While I’m more than happy to board a hype train, I always find a way to fling myself off it and wind up in a place that’s somewhat related.
With the excitement building for Hyrule Warriors, and the drama surrounding Team Ninja’s influence on its character designs, I needed to get my fix somehow.
I wouldn’t dare bother with the Dynasty Warriors series. I’m willing to admit that the Zelda sheen that’s been slapped atop that series has won me over, and the mainline entries never did anything for me.
Instead I turned my attention to Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, a port released in 2012 of a 2007 title which in itself is a remake of a 9-year-old Xbox game (which was an enhanced version of the original Ninja Gaiden released in 2004). While I enjoyed my time with Sigma Plus, I think all these updates and platform transitions created a beast that looks like its predecessors, but carries some problematic genes of its own.
These difficulties begin and end with the controls. Likely a victim of the launch title blues, Sigma Plus lacks the kind of precision one requires of an action title. At times Ryu plays as if he’s got his own mind. Those peculiar strands of DNA surface here, as Ryu insists on running in directions you’ve insisted he not. Despite angling the stick elsewhere, Mr. Hayabusa continues of his merry way. There’s no snap to his movements, which makes him less of a ninja than he intends to be. Wall running in can feel especially off, as your diagonal input has Ryu running straight up a wall rather than along it to his destination. Combat feels responsive, but there are times these problems rear their head none the less.
Akin to the DS’s initial offerings insisting on using every feature as unintuitively as possible, Sigma Plus too isn’t afraid to mess with what worked in the past. Ryu’s bow, as important a weapon as any, is equipped by touching the front screen…anywhere. Maybe I just have weird thumbs, but they would often slide off the left analog stick ever so slightly, gracing that front screen with the touch. Suddenly a heated battle would turn into a farce as I was forced into first person, watching my enemy dance around me while I attempted to touch the tiny X icon in the bottom right of the screen. I’m not a game developer, and rarely dumb over UI decisions, but this…was a nightmare. I can forgive Team Ninja for a lot (a fact brought about by just how excellent their DS Ninja Gaiden title, Dragon Sword, was), but this was a bizarre oversight, especially within such a difficult game.
On the topic of difficult, let’s move away from the dumping I’ve done, and praise Sigma Plus for what good it has brought me. Despite a notorious history, the inclusion of Hero mode made Ninja Gaiden a really enjoyable experience. Is it cheesy as all hell? Absolutely. But I’m appreciative of any effort made to draw in a less skilled crowd, especially when it doesn’t come at the detriment of the seasoned. Hero mode puts Ryu in a God-tier state when his health hits critical levels. He can autoblock an enemy’s attack, and has access to unlimited ninpo (the game’s magic attacks). It’s likely to be scoffed at, but Hero mode lets me play a game I wouldn’t have otherwise.
The more forgiving combat really helps wash over any anamonisty I have for the controls. However, if you’re actually good at games and want to face off against a stiff challenge, I doubt you’ll get that same enjoyment.
With Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus wrapped up, I’m heading into Plus 2 a wiser man. From what I’ve played, touch screen controls are far less of a nuisance, and its controls are a huge improvement. I’ll be doing a written Let’s Play over the coming weeks, so check back for impressions of an old game!