Ninja Gaiden Master Collection are remasters of the three main entries in the series; Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden II Sigma and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. All three games are remastered ports of previously re-released versions, which were releases of the games with extra content and graphical updates. I had no prior experience of playing the originals, but I must say, my first time with these games in their re-released versions was fun, exciting, bloody and difficult.
Ninja Gaiden games are third person action-adventure/hack and slash games that put you in the shoes of Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja who is on a quest to take back a stolen sword known as the Dark Dragon Blade from the Vigoor Empire, while also seeking revenge on the destruction of his village (at least in the first game anyway). I am positive people don’t play Ninja Gaiden for its story, as it’s nothing special but it’s also not terrible – it’s the gameplay that keeps people in.
Ninja Gaiden is very fun in the way you can slice and dice enemies with its fluid, responsive and satisfying gameplay. Using one-handed swords allow quick attacks to enemies while heavier weapons, although slower to hit, allow for much greater effect in defeating your enemies. I really like the variety of weaponry but also the advantages (or disadvantages) that come with it. It adds on to the high difficulty this game offers in that you must really know what you are doing, because reckless attacks will result in a death, which is totally your fault if you are not thinking this through. I like that there is a risk/reward type of mechanic to this, rather than just button mashing and hoping for the best. It is hard, but it doesn’t feel unfair in what you do if you’re careless – I like that. Nothing feels ‘unfair’. Just look at what you’re doing, look at the enemies’ actions and you’ll know how the flow of battles work with enemy AIs. Aside from just using various weapons at your disposal, your weapons can be upgraded once finding specific items throughout your journey if you explore the setting around you.
You can also cast magic in this game, referred to as ‘Ninpo’, such as fire, ice, bolts of lightning, etc. I like the degree of variety of attacking and what you can do in this game, and again, not just button mashing your way to victory. Dodging and blocking is also highly advised to progress further, adding to Ryu’s flexibility to victory. I had a lot of fun playing this and am pleasantly impressed at a game from 2004 that still holds up well, all this time.
I also loved doing all the ninja actions in this game, such as running up walls and jumping from pole to pole. It just felt cool. I even found myself being hilariously amused by just running up walls at the start of the game to get a feel of how it all works (I don’t play hack and slash action-adventure games often, so I felt a little out of my element, even though I was having a good time regardless).
You can explore the areas for any items and collectables around you when you aren’t fighting enemies, including some puzzle solving here and there, which I liked. I was constantly surprised at how much there was in Ninja Gaiden Sigma and not just hacking and slashing enemies to the end of the game.
For newcomers, this Sigma version adds in a new difficulty mode called Hero Mode, essentially this game’s version of Easy Mode. Blocking enemy attacks is automatic instead of needing to input the block action and is a nice addition for newcomers to the series. While I tried the ‘normal’ difficulty on my first playthrough, I went back to Hero Mode to feel and play the difference and preferred this option. It’s good for anyone who is curious about trying out these games but may be turned off by its high difficulty, which you can appreciate.
Aside from the main story, there are other features in this Sigma version. A ‘Survival’ mode exists, allowing you to take on hordes of enemies until you manage to defeat them all or until you are killed. And that’s not all, ‘Mission’ mode also exists and scores you on how fast you defeat your enemies, exactly how many enemies you defeated etc. It’s a game jampacked with plenty to do. I’m not too crazy over modes like ‘Survival’ in games but it’s a nice addition to throw in for more ‘replayability’. My only real complaint throughout this game was the iffy camera that got caught up in corners when manoeuvring around small spaces. It wasn’t the best and was probably the one thing about this game that certainly hadn’t aged well. As a first timer to the series, I quite enjoy my time with Ninja Gaiden Sigma, despite the difficult but fun and very satisfying gameplay.
Ninja Gaiden II Sigma is the second game in the series and this remastered version is also based on an updated ported version of the original Xbox 360 version of Ninja Gaiden II. This one was also a fun entry to play, sure, not as fun as the original but the game is still fun nonetheless. While other characters are playable in this version of Sigma II, it’s also a bit easier to deal with in terms of its difficulty. My understanding of the Sigma II release is this version removed content and reduced enemy appearances compared to the original Ninja Gaiden II Xbox 360 version.
This game is still difficult, but generally speaking, Ninja Gaiden Sigma had more harder moments than its successor, which isn’t a bad thing. One of the new things introduced in Sigma II is auto healing, an addition I thoroughly appreciated. As a first timer, I enjoyed myself and consider Sigma II a worthy follow up.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is, as like the others, an updated version release of the original Ninja Gaiden 3. Unlike the first two, which have garnered a well-respected status among fans and gamers alike, Ninja Gaiden 3 was initially not very well-received upon release and is considered a huge disappointment in the franchise. The re-released version this collection has included, Razor’s Edge, a definite improvement but still somewhat disappointing and not to the standard Team Ninja are renown for. I must admit, I certainly felt the same way while playing Razor’s Edge. This one lacked the certain charm that the first two games possess of simply being exciting and just plain fun. Razor’s Edge unfortunately felt boring. Enemies do not feel as challenging, things just feel dull as you progress forward and the game doesn’t appear fresh nor exciting. The game also shows its age when plenty of QTE’s (Quick Time Events) pop up and are crammed in. Very 2012, and not in the best way.
While Razor’s Edge is better than the original release of Ninja Gaiden 3, this one still pales in comparison to the fun and fluidness its two predecessors. Less weapons were available in Razor’s Edge, which seemed a little strange to me. This game just felt off in ways that really disappointed me, especially when you compare it to the previous games in the series.
Playing the PlayStation 4 version of Master Collection, all three games played well and were at a nice 60 frames per second rate that I didn’t have any issues with. The remastered gameplay and cutscenes look nice and still hold up decently for their time, in particular the first game, considering it was originally released back in 2004.
An interesting note, all three games are separate downloads and do not come in one game as part of a collection, at least on the PS4 anyway. It’s nothing bad, just something peculiar that I quickly realised when downloading this collection.
The Master Collection plays nicely, looks good, is extremely fun to play and aren’t technical disasters on a collection viewpoint of things, at least from when I was playing these games. Fans of the series will be happy to re-play these games in high definition and with something to do after a lengthy hiatus since the release of Razors’s Edge. If any long-time fans are looking for something entirely new, you will be disappointed, as these games are purely remastered and aren’t given any new quality of life enhancements. But if you’re okay with that, then you’ll be like me and have a damn good time.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is now available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher, Turn Left Distribution, for review purposes.