Ninja Gaiden is a game that tormented my friends and me as kids. We loved it, we thought Ryu Hayabusa was the coolest cat around, but it was so freakin’ hard! There were sequels, but I don’t remember them being very good. At the very least they didn’t catch on with my group of friends. It’s amusing that the reboot of the Ninja Gaiden series has turned out basically the same way.
If you don’t know Ninja Gaiden Sigma + is basically a souped up version of Ninja Gaiden, which originally appeared on the Xbox in 2004. Well then it turned into Ninja Gaiden Black…. and then Ninja Gaiden Sigma…. and now Ninja Gaiden Sigma +. Things have been tweaked, characters have been added, side modes thrown in, but basically it’s the same as the game from 2004.
So in a lot of ways this is the easiest review to write, ever. Did you like any one of the trillion versions of this game in the past and would you like more of it? Yes!?! Ok, buy it. No? Ok, skip it.
There are some changes worth noting, the biggest of which is that the game runs at a steady 30 fps instead of 60 fps. What does this mean to a normal person? Well, not much. But like Street Fighter experts there are people so adept at the combat in Ninja Gaiden that the very idea of playing this at 30 fps would ruin everything.
If you haven’t played it, what you are in for is a very difficult but rewarding action game. The combat is intricate and based on timing and skill instead of button mashing. There are many tools at your disposal, from wall running to ninja stars to the ability to jump off of people’s heads, and you will need to use all of these abilities at any given second because the combat demands it of you. If you can get in the flow, what you will find is some of the most rewarding combat around.
Even though we are now on the 28,504th version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Yellow Orange PSN+ there are still some odd legacy issues. The camera is very slow to follow Ryu as he flies about the screen. This makes some sense – if the camera jerked around as quickly as he does, you would likely throw up all over your brand new Vita, but at the same time when your character isn’t even on the darn screen anymore you have a pretty serious problem. Also, being a game from 2004 it has a save system from 2004; i.e. you usually go 30 minutes or more between save points. If you die at the 29 minute mark you may become self abusive.
If all of this sounds daunting, it is. In one of the iterations they added an easy mode, but even that isn’t all that easy. I’m masochistic enough to play it on normal; I can’t even imagine the level of savant you need to be to play it on hard. I do die a lot. Sometimes I get stuck. But eventually I come up with a plan and I win the fight and I move on. It’s in these moments of triumph that you understand why Ninja Gaiden has received the amount of love that it has.
In the end you probably know exactly what this game was long before you ever stumbled upon this review and I’m happy to report that you were right. The frame rate may irk some, and people new to the series will definitely get knocked down a few times by the crushing difficulty and sometimes archaic design, but at the end of the day cutting off a man’s head with your ninja sword feels as good today as it did in 2004.