The original Ninja Gaiden debuted in arcades and then the NES back in 1988 and was definitely one of the pioneers from the term ‘NES Hard,’ as players tried to navigate Ryu Hayabusa through side-scrolling levels full of enemies trying to kill you. Transitioning to 3D gaming is often a major task, but Team Ninja stepped in and expertly brought the series towards the modern era with Ninja Gaiden on Xbox, which spawned a full trilogy of games across multiple platforms. Outside of one spinoff and Ryu Hayabusa’s appearance in a few Dead or Alive games though, Ninja Gaiden has been quiet since 2012, leaving fans asking for a return. While it isn’t a fresh game at this point, Koei Tecmo has finally responded with the discharge of Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.
Ninja Gaiden has certainly been one of the stranger games with regards to varying releases on several platforms. This collection in particular chooses to go with Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. The Sigma games are a bit controversial themselves, like a number of individuals like the original versions of these two, but the Razor’s Edge form of 3 is definitely an improvement within the base game. Taking it one step further would be that the two Sigma games are actually in line with the code for that PS Vita releases rather than the console releases too.
The Ninja Gaiden reboot originally released in 2004 but still holds perfectly today in the Sigma form. As the game is certainly renowned for its harsh difficulty, that is ever present, it’s so much more than that. The story works as a kind of prequel towards the original games, where Ryu Hayabusa journeys to recover the Dark Dragon Blade which was stolen from his clan. Everything is not really as it seems though, with a few neat twists on the way that really result in the story interesting, even if it certainly could possibly get outrageous sometimes.
Being the Sigma version of the sport also adds some additional content compared to the original or Black in the form of levels where you play as the Fiend Hunter Rachel. Her levels are a lot shorter and usually a bit easier to really make it through, but they are still fun nonetheless. Your items are also kept outside of the Ryu stages as well, so that you can sort of use all things in your arsenal when playing as her.
What really makes farmville special though may be the gameplay, which really enables you to seem like a ninja as you’re fighting various enemies hanging around. The difficulty is there, but that just means you have to master the controls and methods available to survive. While using Flying Swallow and Izuna Drop especially can certainly help to save you in battle. Rachel’s larger weapon also handles differently as well, which requires you to definitely alter your strategies in battle from Ryu.
The game is also full of boss battles that start out for an entirely different degree of difficulty, often requiring you to definitely try and try again. Your moves need to be very precise here, almost seeming just like a precursor to the Souls series in some ways. This is where the game can feel dated though, because the controls aren’t quite as tight as some modern games and will try taking some becoming accustomed to when playing. Saving in Ninja Gaiden Sigma could also feel a little dated as well, with Save Statues found in the game with no sort of auto-save. Sigma itself does add additional Save Statues in the original, so that does help and won’t have you backtracking too much if you happen to die. There are a few spots in the game which are pretty arduous and can be a problem to undergo again if you die before saving though.
Ninja Gaiden 2 Sigma may be the next game within the collection, which doesn’t feel like a drastic departure in the first. The gameplay is mostly the same and also the game itself handles about the same because well, however the story itself feels like a bit of downgrade as Ryu attempts to stop the resurrection from the ancient Archfiend. Sigma 2 made the decision to limit the overall number of enemies and increase the health of the ones remaining compared to the original Ninja Gaiden II, that makes it feel a little more arranged using the first Ninja Gaiden’s style overall.
As was the case with the original Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 also adds in missions where you play as three more characters, Ayane, Rachel, and Momiji. These three are also playable within the game’s Tag Mission mode that was around prior, but this time has no online multiplayer included. This is the case with the third game in this collection too, by using it seeming like they decided to eschew online content now.
Like the very first game, Ninja Gaiden 2 has Save Statues that you can use to save through the game. However, the large change here that does make things a bit easier is that getting together with one of these many statues hanging around also heals you. This was incorrect in the first game, which could makes things very challenging if you saved with minimal health insurance and struggled to advance from there forward. This often managed to get worth having multiple save files just in case, while here you do not have that option. This can be viewed as both a good thing or a very bad thing with respect to the player, as it does make the game easier, but also less frustrating too.
Another alternation in Ninja Gaiden 2 is the fact that things like Life of the Thousand Gods are automatically used once you find them in a chest. In the first game, these would go to your item bag and require you to definitely activate these to use. It feels like Team Ninja tried to streamline parts of the experience in the sequel, which definitely serve as some good qualify of life improvements.
The final game within the collection is definitely the most disappointing of the bunch even today with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. While it is the improved upon Razor’s Edge version, that one just doesn’t click on the way the first two do. The story can be quite convoluted, where Ryu ends up losing his Dragon Sword and is cursed with what is known as the Blood Grip that's slowly killing him if he does not kill more and more people to feed the curse. This can lead to the game’s chapters being split across days instead of specific locations as with the past. The only real other character playable in the story missions is Ayane, but Momiji and Kasumi are usable in other modes.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge thankfully fixes some of the major gameplay issues that were present in the base game, but there’s still something missing compared to the first couple of games. Team Ninja seemed to try to make things far too easy now for whatever reason, which is still the case within this latest release. The shortness of the game also factors into this, by using it taking half or less the time to beat than the other two. This is a mixture of the general structure of the game, the problem, and merely the streamlining of the entire experience. Being shorter might not be this type of bad thing though, as those wanting to complete the entire Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection won’t have to play it for quite as long compared to the first couple of games.
There is a lot of worry about the visuals and gratifaction of the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, largely because of using the two PS Vita Sigma games, however the great news is that the collection itself looks and runs great. As the games weren’t completely remade or anything, the visuals were definitely touched up and appear quite good inside a 4K resolution. The games also run at 60fps also it really makes everything feel very fluid, that is extremely important inside a game such as this. Each of the games have their own native hiccups as part of the original code that can’t really be fixed, such as the still questionable camera at times, but they overall do run pretty much.
Most game collections are built around a central hub menu that allows you to start up the games there after which easily switch back and forth together, but Team Ninja made a very strange choice with how they handled Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. Rather than this hub, like you’d find in something like Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, the sport it really three separate downloads, which is even more confusing with the way they are categorized on PlayStation 5 if using backwards compatibility. This does permit you to delete parts of the game you aren’t playing in order that it doesn’t take up just as much space previously, but it really doesn’t even allow it to be seem like a collection for this reason.
Where annoyance of the style setup turns into major disappointment is with how the game is lacking any sort of bonus happy to make it fully feel just like a Master Collection. Game collections often includes such things as new idea art, music players for that games, or just something to really make it feel special like a collection and not simply three separate releases bundled together rather than being sold separately. What makes this even more frustrating is that fact that both an electronic art book and digital soundtrack were created available for this game, as long as you purchased the Deluxe Edition from the game instead. They are easily stuff that should have been incorporated with the standard game itself as a way to really tie the games together to seem like a group honoring the series, as opposed to just obtaining the games by themselves.
Ninja Gaiden continues to be long overdue for any new game and hopefully Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection may be the initial step towards getting there. Apart from the addition of improved visuals with 4K resolution at 60fps, the games are essentially as they were before within their previous releases. This combined with the lack of a launcher hub makes it not really seem like a true collection, but rather individual re-releases. Despite a lack of new content though, two three games are still quite enjoyable within Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection and it gives some hope for a full scale return from the franchise.
Featuring two very good games and something fairly mediocre game in one package, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is really worth trying out, whether you missed out previously or just wish to slash up some enemies as Ryu Hayabusa once again.