This is a strange review to tackle, because by now this game has been around for eight long years and has been re-released multiple times. The most obvious would be to focus on the Vita-specific features of this latest package, but that’s pretty boring. I’ve personally never reviewed Ninja Gaiden, so I’ll give it a solid review that will hopefully appeal to Vita owners who have (somehow) never played this game.
So let’s start with a bold statement: I think (the original) Ninja Gaiden deserves the title as one of the best action-adventure games to ever appear on a console. It’s not perfect, and time has made its flaws amplify, but the combat system is as tight as ever. Every sword fight is fast-paced and intense, and every battle you take part in could be your last. It is absolutely necessary that you master (at a minimum) the basic techniques, as as you have probably heard, this game is notoriously difficult.
And it’s hard, especially by modern standards, but Ninja Gaiden’s difficulty is discussed in much the same way as Demon/Dark Souls difficulty: as an exercise in hyperbole. Like those games, Ninja Gaiden is significantly challenging, but with patience and experience, the game can be beaten. A quick tip: learn to block and dodge. These combat techniques are non-negotiable.
Combat is played with precision and finesse, as if it were straight out of a fighting game, but the platformers don’t do the same. Sure, you can run and jump off walls like a true ninja, and it’s great once you get the hang of it, but the movement is very responsive, so it’s often easy to miss the target. Fortunately, that rarely leads to instant death, unlike old-school NES games (which, ironically, had arguably stricter platforming).
The story that unfolds is that of Ryu Hayabusa from those same NES games, whose ninja clan is mercilessly slaughtered by an evil spirit named Doku, who dresses in samurai armor and talks like Darth Vader (which is actually amazing). ). Doku steals the Dark Dragon Sword and kills Ryu with ease. And so begins his (and yours) revenge story.
It’s all pretty straightforward, just the ninjas and swords make it a little cooler. The voice acting fails and is pretty bad, and barring a cool plot twist near the end, it’s all fluff. However, all is forgivable, as the story only exists to drive the action. This is a game that people fondly remember for its gameplay and difficulty, and hopefully not for its story. That said, the plot isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, far from it (and from what I’ve heard, it’s much better than Ninja Gaiden III).
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is a linear game. Sure, you can explore previously visited areas and search for some secrets, but you’re mostly moving from point A to point B. During your travels, you’ll take out all sorts of men and demons in a variety of locations: a ninja village, an airship, a bar and a military base, to name a few. The variety works well for the story; the game is quite long and the diversity of locations makes you feel like you are going on a real journey.
The dragon sword is not the only weapon you will use to pierce your opponent, as you will get to gain many new weapons and abilities. In fact, the number of weapons is impressive, and they mostly play differently, rather than just look different. For example, nunchaku are fast and relentless, but a giant sword carries the momentum of a small car. There’s something here for everyone, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll fall in love with dual swords and never look back.
Speaking of “something for everyone”, ever since the release of Ninja Gaiden Sigma on PS3 in 2007, you can play as the warrior from the story, Rachel. She plays as a tank in contrast to the agile Ryu, wielding a gigantic hammer that smashes her enemies into putty. While I think these segments are a nice break from Ryu’s story, they don’t really add anything (save for a boss fight), and ultimately you just want to get back to what feels like the actual game, because ultimately Ryu it’s more fun to control, as well as carries the weight of the story. Then again, maybe this is just a result of playing the game before Rachel’s quests were included.
On Vita, the game has some new features, but they are really just gimmicks. You can tap the screen to enter first person view and look around by moving the device, which is neat but completely useless. However, when aiming with a bow and arrow, you can fine-tune your shot by slightly moving the Vita, until the target is lined up in your crosshairs. This was a great feature in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and it comes in handy here.
When you activate your Ninpo magic to attack enemies, you can strengthen it with a minigame that requires you to touch certain areas of the rear touchpad. While it’s fun the first ten times, as you get further into the game it gets annoying.
Finally, the game has numerous bonus missions, where you’re tasked with taking down a bunch of enemies in an arena, sometimes with a particular twist, like one-hit kills. These missions tend to be quite addictive as they focus exclusively on the combat engine and become much more difficult than the main game. If you’re looking to cash in on your purchase, this is where it’s at.
I will say this; Seeing this game, once a full-fledged console adventure, run on the Vita is nothing short of wonderful. When combined with the fact that this is a great classic that has aged quite well, it’s a no-brainer if you haven’t played it yet. That said, if you’ve played Ninja Gaiden before, it’s probably not worth your time. This was my third time playing Ryu’s vengeful story, and while it was nice enough, it felt like one dragon blade too many.