Ninja Gaiden Master Collection collects the three modern Ninja Gaiden games, previously unavailable since the PS3 and Xbox 360, and places them into one convenient package – and it is mostly worth the cost, as two of those games are masterpieces, while one, even in its most fleshed out form, is still rather bland.
For those unaware, Ninja Gaiden began life as an arcade game and on the NES in a series of frustratingly difficult releases. Jump ahead a few years to 2004 and Ninja Gaiden was released by Team Ninja on the original Xbox Console, where it quickly gained acclaim for being fast, fresh, and nail-bitingly hard. A while later an updated version, Ninja Gaiden Black, was released for the Xbox and went on to be the definitive version – at least in gamer’s minds. Still yet, another version featuring a variety of tweaks, a new playable character, and some reimagining of areas was released on the PS3, titled Ninja Gaiden Sigma. That is the version included in this collection, which may frustrate some hardcore fans as many were not happy with a few of the tweaks made in Sigma. Personally, I don’t mind the tweaks, but the game is noticeably different in sections compared to Black.
A few years later in 2008 Ninja Gaiden 2 was released on the Xbox 360 console. Like its predecessor, it remained fast and difficult. Better yet, it took some of the criticisms of the first entry in the series to heart and created an arguably better laid out and paced game – although personally, I still hold an attachment to the first entry over the second. Like the first entry, this also received an updated version, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, which is the definitive version of the game aside from some gripes about the insane amounts of blood in the original release now being heavily edited. This is the version found on Master Collection.
Then, in 2012, came Ninja Gaiden 3 and the first time that Team Ninja faltered. Ninja Gaiden 3, despite its attempts at modernizing and providing a fresh experience, could not live up to the bar set by the previous two entries. While still fast-paced and somewhat difficult, the entire campaign just felt off, like something was missing. The levels were too open and barren, the enemies were carbon copies of each other, the bosses were boring, and the sense of exploration and puzzle solving found in previous titles was all but abandoned. Ninja Gaiden 3 received harsh reviews from critics and fans alike. Throughout the years various tweaks were made and eventually combined into Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge which, while much better than the base game, still was not that great. This is the version found on Master Collection.
Now that my history lesson is finished, I want to say that this will not be a review of the individual games. They have been reviewed to death throughout the years. Instead, this is a quick review of the newly released Ninja Gaiden Master Collection.
First, players need to understand that the Master Collection is not a remake or even a remaster of the original three games, rather it is exactly what it states in the title: a collection. This is the first chance to own these games on the PS4, PC, and XBOX One without using backwards compatibility, and even then I believe Sigma was only available on PSNow. Aside from that and possibly a bit of upscaling to run in 4K, absolutely nothing was done to the games, which is rather unfortunate.
The games do show their age, despite remaining fun to play through. Ninja Gaiden Sigma suffers from horrible camera angles and relatively basic graphics – as would be assumed from a 17 year old game – and could really have used a few tweaks like a better camera tracking system inside closed spaces, and even a basic fresh coat of paint to the graphics to add a bit more detail. Instead, we have essentially the exact version released on the PS3 years ago. It is still a great game and well worth playing, but its age is beginning to break through.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 suffers from the same graphical issues, although the camera isn’t as bad as the areas tend to be a bit larger in comparison to the first. While it does look better than Sigma, it is still beginning to show signs of age and would have benefited from a few graphical tweaks.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is the newest entry and therefore suffers the least from aging, but the better graphical presentation does nothing to help the lack of fun found in its campaign. Sure, it’s worth playing through once – if only to complete the trilogy – but most players won’t find themselves coming back to it once its campaign is completed.
Each game is launched independently of each other, with no main menu screen which is slightly confusing at first, especially when played using backwards compatibility on the PS5. The system kept wanting to launch Razor’s Edge, and I had to keep exiting and remembering that I had to bring up the selection menu and choose the other two games. This is only a minor gripe, but may confuse people upon their first time booting up the games.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection
The Master Collection is just about as barebones as you can get, yet can still be recommended due to the inclusion of two of the best games ever made. Like most players, I was excited when the collection was first announced because I thought it would be a full blown remake or, at the very least, a remaster. Still, I had hours of fun replaying the first two entries, and would wholeheartedly recommend this collection to anybody that has not played the games before or does not own another means of playing them.