The Ninja Gaiden franchise has all of the ninjas, fiends, and violence a gamer could ask for. Following the franchise’s protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, gamers have been hacking and slashing the evils of the world all way back in 1988 on the NES and arcade. Developed by Team Ninja and produced by Koei Tecmo, Ninja Gaiden would take a step into the modern console generation from 2004 to 2012 with a new trilogy of games that would continue the adventures of the Dragon Ninja. Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection brings Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge to gamers in one nostalgia-filled hack and slash action-adventure package.
If you are like me and the names Sigma and Razor’s Edge do not ring a bell when you think about Ninja Gaiden, you are not alone. The Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection does NOT include the original trilogy of Ninja Gaiden games from the 2000s. Team Ninja decided to include the Sigma versions of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden 2 after the original game code was unusable. The Sigma versions of the game largely leave the story unchanged but make noticeable changes to combat as well as adding in new features.
Changes range from improved graphics, making combat easier by reducing the number of enemies, additional story missions played as characters other than Ryu Hayabusa, new bosses to face, as well as other things designed to polish issues players had with the original games. While purists may not like the inclusion of Sigma over the originals, I found the changes to be refreshing as someone who only played the original games. Playing through the first two felt like watching Lord of the Rings but the extended edition. All of the things I loved as a kid were there but the experience was alleviated with new features and the improved graphics kept it from looking completely dated on my Xbox One. While not Sigma by name, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge follows the same process as an enhanced port of Ninja Gaiden 3.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection does include all of the previously released game modes and DLC costumes for each title are included in this one set for Ryu and the heroines of the franchise. However, the game modes will not be supported with online multiplayer across the board but will local co-op. Finally, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection will run at 720/60 FPS on the Nintendo Switch, 4K/60 FPS on PS4 Pro, PS5, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series X/S, but will not receive the enchantment for PS5 or Xbox Series X/S.
As is the case with most hack and slash action-adventure games, the story is typically secondary to the carnage that ensues in Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. However, that is not to say that there isn’t a thread of a story that follows through the three games. Set in the Dead or Alive universe, players primarily control Ryu Hayabusa, the Dragon Ninja. Ryu is often supported by a cast of heroines (Rachel, Ayane, Momiji, and Kasumi) who are playable in various story missions who also make return appearances throughout the three games. Being set in the Dead or Alive universe, you can expect the heroines to be well endowed but just as deadly and fun to play as Ryu himself.
The story of each of the games is fairly straightforward and unchanged from the originals outside of additional missions and playable characters. In Ninja Gaiden Sigma, must recover an ancient sword that was taken from his slaughtered clan. In Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Ryu teams up with a CIA agent to stop the fiends who stole an artifact from his clan to bring back the rule of demons. In Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge yet again teams up with a government agency to stop a terrorist group who…you guessed it, wants to destroy life as we know it. As each story progresses, the lore behind Ryu and his Dragon Clan expands, but ultimately each story essentially revolves around a villain and his group show up, Ryu has to stop them, Ryu rides off into the sunset. As one might expect, the dialogue is very basic as exposition abounds as the villains talk about domination and it’s but there are options to change the language which can add a different flair to each playthrough.
There isn’t any player choice in the story. Rather, Ryu follows a singular path to advance the story while he defeats enemies and finds various collectibles in not-so-hidden places. While the stories themselves are nothing to write home about, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection makes up for it with rather engaging cutscenes that show the grand scale of the enemies that Ryu faces as the game gets harder and harder. Further, including missions with the heroines works well to break up the main story that becomes mundane at times.
While the overall story leaves a lot to be desired, the combat generally doesn’t. In each of the games, there are slight changes to controls, character progression, and items. However, the basics stay largely the same. As a ninja, Ryu has access to a plethora of weapons and abilities. Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection follows the standard hack and slash action-adventure style where the main character starts the game with basic, low-level abilities and weapons. Ryu’s abilities and weapons can be upgraded through the games giving him access to better combos and more powerful abilities. Players have the option to use different weapons that fit their playstyle or the situation. Various swords like katanas and greatsword, bow, shuriken, staff, nunchucks, and scythe just to name a few are some of the weapons at Ryu’s disposal.
