The Ninja Gaiden series used to be a great weapon in Koei Tecmo’s arsenal of games but for nearly a decade that franchise hasn’t seen a new game release and even then, the final release happened to not even focus around the core characters that fans of the series have come to know and instead was more of a spin-off. After seeing a number of HD re-releases over a decade ago and even appearing on the PS Vita, it is time for Ryu Hayabusa to make a comeback, at least in some form, as the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection brings Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge all back in one collection. So now that these enhanced games have once more been brought to current consoles, is this collection worth your time?
Longtime fans of Ryu Hayabusa will find that the Master Collection won’t have much to offer in the way of new storytelling as it continues to tell the same storylines that all three games have already told a few times already across their multiple releases, including the multiple Sigma versions that already featured expanded content such as allowing players to control other characters such as Ayane, Momiji, Rachel, and even Kasumi in some parts of the collection. For newcomers looking to dip their toes into this lightning fast and challenging game however there is plenty of content across all three games, making for a lengthy experience that, while fairly straightforward and uneven in its pacing, is quite enjoyable primarily thanks to how campy and classic they feel outside of the third game that tries to take things in a completely different direction.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma will see Ryu seeking revenge against Doku after manages to destroy his home village and steal the legendary Dark Dragon Blade while Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 pits Ryu against a number of fiends seeking to revive the “Archfiend” all while doing battle against a rival ninja clan. Finally we have Razor’s Edge that oddly enough features Ryu taking down terrorists only to become cursed and find his sword, the Dragon Sword, absorbed into his arm, with the curse thriving on all of the lives that Ryu has taken. If the “Grip of Murder” curse goes uncured it will eventually kill Ryu, and while this set-up may sound rather interesting, it instead takes the series to some of the most ridiculous levels seen so far that it feels completely separate from the first two games in the package.
Now it is worth noting once again that this Master Collection does not feature the classic Ninja Gaiden Black nor the original Ninja Gaiden II as both games appear to have been lost over time. As such this release instead features the modified Sigma versions that have seen a number of gameplay changes from the original games but will still remain familiar to those that played their original releases in 2007 and 2009. As for the third game in this collection, Razor’s Edge remains the best version of the third entry released in 2013 and features all of the content previously released as DLC.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma, being the oldest of the games, plays as strong as ever with players being able to take advantage of Ryu’s high-speed combat abilities to do battle against all manner of enemies and creatures. This fun and engaging combat can be challenging but it is worth noting that the game now features a “Hero” difficulty that makes the game markably easier for newcomers to learn the basics while fans of the series can still get the true challenge that the game offers, especially when it comes to the boss battles. That being said, being the oldest game also means that it features many of the biggest issues still as it not only feels rather lacking in some departments regarding weapon handling but also a camera that players will be fighting harder than the enemies in any given room.
The second game, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, is where the Ryu Hayabusa shrugs off most of the cobwebs as not only are players still given the treat of being able to use a wide array of weapons but also features a number of quality of life improvements to help streamline the gameplay a bit more. That being said, the camera remains an issue but players will have a bit easier time with it, especially since Sigma 2 is the meatiest game of the three, featuring a number of playable character options, challenge modes, and even the ability to fight alongside an AI against enemies allowing for some truly great looking fight sequences. These additions help make this entry easily the best game in the three pack release.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge may be the most modern and offer plenty of content as there are a number of playable characters available it is still the weakest of the three games, especially when played alongside the other two entries. Between slower overall gameplay, poor handling of Ryu’s character, and some rather odd design choices, it is evident that the team was trying something different with Razor’s Edge and even with the improvements that were made in the second pass, it remains a stark drop in quality compared to earlier entries.
Visuals & Audio
Now it is worth noting that while Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection may bring all three games to modern platforms, it isn’t an HD release by any means. The games may look a bit crisper than they originally did when they were released all those years ago but other than that players should not be expecting any form of massive visual upgrade across any of the three games. That being said, most scenes in these games still hold up rather well despite their age with only certain scenes and locations in the game appearing jank thanks to their age.
With this release of the three games players will still find that the same voice track options are available and the English dialog remains rather fitting given the campy nature of the first two games and the more serious tone of the third. As for the soundtrack the titles feature the same original tracks, including a number of amazing tracks that work great against Ryu or his allies slashing through their enemies.
There is something to be said about taking a look through a game’s history and Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is a great way to do that as it brings the classic campy storylines and over-the-top combat to modern platforms. Unfortunately the fact that this is a bare-bones release with no form of upgrades to the original games, that already vary in quality between one another, means that while the action is as great and challenging as ever, the lack of improvement will likely leave many disappointed while newcomers can test their mettle on at least two classic action games.
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