During the PlayStation Vita launch last year, gamers had the chance to go ninja-style over their new console with the release of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, a modified version of the Ryu Hayabusa adventure that had previously released on Xbox and PlayStation 3 before. Featuring every dose of blood-spurting ninja action and a few extra PS Vita features as well, the game was a sheer delight, even if there was a slight sense of déjà vu that sunk in with the title.
For those who were fans, however, there is certainly more where that came from, as Tecmo Koei is putting the finishing touches on its even bloodier sequel, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, which will be hitting the system over the next few weeks. Even though it's coming just about under a year from the original, it should be welcomed with open arms – even at the risk of getting them cut off by the master ninja.
Ryu finds himself in trouble once more, battling an evil demon force that once again seeks the Dragon Blade, his cherished weapon. He might have bitten off more than he can chew this time around, but that isn't stopping him from chopping enemies to pieces, finishing them off with overkill moves and adapting to new weapons along the way, including a pair of Wolverine-style razor claws that convert him into a one-man butcher shop.
The show isn't just Ryu's, as a pair of other characters are available, including the voluptuous Momiji, the beautiful Rachel and the familiar Dead or Alive femme fatale Ayane, who has her own ways of dispending justice – with a rather large hammer-style weapon. Over the course of the game, you'll switch between characters, eventually focusing back on Ryu as he looks to sink the final blow on this sinister new enemy.
All of the action from the original PlayStation 3 game (adapted from the Ninja Gaiden II release before it on Xbox 360) is intact, including all the luxurious settings, from a Vatican-style city where monsters lurk to a distractingly beautiful underwater fortress. The Vita version hasn't lost any graphical edge as far as performance goes, and the overkill moves are just as gory as ever.
But the attention here is definitely on gameplay, and the sword-slicing action feels better than ever. Ryu reacts with precision, and you'll need to keep on your toes, especially in later levels and higher difficulty settings, where warriors will literally tear you to pieces if you aren't careful.
To kind of ease newcomers into the controls, Tecmo Koei is implementing a new Heroes mode, which allows you to convert gameplay for the easier simply by using the rear touch pad to execute attacks. You'll be able to chain together combos with ease using this ability, though old-school pros can certainly stick to mashing buttons and timing counter attacks to lop an enemy's head clean off. (We never get tired of that, by the way.)
The game will also bring Tag Missions back to the main game, where you can team up with an AI ally – or online through the PlayStation Network – to drive back waves of enemies. The teams are divided into two, with Ryu working with either Ayane, Rachel or Momiji, fending off against waves of enemies. No word yet if the game will support online play, allowing you to team up with a buddy through PlayStation Network, but considering that the original PS3 game supported it, we don't see why it wouldn't be added. (Don't expect cross-play to be a feature, though.)
The game will also introduce a new Ninja Race mode, where you have to grab items and keep killing enemies while getting to a certain point before time runs out. This is a challenging new mode that will test your finest ninja moves, as you can easily stall too long getting into a skirmish with a larger enemy. Remember, folks, it's all about the cut-and-run.
Though our time with the one-level demo in the game was short, we definitely felt like Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus 2 lived up to the experience we got from the previous PS3 release. The frame rate kept up, even with the most frenetic of action, though the camera can be a pain sometimes, with enemies suddenly jumping into view. The animations are superb, and the gameplay is quite responsive, both with the analog stick and button functions. The touch-pad works well too, perfect for those newbies who think that the game is just a bit too rough for them.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus 2 is part of a one-two punch from Tecmo Koei for the Vita, with Dead Or Alive 5+ following a month later to keep fighting fans entertained. Though it's a bit lighter on features compared to that game, this Ninja still knows how to stay sharp.