Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Vita Review: Revisiting an Old Friend

It’s probably wise to start off this review with a confession. I don’t think I can be objectionable. You see, Ninja Gaiden has always been one of my favorite game franchises of all time.

I played the original game on the NES so much when it first came out that I could run through the entire game in less than 30 minutes, and without dying. I even showed my friends how to finish it (this was before the Internet, and that’s how we did it back then. Yeah, I’m old).

Flash forward to 2004 and the release of the revamped Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. Again, I tore into it, finding every scarab, every secret (including unlocking the original three NES games to play) and mastering all of Ryu Hayabusa’s moves. I had NEVER played a game to 100% completion and then turned around and played it again just because it was fun.

Now, Tecmo/KOEI has released Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for the Playstation Vita, and it’s like meeting up with an old friend. It’s basically the same game as the 2004 release, but is now fully realized in a handheld system.

Team Ninja has faithfully kept the game intact, while introducing some of the PS Vita’s hot new features.

Projectile weapons (shuriken, bow and arrows) can now be launched using touch aiming and motion control on the huge Vita touch screen. It offers pinpoint control, literally. The new dual joysticks control Ryu’s movement and the camera, and the L trigger button can reset the camera behind Ryu, which is as good as it’s going to get.

Ninpo attacks are used with simple button combos, and since the Vita’s buttons are offset and tiny, it makes the combos easy to pull off, not to mention the utilization of the back touch pad to strengthen the ninpo attacks.

The story of the game is unchanged (though it does include the Sigma-only level of playing as Rachel in the Monastery) and the graphics, while dated, look incredible on the beautiful OLED screen. Movement is still lightning fast, and when the Dragon Sword gets fully upgraded, along with the unlocking of all of the different scrolls, Ryu becomes a killing machine. The Vita pulls it off marvelously.

One big issue in 2004, and again in each subsequent version of Ninja Gaiden, has always been the wonky camera. Unfortunately, the Vita suffers from it as well. The camera can be adjusted with the right joystick, but it still gets stuck, and the seemingly off-screen Black Spider Clan ninja will brutally attack. Consider yourselves warned.

New to the Vita version are additional challenges called Ninja Trials, which can make even the seasoned Ninja Gaiden veteran sweat. There are over 75 Ninja Trials and an adjustable difficulty level, so anyone can play the game. The original game was notorious for its difficulty. Demon’s Souls is hard. The original Ninja Gaiden on Xbox was DIFFICULT!

The LiveArea menu on the Vita includes links to the Tecmo/KOEI website, and even includes a trailer for the upcoming Ninja Gaiden 3.

Team Ninja and Tecmo/KOEI have really pulled out the stops. Taking an eight year old game and porting it to a brand new game system was a gutsy, ninja-like move. And it paid off.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus really helps to show the Vita’s features, all the while making seasoned gamers like myself feel all nostalgic for a beloved game. I forgot how much I enjoyed this game in 2004, and thanks to Sigma Plus, I’m rediscovering it all over again.

I still really love this game.

Shop for Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus on Playstation Vita for a discounted price at (February 22, 2012 release date).

out of 5

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