'Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus' for PlayStation Vita.
Essentially an upgraded port of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Team NINJA's rather good PlayStation 3 game from 2009, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (S2+) for Vita offers players a satisfying yet imperfect hack-n-slash experience.
S2+ features a plot that's only slightly thicker than a PS Vita game's box. It's supposed to be an epic tale in which protagonist Ryu Hayabusa must prevent the Black Spider ninja clan from resurrecting the Archfiend vanquished in the first Sigma game, saving the future of mankind in the process. What it winds up being is a good-vs-evil tale that acts as little more than an excuse for Hayabusa to slash up a bunch of bad guys on the way to a fairly impressive boss fight at game's end. A little more depth would have been nice. To developer Team NINJA's credit, it seems that they did try. Their efforts just never really took hold.
Gameplay in S2+ comes off as fluid, which is exactly what one would want in an action game. Combos transition seamlessly as Hayabusa cuts his way through hordes of enemies. Furthermore, there is a good arsenal of weaponry at his disposal with which to dispatch the game's many baddies. These weapons all (mostly) act differently, forcing the player to alter his play style with each one. One big omission this time around is Hayabusa's lack of projectile weapons -- something that was a lot of fun to use in the PS3 version.
Taking advantage of some of the Vita's alternate control scheme features, S2+ supports touch controls. A tap on its touchscreen allows Hayabusa to change from his current melee weapon to his bow. While players won't use this feature too much as the game is melee-heavy, it's nice and easy for the times when the bow is required for use.
In addition to the utilization of the Vita's touchscreen are some new play modes. The most appealing of the selection is "Ninja Race" in which players attempt to clear a level at the quickest pace possible, akin to time trials found in other games from across genres. "Tag Mode" is another of the new modes. This is where players run through levels with an A.I. counterpart with the ability to hot-swap control of the two characters. There is no multiplayer with S2+, though the game is no worse without.
Visually, S2+ seems almost on par with its PlayStation 3 counterpart. While the Vita can't quite give players PS3-caliber graphics, the characters, action, and gore all look satisfyingly impressive on its OLED screen. Furthermore, the game's HUD is clean, easy to understand, and doesn't get in the way. There is one presentation aspect of this game, however, that is a true shame: its frame rate.
The action in S2+ can get quite frantic -- especially when there is blood flying all over the place. When this happens, S2+'s frame rate drops and drops fast. Players will simply have to look past this and carry on, because it's likely not something a simple post-launch patch can fix. Unfortunately, this imperfection can and will affect gameplay. Currently, the only remedy being offered by Tecmo KOEI is to have players go into the game's options and adjust the camera speed. The fix is almost as annoying as the remedy itself, which is a shame.
The glaring issue with the frame rate aside, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus proves itself to be a rather good hack-n-slash action title on the Vita. It translates very well from the PlayStation 3 original, and the two new play modes and utilization of the Vita's touchscreen are nice additions. Ninja Gaiden fans should find themselves liking this title overall, and those who are on the goal more than they are at home playing games should give this game a look.
Version tested: PlayStation Vita
(Tecmo KOEI supplied a copy of this game for review.)