At one point in time, Ninja Gaiden was the pinnacle of the action genre. Though even then it was flawed.
Now it forms part of Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, bundled with its two sequels. They’re all the enhanced and updated versions as well, so that means you get Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for one reasonable sum. But if you were expecting a concerted effort at remastering these titles, some of which are considered classics, you’ll be disappointed.
Being the oldest game of the three, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is starting to feel a little antiquated by now; it’s based on a game originally released way back in 2004, after all. Introducing players to series protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja, its combat still proves to be thrilling, but awkward frustrations occasionally get in the way.
You’re often plagued by awful camera angles, for example, and the aiming system for the bow is utterly outdated. At least being the Sigma version means players don’t have to struggle with its infamous high level of difficulty if they don’t want to thanks to Hero mode. Other additions over the standard version include the chance to play as a female character called Rachel, and additional modes including Ninja Trials and Survival.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is undoubtedly the highlight of the package. An entire generation ahead of the original Ninja Gaiden, it features visuals that clean up rather nicely when displayed at a higher resolution, as well as updated controls for aiming the bow, and less camera problems. It’s simply a grander experience, too, with more elaborate set pieces and outlandish bosses. Throw in more weapons to master and three additional characters to take control of, and you’re onto a real winner.
Again, as it’s the Sigma version there are numerous changes over the original version of the game, some of them considered questionable by series fans. Basically, it’s a more streamlined experience. Still, if you’ve never played any version of Ninja Gaiden 2 before, chances are you’ll love it. I’ve certainly had a great time playing it again.
The black sheep of the trio is Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. The first Ninja Gaiden game (of the modern 3D variety) without Tomonobu Itagaki at the helm, it finds Ryu Hayabusa inflicted with a curse called the Grip of Murder. If he doesn’t do anything about it he’ll die, but on the flip side it allows for a new mechanic that lets him to easily tear multiple enemies to shreds when his arm glows red. It has be said, it’s very satisfying to perform.
Other new mechanics, such as the Kunai Climbing, don’t really add much fun to the proceedings, however. And combined with the camera once again being a pain at times, as well as other issues such as projectile spam and there being simply too many waves of enemies in some encounters, it can be quite exhausting to play. It’s a much better game than the original Ninja Gaiden 3, however, and includes extras such as additional weapons and reworked mechanics.
While gorehounds will undoubtedly find Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge to be the bloodiest game of the collection, blood and decapitations can also be found in Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 with the day one patch applied. But with the good also comes the bad; those who liked the co-op functionality previously found in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge will be disappointed as it’s no longer an option in this collection.
Master Ninjas might not be pleased that all difficulties aren’t unlocked from the outset in the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, either. It’s a basic port of the three games, with nothing done to improve them other than allowing for up to 4K 60fps gameplay depending on the format you’re playing on. Oh, and you get most of the DLC costumes included.
With all that said, it’s hard to recommend Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S, as versions of all three games included are already playable on those consoles thanks to backwards compatibility. Some will argue that Ninja Gaiden Black and the original Ninja Gaiden II are superior to their Sigma counterparts as well. If you’re a PlayStation or Switch gamer looking for some challenging ninja action, however, then it’s definitely worth considering.
While little has been done to make these games truly shine on new, more powerful formats, they’re all still highly enjoyable action games – Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 in particular. It’s just a shame that Ryu Hayabusa hasn’t been shown a little more love.
Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Review: GameSpew’s Score