Developed by KOEI TECMO GAMES and published by KOEI TECMO EUROPE CI Games, NINJA GAIDEN: Master Collection brings back the one and only Ryu Hayabusa and one of the famously tough gaming series out there. In this package you get Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. So, it’s time for Ryu to come off the bench and back into the shadows as the fate of his clan and the world rest on his shoulders.
It should be noted these games have not been remastered, but they have been touched up graphically and most notably with the frame rate which does make for a more appealing look. The menus and camera angles especially of the first game do show their age and would have benefitted from a bit of tweaking.
The first game of the collection, Ninja Gaiden Sigma, is a remake of Ninja Gaiden for the original Xbox console. The game is set in the same setting as the Dead or Alive series and features a few names from that series. The plot follows the events after the Hayabusa clan has been decimated and the Dark Dragon Blade, which the clan was protecting, has been stolen. This blade holds a terrible power and will unleash evil onto the world unless Ryu can put a stop to it.
I have to say the first game still holds up pretty well. The graphics, although are not cutting edge, are still pretty decent. The combat is slick, fast-paced and requires impressive reflexes to master. The enemies come thick and fast and the game is very unforgiving; you will die very quickly unless you master the blocking and dodging. However, the biggest enemy in the game are the camera angles which is where the game shows its age the most. It gives the enemy an advantage as you won’t see most attacks coming until the camera swings around. There are also stages where it can be quite easy to get lost and you might end up wall running and jumping all over the place to find out where to go. But with different weapons to wield, different techniques to discover and the use of Ninpo – a powerful magic attack – there is still plenty to enjoy with this game.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is really where the series found its groove. A CIA agent called Sonia comes looking for Ryu before she is kidnapped. Upon rescuing her he finds out about an attack on the Hayabusa village from the Black Spider Ninjas who are looking to steal the Demon Statue. This statue is to be used to resurrect an archfiend which Ryu has to prevent from happening or else he will have a monstrous fight on his hands.
Sigma 2 feels like it has taken all that was good from the first game and improved on its weaknesses. The graphics are much more detailed and don’t feel as aged, and thankfully the camera angles are much better. The combat feels much more satisfying as you can cut the limbs and heads off your enemies, though it isn’t presented in too gruesome a manner. It seems to have brought in larger boss battles to which are great fun to play. There is a meaner take on the health bar in this game as when an enemy hurts you not only does your HP get reduced but your max HP lowers too, so you cannot restore that health unless you get to a save and heal point which means your defence game needs to be on point. There are still many different weapons, techniques and Ninpo (magic) to explore so there is some variety to how you play the game.
That brings us to Ninja Gaiden 3 Razors Edge. When this originally released the game wasn’t received all too well. It seemed like the Ninja Gaiden framework was there with Ryu, the combat, and a world-ending scenario, but the game was accused of being too streamlined and lacked the challenge and feel of the originals. The plot also seemed vastly different from protecting ancient tools falling into the wrong hands. In Ninja Gaiden 3 Ryu is called upon to help the Prime Minister of the UK who has been capture by the Regent of the mask, and they are using the capture to lure Ryu out. Ryu then gets cursed on his arm with the grip of murder which will slowly kill Ryu unless he finds a way to break the curse. The Regent of the mask is revealed to be part of the group the Lords of Alchemy and they are calling for the nations of the world to surrender or face annihilation. So, it’s up to Ryu to save the day and he has a few more companions to assist his cause as well as a lot of betrayals ahead of him.
Upon playing this game I did get a different feel from the previous two games. It felt less like a ninja doing what needed to be done in the shadows and more a badass ninja of an action movie. The way the opening scene played out and that he dives into the action it doesn’t seem very ninja-like. But aside from this feel, I did enjoy the way the combat play. The camera angles are OK, although a bit low at times, and NG3 kept the dismembering of the second game in. But the third has added mini cinematic kills for added grit which I think is pretty cool. Aside from the initial gung-ho start, there are times when you can sneak up on enemies like a real ninja, so I am glad they added that in. As you kill enemies and perform combos you can also unleash an ultimate attack that decimates enemies in your path which is a nice touch. All the regular occurrences of different weapons, techniques and Ninpo magic are available. They have a kunai climb mechanic to allow Ryu to climb certain walls and to also attack enemies up high. Although I agree it feels different to the other two games in terms of story, I actually prefer the combat in the third game and the graphics look very crisp as you’d expect from the latest in the series.
This collection of games does well to showcase the story of Ryu as he progresses from one game to the next as well as showing you how gaming has developed over the years. From the very tough first game with the clunky camera angles and aged graphics to the slick movie-style vibe of the latest game with much sharper graphics and the cinematic kills which became a factor of many games of that era and even current games. All three for me do capture the essence of needing quick reflexes in blocking and attacking to progress in the games or you will die a lot. But don’t let the high challenge put you off the experience. Team Ninja has added a “hero” easy mode to help weaker players, or those that just want to play through the game. This allows you to have an automatic defence when your HP is reduced below a certain level so you can’t be killed and infinite Ninpo magic. However, it’s not everlasting and you have to restore some health within a time frame otherwise you can still die. I needed this at first for the first game as I was never going to experience enough of it to review it properly otherwise.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection brings age but also wisdom to the table. Most gamers have heard of Ninja Gaiden either by reference or by playing one of the original games. This collection brings the games to players who have not experienced it before and with the addition of the Hero easy mode there is no reason to fear the gruesome challenge these games used to be if you just wanted to experience it. For fans of the series, while it has not been remastered it has been spruced up with the new framerate and plays very smoothly on a Series S and X. If you need to get your ninja on and enjoy a fast combat action game, then this collection could be for you.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.