Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a handheld release that should have been awesome. It’s single player campaign pushes the boundaries of ridiculous bringing all the offerings of the PS3 version, with the exception of the watered down multiplayer, to the little screen. Unfortunately, this version is a collection of shortcomings, both new and old, making for an unnecessary re-release.
The first bit of trouble here is the fact that there isn’t really anything new outside of an additional “Ninja Race” mode, which functions like a set of time trials through the single player missions, and one new costume for each of the four characters. The multiplayer that was introduced in Sigma 2 was gutted and converted into the “new” Tag Missions, which contains the same content as the previous version’s multiplayer. Instead of a person controlling the second character, an AI takes over. You can switch between either character at any time, so the experience isn’t terrible, it’s just a lesser variation of what was on the PS3.
The second spot of trouble is the framerate. For the most part the game runs perfect and smooth, but at times when the stage gets cluttered everything slows down. It’s a technical hiccup that makes an already challenging game trickier to play.
While the Ninja Gaiden series has been renowned for its difficulty, every subsequent release comes with options to make the experience easier to play. Sigma Plus introduced the optional “Hero” mode, a status that activates when Ryu’s health is in the red. Then, for a short time, Ryu will automatically block and doge, and you have a higher chance of dismembering your opponents. This mode has been carried over to Sigma 2 Plus, but it is optional. For the purist seeking a challenge the normal setting will be tricky enough to put any aspiring ninja to the test.
There will be many things trying to kill you with the camera being one of them. If there’s anything that the majority of 3D games have in common, it’s either that they’re slow enough that finding and fighting enemies is simple, or the available set of moves limits the player to a specific fighting space. Everything moves quickly in Ninja Gaiden, and Ryu and his enemies both have moves that enable them to cross long distances almost instantly.
The camera does not work well enough to capture everyone on screen at any one time. Much of the game was spent battling with the camera, in open spaces, spinning it around to find where the other unseen opponents were. It gets worse within enclosed spaces, when there’s little room to maneuver. It’s times like these where the only option seems to be to slice blindly and pray that Ryu will actually hit something.
It probably also requires a ninja to control Ryu masterfully. For the lesser ninjas-in-training moving him around is clunky. His attempts at parkour are laughed at by previous generation’s Prince of Persia series, and in combat it can be difficult to get him pointed in the right direction. There were many times in which I jumped and sliced, only to come up with thin air, in the opposite direction of the bad guys.
Speaking of the bad guys, they’ll also make your life hard. They bring to the table grapple moves that come with little to no warning. Hit them, and sometimes they’ll stagger back. Sometimes they won’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to this. There’s also no pattern when it comes to dismembering bad guys.
Cutting off their limbs is an important tool to Ryu’s arsenal. Slice off a limb and then you’re only a single button press away from killing them with Obliteration. As long as that button press isn’t part of a combo, or if you’re too far away and it registers as a normal attack, or if the game decides not to register it as the proper move at all. I would require more than a few hands to count how many times that’s happened.
On the outside of this travesty there’s a shell of what would be an amazing action game. Every level is grand in scale and over-the-top. Fighting a four-armed werewolf in a coliseum to an audience of spectator werewolves is awesome. Cutting a bloody swath through a crashing air fortress is exciting. Battling the Statue of Liberty is stupid, but hey, why not? It helps make the ghost fish seem just a little less hokey when you see them nibbling on Ryu’s flesh.
Every so often there’s the feeling that you are the master ninja. It does happen, just for bits and pieces, where the combat actually does seem to work and the camera can see everything. And then the illusion is dispelled as all of the game’s faults rise quickly to the surface.