I really wanted to love Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus. After the excellent port of the first Sigma on Vita, the handheld felt like a great place for the series to continue to thrive post major releases. Plus,having ass-kicking ninja Ryu Hayabusa on-the-go is truly awesome. Sadly, Team Ninja seems to be more miss than hit since the departure of Tomonobu Itagaki. NGS2P is a shell of its former self, missing key features and sporting a terrible frame rate. This is one portable ninja-action title I cannot recommend.
For those just tuning in, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a port of the PlayStation 3’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, which was itself a port of Ninja Gaiden 2 on the Xbox 360. Basically, this is exactly the same game we got on PS3 back in 2009 with some obvious omissions. First and foremost, let’s talk about the removal of co-op. The game sports zero multiplayer. One of the coolest features about NGS2 was the addition of co-op maps featuring other characters from the game, including Ayane and Momiji. That mode is still here, but you simply play alongside an AI partner.
It is also worth noting that the Japanese audio track was stealthily removed before release. Purists will certainly be disappointed by this omission, as the English audio track is far from optimal.
I wish that was the extent of the issues with the game, but it gets worse. The original Sigma on Vita ran at a locked, solid 30 frames per second. I reasonably expected the same for the sequel. This is not the case. The game maxes out at 30, but constantly dips below that, especially in the co-op maps with a second character. The transition to the handheld platform feels lazy, which makes no sense considering how long it has been since the system came out and that the original ran fine.
Sadly there isn’t much new here to make up for the shortcomings. The Vita-specific controls work fine, like using the touch screen to swap ranged weapons, but they aren’t anything revolutionary. The difficulty has been toned down to compensate for playing with a less-than-ideal control scheme, and the camera has received some improvements, but for all intents and purposes this is the same game running poorly.
The one new mode, Ninja Race, is not worth the double (or even triple) dip for the game. It basically takes sectioned-off areas of the game and adds a timer. It isn’t optimized and feels tacked on. I tried it once, and never had the urge to return to it ever again.
The game looks fine outside of the frame rate. Environments are varied, and the locales are some of the best in the series. There are the usual downgrade of polygons and models when going to the Vita, but on that slick screen, the game looks great. Audio is fine outside of the lack of the Japanese audio track. Its omission is criminal considering Vita games are available digitally, how much would it have taken to simply leave it in there?
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus does not warrant the ‘Plus’ moniker. The game adds nothing to incentivize a second or third purchase. If you have never played it, and your only experience with the franchise is on the Vita, I can see taking the plunge. There is still ample content here, albeit poorly delivered. Team Ninja has truly suffered from the departure of Itagaki, and outside of Dead or Alive 5, it has been hard to believe the team really can live up to the legacy he left behind.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.