Heads literally roll in Team Ninja's bloody masterpiece.
In theory, Tecmo Koei's Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is the oldest PlayStation Vita launch game. It's a port of a 2007 PS3 adventure, which is a port of a 2004 Xbox title, but here's the thing. The original Ninja Gaiden currently holds 91 and 92 percent review averages on Metacritic and Gamerankings, respectively, so while it's the grandpa of Vita's lineup, it's also one of the greatest video games ever made.
Of course, not much has changed in eight years. You still control series hero Ryu Hayabusa, as the pajama clad warrior goes on a revenge-fueled quest to destroy the murderous Vigor Empire. The journey unfolds across a variety of locations, from Ryu's village to an airship and underground cave, where a plethora of enemies lie in wait. Things start off simply enough, with rival ninjas putting up a decent fight, until they give way to a handful of demons that do an excellent job annihilating Ryu's health bar.
To that end, it's one of the toughest games to come along in a decade. A Hero mode makes things easier, but for the most part, you'll easily run through (and run out of) special Elixirs while locking swords with a host of adversaries. Developer Team Ninja does its part to provide the tools for success, including Ninpo magic, but unless you're some sort of video game wiz, death will become routine on the later missions. Won't matter how many wall runs, backflips and rolls you perform. The game's a constant struggle.
At the same time, there's also a wonderful sense of accomplishment whenever you tackle a boss or make it through an especially hard area, upgrading Ryu's weapons and acquiring new ones along the way.
Speaking of which, you can aim the bow by tapping Vita's touch screen, which automatically puts the game into a first person mode that works with the system's gyroscope. Not revolutionary, but at least Team Ninja took steps to integrate the system's features instead of simply porting the game; you can also use the right analog stick to adjust the camera, and power up Ninpo by interacting with the rear touch pad.
Now after you complete the main quest, which should take a while, there are Ninja Trials. These individual missions challenge you to clear specific tasks, which in turn unlock new ones. That should keep you busy.
That said, Ninja Gaiden retails for $39.99, and your decision to buy it should heavily depend on whether you've played it before. If you somehow missed the game, it's an action packed sword slashing romp that runs almost flawlessly on Sony's machine. You could even make a case for it being one of Vita's top three launch games. With praise like that, you owe it to yourself to experience this highly regarded title.
Review copy provided by Tecmo Koei.
What's Hot: Thrilling blood-soaked adventure, controls well-suited to Vita, runs almost perfectly on Sony's machine, Ninja Trials extend the game's longevity, Hero mode caters to newcomers..
What's Not: Minor camera issues, cheap enemies, graphics unchanged since 2004.