While each weapon he uses changes the animations involving murder and mayhem, I didn’t find any one weapon being inherently better than another. You can certainly play the entire game with the Dragon Sword katana (Ryu always switches to the katana in the cutscenes anyway) or mix and match to give yourself a varied playstyle based. Since weapons are easily changed in the middle of combat, it is easy to switch between a faster-attacking weapon like the Falcon’s Talons or a heavy damage weapon like the Eclipse Scythe. Ryu also has ninpo abilities that allow him to unleash powerful magical attacks that can be used to protect and enemies while potentially avoiding damage himself. Like the weapons, the ninpo abilities are easily changed during combat although takes time to charge up depending on which game you are playing.
As each game progresses and Ryu gets access to more weapons and abilities, the combat becomes more and more fun. Merely staying alive quickly gives way to figuring out how to land the longest combos and decimate your opponents in the most creative ways cycling through acrobatics, quick attacks, strong attacks, ninpo moves, and ultimate attacks. As each weapon and ninpo ability gives a different animation, players can certainly spend their time trying to figure out which weapon gives the most satisfying death to Ryu’s enemies as brutality is not absent from Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. Given the laundry list of moves spread across the various weapons and combat ability upgrades to choose from, it is unlikely that any two players will use Ryu in the same way.
I do have to admit by the time I got to Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, I was a bit tired of the same gameplay back to back. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 does improve on the fluidity of combat as well as the addition of different weapons, the gameplay follows largely the same format. Walk down a hallway or open street. Have various enemies jump out. Murder them all. Move on a few dozen feet. Repeat until you get to the next boss. While this was likely fun for two games that came out two years apart, I was dreading following the same format in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge having never played it before. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the additions made. Things as simple as moving the block from LB to LT made combat easier to manage while adding in various quick-time events kept me on my toes when I would go into autopilot spamming combos from the previous two games.
Even after beating the main storyline in each of the games in the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, the replayability does not stop. Completeistionist will be able to accomplish various achievements by collecting hidden items, successfully completing combos, and completing challenge modes that vary in each game. For those worried about the difficulty of gameplay, all three games offer a “Hero Mode” difficulty in addition to a normal and hard mode. In Hero Mode, Ryu automatically guards against attacks and does not fall when he gets low which leaves players to focus purely on their own attacks and combos. With the variety of weapons and abilities to choose from, multiple challenge modes outside of the main story, and the ability to choose your difficulty on a wide range means that players can truly play Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection in the way that works best for them.
Ultimately, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection may have a rather niche market. If you have already played all three games included in the collection, then there is little reason for you to pick it up unless you didn’t get to experience the DLC in each game. Further, if you are someone who had a negative few of the Sigma games and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge as many did, then I do not believe merely the DLC and being able to play on your PC or next-gen console will change your perspective. If you are a fan of the hack and slash action-adventure games then regrettably there are other options for you to play in 2021 as the genre has come a long way since Ninja Gaiden Sigma‘s release in 2007.
If you are like me and only played the originals, only played one or two of the games, and looking to complete the trilogy, or if you just like ninjas and mutilations then Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection might be for you. The additional playable characters, the inclusion of DLC, and updated graphics get the job done to hit the nostalgia points. The lack of story will likely keep some players disinterested in the larger themes the game is simply trying to get across. However, if you can get past the lack of an award-winning story and the semi-dated graphics, then you will have no problem hacking and slashing your way into a mind-numbing frenzy as waves of enemies fall before you. For me, the story can be overshadowed by the pure nostalgia and gruesomeness that Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection provides. If the ultimate goal of the game is to have fun by turning your brain off and brutally defeating your enemies in elegant yet deadly combinations for hours on end where the story doesn’t matter, then Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is available June 10, 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, and PC.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection
Ultimately, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection may have a rather niche market. If you have already played all three games included in the collection, then there is little reason for you to pick it up unless you didn’t get to experience the DLC in each game.