Although Nioh has done well to tide us over, it’s been a long time since anything remotely Ninja Gaiden related came to our screens. Now, with the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, we get to re-experience the trilogy on newer hardware, and hopefully usher in a new experience for the series in the process. Really, there’s no better time than now for the ninja to return, as the Souls series has proven that gamers are ready for more difficult experiences.
With the Master Collection you get Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge at 60fps and in 4K depending on your platform. All three games are like the extended cut versions of the original release and feature all of the DLC from each title and some extra campaign missions. At its core, you’re getting two really fantastic character-action games, alongside a mediocre one that’s at least an improved version of itself.
To start off on a negative note, I’m sad to say that these versions of the game feel like straight ports more than anything else and don’t really have any bells and whistles of any kind. They all look pretty good—don’t get me wrong, Razor’s Edge especially—but it’s a shame that more hasn’t been done overall. Thankfully, unlike some other trilogy collections recently, I found that the Master Collection was pretty free of bugs overall, and I only found an issue with Razor’s Edge having a weird stutter after pausing and unpausing. The three games on offer here still look and sound good, but don’t go in expecting anything more.
Another mixed point is the use of the Sigma versions for the first and second game. I wouldn’t claim to be a Ninja Gaiden expert, but I know that the Sigma versions of the game are pretty divisive and tone the games down in several areas. The Sigma release of the first title is a little bit more fondly looked upon, but removed most of the original release’s puzzles and instead focused on more combat rooms.
Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma is a lot less fondly looked upon, fixing the game’s framerate issues but also toning down the enemy count significantly and turning blood and gore into a weird purple ooze. The purple ooze is a bit distracting and will likely only bother a certain group of gamers, but the more casual nature is a little bit disappointing and can make this version of the game feel less definitive.
Even if there hasn’t been much done to the visuals, what really matters here are the games, and thankfully that’s where the Master Collection shines. If you’ve never played a Ninja Gaiden game before, they’re essentially very intense and difficult character-action games that have you taking control of Ryu Hayabusa as he fends off other ninjas and monsters for whatever sinister plot he finds himself up against—admittedly, the story is the weakest element of the series.
You’ll need to learn and master your moveset to beat each game, all the while getting access to some awesome weaponry. Each game in the trilogy also has a ton of replay value and extra content that really lets you sink your teeth into them. When Ninja Gaiden clicks, it’s one of the best playing games of its kind, and you truly do feel like a ninja. That sounds like a marketing line but it’s true. They’re worth the price of admission for the Izuna drop alone.
To start with, you have Ninja Gaiden Sigma, a fantastic character action game that feels its age the most out of the three games, which makes sense considering it’s the first one. Some of the design choices feel a little archaic in 2021, but it’s also arguably the most content-full and well-designed in the trilogy. It has a sense of adventure that the other two don’t really have, even if most of it has been toned down for the Sigma release. It’s also got some of the best boss battles, especially compared to the sequel’s annoying ones like the White Dragon. Overall, I personally prefer what comes next, but Ninja Gaiden Sigma is absolutely worth replaying or playing for the first time.
Ninja Gaiden 2 is really what makes this collection so special for me. I loved the original game when it first came out, and even though I think Sigma is the inferior version, it’s still one of the best action games out there, with one of the most satisfying combat systems in gaming to this day. It’s largely very similar to the first game, but the introduction of dismemberment and the new weapons all make it feel like a marked improvement. The essence system is also at its best here, allowing Ryu to risk charging attacks and burning essence for an ultimate move that devastates opponents. These new features may seem small, but they make Ryu an absolute powerhouse and gives combat tons more depth.
Both the first and second game do have some common flaws between them though. Whenever you’re playing as someone who isn’t Ryu, the quality of the game drops and becomes less fun. Platforming can be pretty aggravating overall, although this sometimes feels by design. The camera is also a mess in both games and is especially noticeable in Ninja Gaiden 2. None of these issues takes away from the godly combat though. They just make the experience a little less solid.
Unfortunately, the Master Collection goes out with a splash rather than a bang. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is easily the low-point of the trilogy and feels like it misunderstands what people loved about the other two games. Ninja Gaiden 3 focuses too much on the spectacle, zooming in on the action every couple of seconds and making quick time events a big part of gameplay. It’s much less about the solid combat systems and more about trying to impress the player and replicate the explosions and set pieces of other games at the time. Seriously, who wants to climb so many walls and do these awful stealth scenes?
Ninja Gaiden 3 also gets rid of the essence system, loses pretty much all collectables, and does away with the dismemberment. Even the weapons have been cut down to an embarrassing four. There’s now no reason to go anywhere but forward in a level, and it makes things feel far too streamlined. It simply doesn’t feel like Ninja Gaiden and is nowhere near as satisfying because of it.
The only saving grace for Ninja Gaiden 3 is that when it actually has you fighting, it’s still pretty good fun. It’s got rid of a lot of the depth, but there’s still some Ninja Gaiden in here, and that can be enough most of the time. It’s still worth playing if you’re a fan of the series, but it’s definitely the worst out of the trilogy and disappointing as the last game in the series we got. It’s better than Yaiba at least.
With the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, you’re getting pretty much what you expect - slightly nicer looking and playing ports of two fantastic games, and one that’s less good but still okay. The trilogy as a whole is absolutely worth the asking price and the first two games, in particular, are worth playing whether it’s your first time or you’re a returning player.
TechRaptor reviewed Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
- Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden 2 are amazing
- Combat takes time to master but feels amazing when it clicks
- Tons of content and value for a reasonable price
- Ninja Gaiden 3 still isn't good
- Feel like simple ports with no extra bells and whistles
- Camera is universally bad