harder trophies that are more likely to require a trophy guide in order to achieve them, such as obtaining all of the scarabs and finding all of the Team Ninja logos. The major sticking point on the way to the platinum trophy is the sheer length of the majority of the trophies as they mainly incorporate defeating enemies with a particular weapon between one-hundred and one-thousand times, along with multiple required playthroughs of the story mode and ninja trials across various difficulty levels. This makes for a harder trophy list as I would estimate that it would take upwards of one-hundred hours to earn the platinum trophy!

When starting a new game in the story mode, you have three difficulty levels to choose from including: hero mode, normal and hard. Hero mode is a new inclusion to Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus that you will not find in the PS3 version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma and is essentially an easy mode, as it has been included for players that are new to the Ninja Gaiden series and casual players, so you can get into the game without having to worry about it being too difficult, of course there may be some places here and there that are more difficult than others to provide a challenge, but it does its jobs as it is noticeably easier than the harder difficulty levels due to providing automatic blocks from enemy attacks and infinite ninpo when near death. There are two more difficulty levels that you can unlock in the form of the very hard and master ninja difficulty levels. You can unlock the very hard difficulty level by starting a new game on the hard difficulty level and playing through until you have defeated Doku at the end of chapter two, while you can also unlock the master ninja difficulty level by starting a new game on the very hard difficulty level and playing through until you have once again defeated Doku at the end of chapter two. Unlike some games that seem to be rather similar across various difficulty levels; the difficulty levels of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus definitely adjusts the capabilities and intelligence of the A.I. appropriately with such examples as the A.I. regularly throwing shuriken when they barely use it on hero mode, if at all.

The replayability of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is without doubt, especially as the platinum trophy would take upwards of one-hundred hours to achieve; it really shows just how much gameplay can be explored including all five difficulty levels and the ninja trials. The ninja trials mode provides pick up and play action in short bursts for your entertainment during shorter journeys on public transport, so even if you don’t have the time to play the full story mode while on the go; you will definitely have time for the ninja trials mode. The only downside is that they have bizarrely decided to remove all of the online leaderboards that were available in the PS3 version of the game.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus excels in all of the areas that you would expect a PS3 action adventure to excel in and retains that level of quality on the Vita. The game possesses excellent graphics, audio, gameplay and replayability, so I would highly recommend that you purchase Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for the Vita; even if you are new to Ninja Gaiden or a casual player as you can still quite easily get into the game with the inclusion of the new hero mode and for those of you that want your action in short, sharp bursts; the seventy-six challenges provided by the ninja trials mode with four difficulty levels available for each of them are absolutely perfect for you. This game is a steal especially considering that you can easily find it for £15 or less at retail stores, so don’t hesitate to buy it now!

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus
  • Publisher: Tecmo Koei
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PS Vita Card / PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 768Kb (PS Vita Card) 2.3Gb (PSN Download)

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