I'm always up for a good hack 'n slash game. The Ninja Gaiden series, in my opinion, has always been up there with the likes of God of War and Devil May Cry, but if there's one thing that TECMO is known for, it would be ports. They LOVE to port their games. The latest Ryu Hayabusa adventure on the Vita is not just a port, but it's a port of a port! NG2 first debuted on the 360, then it was re-released with some extra content on the PS3 as Sigma 2, and now we have Sigma 2 Plus.
Is this game worth your time? I guess it depends on how tolerant you are of lagging framerate.
In Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma Plus (ooof!), players assume the role of Ryu, a Dragon Ninja with a really tight outfit and a thirst to spill blood. The story isn't really the best. Basically, you're chasing after evil people who want to resurrect more evil people, and along the way, you kill a lot of them, but then the important evil people somehow get away, so then you chase them and kill more evil people. And a lot of cleavage is shown.
The focus of the game is combat. Throughout the adventure, you'll be slicing and bludgeoning and stabbing and gutting a wide variety of enemy types with a half dozen different weapons. Thankfully, each weapon has a unique feel and a unique range of combos. This is something that the Ninja Gaiden series has always done well compared to, say, God of War, where I never seem to care much about the different weapons. Although enemies are not specifically "weak" or "strong" against certain weapons, there do seem to be some weapons that work better with some enemies, so switching up your gear is definitely encouraged. As such, the combat feels fresh throughout the game's 17 chapters. For those who want to really dig into the combat and learn the system, there are a lot of combos for each weapon, and in addition you can flip off walls, air-dash, and throw enemies into each other to keep the flow of battle moving. Each player will have their favorite weapons. Myself, I like the Lunar staff, the claws, and the tonfa, but there are other weapons, too. The enemies are tough but manageable. My only tips would be to keep moving and block when necessary! You'll rarely be fighting more than 5 enemies at a time, but unlike - for instance - the "wait your turn" enemies of the Assassin's Creed series, foes in Ninja Gaiden will jump in, kick you out of a combo, stab you from behind, suicide-bomb you, bum-rush you, push you into a corner, gang up on you, snipe at you from afar, and try to give you a difficult time no matter what. Even when you've sliced off someone's arm or leg, they'll still find a way to attack you. Battles rarely feel impossible, but on the other hand, I never once felt like I could just breeze through an area by mashing the attack button.
Graphically, the game looks quite good, especially when you consider that it's a souped-up port of a 5-year-old 360 game. Blood and body parts fly everywhere during battle, and the water effects look especially nice. However, some locales are bland. On the one hand, I can understand the developers wanting to keep the areas free from clutter so that you have a lot of open room to fight, but when you're platforming from A to B with no battling, the environments leave a lot to be desired.
Speaking of environments, the game really disappointed me in the interactivity department. Yeah, I know this game is 5 years old. However, I would have liked to see more ninja-jumping parts! In some parts of the game, you'll wall-run down a tunnel or swing from bars or other cool stuff like that. However, these parts are few and far between. During the set-pieces where these ninja acrobatics are introduced, these abilities are really cool, but then the game just forgets they exist. 80% of the environments are just flat walls and wide corridors. It would have been nice if there were more platforming elements, or better yet, if the ninja-jumping mechanics were better incorporated into the combat. Another weak spot in the environments (as was mentioned above) is the overall emptiness. There are some parts where chairs, tables, barrels, and such can be sliced apart in the heat of battle, and these portions are fun. But other times you'll be in a giant, empty hallway with nothing to see or do. I don't expect every Vita game to give you lush, detailed areas like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but a little more stuff to see would have been nice.
Unfortunately, my gripes don't end there. NGS2+ has a big problem with lag. For the first half of the game, you won't see it at all. I had read some complaints in early reviews about the framerate dropping, but when I was playing the first half of the game, I never ran into it. "Those reviewers don't know what they're talking about," I thought to myself. Oh, I was wrong. There IS lag. There's a lot of lag, but it doesn't show up until the later levels. It sucks, too, because in a game like this where precision is crucial for fighting effectively, nothing is worse than your game slowing down to half speed. Having played other Vita games like Gravity Rush, Uncharted, and the first Ninja Gaiden port, I am certain that the lag in this game was due to one thing only: rushed porting. There's no reason why the first half of the game would run flawlessly but the second half lags in every other battle.
Content wise, there are some side missions with the female warriors thrown in for good measure. These levels were filler, but fun nonetheless. Missions can be replayed in Time Attack mode, and there's a Tag Mode that lets you switch between two warriors in real time, but the bulk of your game time is going to be spent in the storyline.
Despite all of my negativity, NGS2+ is a fun game, but it probably wasn't worth buying at full price right when it launched. The combat - as always - is top-notch. The graphics - for the most part - are pretty, although not the absolute best on the Vita. The lagging in later levels really brings the experience down, but on the whole, it's a good game to tide you over while we wait for more made-for-the-Vita titles like Killzone and Soul Sacrifice.