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The Ninja Gaiden series will always hold a special place in my heart. While I’ve always been fond of the hack and slash genre (especially with ninjas), it’s this franchise in particular that sparked my interest in playing more challenging games. Even though they often brought with them plenty of frustration, there’s no denying that these were some of my favorite games of all time. From 2004’s Ninja Gaiden to 2012’s Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, there was no version of this game I wasn’t willing to experience over and over again.
Sadly, after Razor’s Edge, our beloved shinobi would take a hiatus, and fans were left to wonder if we would get another chance to save the world with everyone’s favorite ninja. Thankfully the folks over at Koei Tecmo/Team Ninja heard our cries and announced the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection back in February of this year, and the fan’s prayers were answered. It contains Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, giving fans new and old their chance to slice and dice with legendary ninja Ryu Hayabusa all over again.
Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to review one of my most beloved franchises. After taking the time to slaughter my way through the hordes of ninjas, soldiers, and demons, all while being the very best ninja I could be, I can safely report that while the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection may not reinvent the series, it does a wonderful job of preserving these iconic action games for a new generation.
Return of the Super Ninja
Sometimes remaining the same isn’t a bad thing, and from what I can remember, the stories, missions, and gameplay remain largely unchanged. Ninja Gaiden Sigma still has Ryu chasing after Doku and hacking down every fiend and ninja in his quest for revenge. Since he destroyed your village and stole the Dark dragon blade, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 still has you going up against the four greater fiends and their queen, which is always fun times. Razor’s Edge still has him taking down terrorists and helping out the Japanese Defense Force, all the while slowly being killed by the now cursed Dragon Blade that’s a part of his arm. All in a day’s work for everyone’s favorite super ninja.
Likewise, the fast-paced combat that put the Ninja Gaiden series on the map and set it apart from other ninja-based titles feels just as fast, furious, and unforgiving as before in the Master Collection, so don’t expect victories to be any easier. Enemies will endlessly pursue you, staying stationary is not an option, attacking with reckless abandon will get you killed, and those bosses will still end your life if you don’t stay on your toes. Of course, this isn’t necessarily bad since the series’ difficult to master, blazing-fast combat style is the core mechanic that has always set the series apart from its more straightforward cohorts. Still, the soul-crushing challenge may be a little off-putting for those who have never played a Ninja Gaiden game before.
To help make things a little easier, Hero Mode makes its return in the Master Collection. Introduced in Ninja Gaiden 3, Hero Mode essentially allows newer players to play pretty recklessly if they want to. You’ll still take damage like normal up until you sink to a critical level of health; from that moment on, Ryu will be able to auto guard and auto dodge up until the timer runs out in Sigma or until you heal yourself in Sigma 2 and Razors Edge. Now, this may be a little too easy for folks who’ve played the games before since you can essentially cheese your way to a pretty easy victory. Still, it’s a perfect way for more casual players to actually be able to enjoy the game while under a more easygoing difficulty.
Diehard fans across social media had one major concern in mind – just how censored will this game be? And given all the issues with censorship for games coming out of Japan, it was a justifiable concern. Thankfully, players can relax since censorship doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue and the blood and gore still exist at the same level they did years ago, at least in the Sigma and Razor’s Edge editions of the games. During my time with the game for review, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was the same as before, with less blood, gore, and dismemberment, which was definitely a bummer but didn’t detract from my experience. Thankfully, PR says the level of violence will be restored to what was found on the original PS3 release thanks to a launch day patch. So when you finally get your hands on the game, this shouldn’t be an issue.
An All-Inclusive Ordeal
Along with Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Razor’s Edge, the folks over at Koei Tecmo/Team Ninja were kind enough to give us all the DLC, including the outfits for all the characters for the three featured games and Speed Master, Weapons Master, and Rachel Master for the first game. Which in all honesty is an extremely kind gesture since they could’ve easily sold the extra content as a separate package. Since I didn’t get to experience a lot of the DLC in my youth, I can’t deny how much enjoyment and frustration I got from trying out some of the modes and outfits that I never got to experience in the past. Although costumes and hairstyles may not seem like much, it’s nice to be able to switch your looks now and again.
Admittedly, I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to with all of the extra modes packaged with the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, but from the time I did put in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2′s Tag Mode was hands down my favorite of the bunch, even though it isn’t part of the DLC packages. Even without all the gore, being able to choose between Hyabusa, Ayana, Momojii, or Rachal as my dynamic duo to cut down swaths of foes was just a hell of a lot of fun. Of course, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the extra content; I just didn’t put as much time into them as the latter. The one gripe I did have was finding out there’d be no online support for the Tag Mode since I was hoping to take in the full experience. Still, even without the online support, all the extra play modes you’ll get to test your shinobi antics are more than enough to keep your thumbs on turbo mode and the rage meter on high.
Even Ninjas Need To Look Pretty
Right from the jump, the increased visual fidelity Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection brings to the table is apparent, and Ryu Hyabusa has never looked better in all his bloody ninja glory. It goes without saying that Hayashi’s team did an outstanding job making all 3 games look much more vibrant and visually appealing than they did in the old PS3/Xbox 360 days.
While every game definitely received some love and attention, it would be impossible for me to deny just how much better Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 looks than the others, in my personal opinion. Every cutscene looked marvelous, and everything from the in-game graphics to the stages and backgrounds was incredibly crisp, clear, and smooth. In addition, the game’s combat felt like it benefited slightly from the increase to the game’s vibrancy, and given the game’s blitzkrieg combat, any bit of help keeping track of your enemies as you fly by after slicing their friend to shreds was a blessing. However, as good as the Master Collection made everything look, that’s not to say that it didn’t have a problem or two. While playing through Ninja Gaiden Sigma, I did notice a drop in resolution during a few cutscenes. And even though this isn’t the end of the world, it’s definitely something some people will take notice of.
A Nice Slice Of Nostalgia
Overall, the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is a welcome walk down memory lane for any returning fans of the franchise and a challenging yet fun experience for newer ones. It takes everything that made the original editions of the games enjoyable, polishes them to perfection, and wraps them up in one nicely affordable package. Although the main stories may be a bit on the short side, the collection still offers plenty to keep you occupied with all the extra play modes at your disposal. I can’t stress how good all three games look. So with that said, if this timeless, high-speed, ninja action series is one you enjoy, be sure to pick up the standard or deluxe edition.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One; Publisher: Koei Tecmo; Developer: Team Ninja; Players: 1-2; Released: June 10, 2021; ESRB: M for Mature 17+ – Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes; MSRP: $39.99 (standard), $49.99 (deluxe)
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.