Those darn ninja clones!
As the resident ninja on Game Revolution, I'm all for using ninja clones to distract enemies, but the Ninja Gaiden series is taking this to an extreme. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus is a port of a port; that is, an enhanced handheld clone of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, which is an enhanced clone of Ninja Gaiden II released nearly five years ago in 2008. Are we going to see a "Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus 2" on the PlayStation 4? Only Team Ninja knows the answer to that.
Regardless, much like its predecessor and Vita launch title, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, this adaptation finagles the original console title to fit onto the handheld, attempting to sacrifice as little as possible in the process. Unfortunately, the fidelity of the character models, combat, and cutscenes has been marred in spots. There is noticeable edginess to the character models and environments when compared to the full console version, which is to be expected from a handheld port. It's still graphically fine most of the time if you aren't looking for flaws, but there are occasional slips in polish and in framerate that are immediately noticeable, particularly in the later chapters of the story.
On that note, this is the same, well-trodden plot that fans of Ninja Gaiden II have experienced numerous times before. The story involves family ties, the CIA, rival ninja, and demonic fiends, but long story short, it's just a way for Ryu Hayabusa to slice and dice every evil monster and adversary into decapitated pieces. If it's got limbs, Ryu's got no problems killing it.
Combat is fluid and responsive, with Ryu deftly blocking, dodging, running on walls, juggling enemies, and switching between weapons effective against different foes. If you're looking for an adventure that tests quick reflexes and strategic use of weapons and ninpo spells, this port won't serve you wrong. However, the camera still shifts strangely at times and enemies relish striking at Ryu from outside the camera view. It doesn't occur often, but it's still a nuisance. Given too much trouble, you can shift the difficulty to the new Hero setting for a much easier experience.
Two new modes have been added to Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus: a slightly modified Tag Missions mode and Ninja Race. The former still allows Ryu to team up with a fellow friend (probably one of his female friends) controlled by the AI to conquer waves of enemies, though there is no online multiplayer functionality. The latter asks Ryu to complete a level in a specified time limit, where seconds can be added by using green essence, though this will deplete Ryu's resource for magic as well. Decisions, decisions. The lack of online leaderboards, though, makes these two modes moot unless you're going for Trophies.
Compared to the PS3 version of the video game, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus falls short with the graphical and framerate downgrades and a dearth of online features. It's also difficult to give credit to a game that's been revised over and over again for the last five years. Then again, it's still one of the best action titles for the handheld and it broadens the range of software available on a platform that sorely needs it. Besides, having more ninjas on your side is never a bad idea.