Electronic Theatre Preview: Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

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Electronic Theatre ImageSet to arrive alongside the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) console next week, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is one of two launch titles from Tecmo Koei Europe, alongside Dynasty Warriors NEXT. A redrawing of the original Xbox’s Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is actually the fourth revision of that original title in just eight years. What more could Team Ninja possibly offer?

The first thing that should be noted is that Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus lives up to that subtitle. Visually striking, the PS Vita debut for the Ninja Gaiden franchise sits comfortably between the Xbox original and PlayStation 3 Ninja Gaiden Sigma in terms of graphical prowess. The solid character models are comfortably supported Electronic Theatre Imageby high resolution textures throughout the environments and detailed backgrounds when venturing outside. It’s a true showcase of the PS Vita’s horsepower as it offers the most direct comparison to existing technology of any videogame set to be available at launch.

Of course, the action itself is beginning to show its age, especially when compared to the hectic thrust of Ninja Gaiden 3’s dramatic set pieces. Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus returns to the basics of what made Team Ninja’s reboot so poignant first time around: challenging action. It’s an experience more concerned with player skill than plot lines, more determined to demand rather than offer a hand to hold. However, that doesn’t mean Team Ninja has simply ignored those gamers coming to the franchise for the first time on PS Vita, as just with the upcoming Ninja Gaiden 3, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus features the all new Hero Mode, which automates a degree of dodging and blocking to prevent players succumbing to their opponents blade one too many times.

A small amount of modernisation of the control system was evident even in Electronic Theatre’s short time with the videogame, with occasional manoeuvres adjusted in terms of both input and animation. The biggest change comes with the inclusion of a first-person camera however. Simply by touching the screen players areElectronic Theatre Image able to look through the eyes of our protagonist, scanning the area for hidden items or check out the path ahead. The angle of Hayabusa’s head determined by movement of the system, thanks to the PS Vita’s internal gyroscope.

As welcome as this addition is however, it doesn’t ease Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus’ biggest flaw: the camera. It’s the same issue here as it was in Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Black and even Ninja Gaiden itself. Put simply, the player has such a vast array of manoeuvres available that predicting the next input and determining where the player will land in accordance with any remaining enemies on-screen is never going to be an easy task, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus’ camera often finds itself perplexed by the results. Thankfully it no longer gets caught behind walls or directly above the player’s avatar, but these are only minor refinements of a problem that can still cause some frustration.

Of course, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus isn’t just a straight forward port. While the core campaign remains largely the same, there’s the all-new Ninja Challenge mode. While  Electronic Theatre wasn’t able to getElectronic Theatre Image hands-on with this new gameplay mode, we did learn that it consists of more than seventy missions designed for gaming-on-the-go. Rarely will a Ninja Challenge mission take more than a few minutes to complete, assigned objectives such as taking on a set number of foes or weapon-specific challenges. It’s this element that punctuates the packaging of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, a videogame that may be based on an eight year old title, but confident that it has plenty more to show gamers.


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