I have missed you Ryo, I really have.
It has been too long since our paths last crossed some eight years ago. My first encounter with the series was in the late 90:s on the NES. That original Ninja Gaiden was a hard 2-d platformer that punished my young gaming soul to smithereens. It wasn’t until 2004 when a complete remake entered my Xbox that the series opened up into one of the greatest experiences ever in my gaming career. The 2004 Ninja Gaiden brought a hard as nails combination of ninja fighting, acrobatic manoeuvres and puzzles. Covered in some of the best graphics, and sounds for the Xbox/PS2 generation it spent months in my drive. Replaying to get all upgrades, and speed running to beat the game quicker each time became an obsession. Next to Halo, Halflife and GTA it is the game that hooked me the most in my entire life. Now I have that experience again in my pocket. And the version of Ninja Gaiden I downloaded from PSN even comes with content that I never saw back in the day.
If you are unfamiliar to Ninja Gaiden all I can say is congratulations you are in for a treat. If on the other hand you are as hardcore, as Ryos leather outfit, and me then you have a chance to experience the same intensity again. This is the kind of game that should be a part of your education as a gamer.
The story is woven into the game, and centres around Ryo trying to reclaim the Dark Dragon Blade. It has been taken by evil, an evil that has killed most of Ryos family and clan. Aided by a mysterious girl ninja, and the odd merchant blacksmith along the way Ryo has to fight his own battles.
The controls are sleek, and work just as well on the Vita as they did on my old Xbox. The dual left stick controls movement, and the right the camera. Fighting using the buttons allows for combos, jump attacks and counters. The touch screen is used in menus, and for aiming ranged weapons. I really like that the new features of the Vita haven’t been overused, as the game plays best with sticks and buttons.
As mentioned this is a beautiful game, and among the Vita launch titles I think it is at the top of the line. Ryo, and enemies move fluently with great animations. Cut-scenes, loading screens and menus all scream polish. Team Ninja made a great work back in 2004, and now the port is equally great. I still think that if they had waited about six months to a year with the release to the Vita they could have creamed even more out of the hardware.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is by no means a perfect game technically. At times the camera is twitchy, and I lose my bearings. There is the occasional cheap death when you fall off a cliff after having beaten 30 evil henchmen. Finally I have to mention that if you are new to the game don’t despair if you have to restart the game from the beginning a couple of times. The first save point lies beyond a couple of rooms of hard white ninjas. It could be argued that an automatic save feature, or checkpoint system should be used for a portable game. I think not, as the notion of sudden death makes the game even more intense. After finding that first save point they tend to come with greater frequency.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus was the reason I swayed into getting the Vita at launch. It is such a quality game combining hack n’ slash combo fighting, huge hard bosses with slower paced puzzles and exploration. With three levels of difficulty, and lots of stuff to find and upgrade the game can easily be played for 50+ hours. Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus gets my complete, and total recommendation.