The Ninja Gaiden franchise is near and dear to me. Starting out at the arcades in the late 80s, the original Ninja Gaiden started to grow a reputation for it’s insanely high difficulty and challenging gameplay. After many ports on various platforms, Ninja Gaiden eventually made its way to the NES. Although it wasn’t the same game as the original at the arcade, there were many aspects of the game that carried over on Nintendo’s console.
The franchise started to expand on handhelds and SEGA’s home consoles. Ninja Gaiden went on hiatus for many years, but eventually it was revived in 2004 by Dead Or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja. Ninja Gaiden/Ninja Gaiden Black on the Original Xbox and Ninja Gaiden 2 on the Xbox 360 received praise from critics and gamers alike helping Itagaki reach legendary status. The games also appeared on the PS3 with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 1 & 2. Both games received added content, but took away the challenging aspect of what made the games a masterpiece. Ninja Gaiden 3 didn’t recapture the same magic as the previous 2, but it did get an improved version with Razor’s Edge. Since then, Ryu Hayabusa has appeared in Dead or Alive and Warriors All Stars, but didn’t get another solo outing.
As the years went by, Team Ninja partnered with Sony to bring hits like Nioh 1 & 2, but the question remains: where is Ninja Gaiden? Well I’m glad to say that we finally have Ryu Hayabusa back in this new Master Collection. The collection is packaged with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 1 & 2, and 3: Razor’s Edge. Although it’s great to see Koei Tecmo’s poster child in the limelight, we have to ask ourselves- do the classics have what it takes to be relevant in 2021?
Ninja Gaiden: Sigma is a PS3 remake of Ninja Gaiden Black from the Original Xbox. The story is centred around the evil Dark Dragon Blade. The sword has been sealed by Ryu’s Dragon Lineage because of the evil it can unleash. At the beginning of the game, Ryu Hayabusa is training with his uncle Murai. After their sparring session, Ayane rushes in to tell Ryu that the Hayabusa village is under attack. Ryu tries to save his people, but then sees his childhood friend, Kureha, killed by a dark samurai known as Doku from the Vigoor empire. Doku is after the Dark Dragon Blade that’s been hidden and protected by the Hayabusa family for generations. After fighting through an army, Ryu finally faces Doku. This is where I’m going to stop talking about the story and move on to the next segment.
When it comes to gameplay, Ninja Gaiden Sigma tries to build upon the already excellent Ninja Gaiden: Black. The game requires precision, skill, and perfect timing. The game has puzzles, platforming and flashy combat. When it comes to difficulty, I feel like Sigma is a little easier than Black. Sigma also has missions where you can play as Rachael. The gameplay feels a little slow and limited when you’re playing as Rachel since her load out is also limited to the War Hammer.
Overall, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is a game worth playing. Although I prefer Ninja Gaiden Black, Sigma does offer better graphics as it’s a remake. The game is just as gory and flashy as the original and has extra content to boot.
In Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Genshin and the Dark Spider Clan plan to steal the Demon Statue that is hidden at the Hayabusa’s Village. Genshin follows orders from the Queen of the Greater Fiends, Elizèbet. Her main objective is to deliver the Demon Statue to the Infernal High Priest Dagra Dai, a ruler of the Fiend race. His evil plan is to awaken the Archfiend.
The gameplay in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is cranked up to 11. The game balances the fine line of flash and panache with addictive kinetic gameplay systems. The combo driven flashy combat adds many new moves to the mix. You can chain aerial moves from a dash move and decapitate your enemies. They’ve toned down the gore and violence compared to the Xbox 360 version, but the core gameplay is still intact. The camera angles can be frustrating at times as you can lose focus and die in an unfair manner. Just like Ninja Gaiden Sigma 1, Sigma 2 adds extra content where you get to play story chapters as Rachel, Momiji, and Ayane.
The design of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is different. While Sigma 1 has an interconnected design, Sigma 2 takes a linear approach. You’ll fight demon’s in New York City and werewolves in Venice. The game gets crazier the further you go. Team Ninja made quite a few changes. They’ve added and took away some bosses. Certain segments from the original will also be missing in Sigma 2. Since this is a remastered port of Sigma 2, you won’t see the same amount of AI like you’ll get from the original. They’ve also toned down the difficulty. The game can still be difficult if you’re inexperienced.
Overall, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is still worth playing. The new chapters, boss battles, and the extra modes add extra value to a game that’s already great.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was an upgraded release of Ninja Gaiden 3 for the Nintendo Wii U. It was re-released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 with a number of improvements. This includes better AI, more weapons, and two additional chapters to play.
This was the first game of the modern trilogy to be developed without Tomonobu Itagaki. The story sees the return of Ryu Hayabusa, this time going against a terrorist known as the Regent of the Mask (Kamen no Doushi) who kills the British Prime Minister. Essentially a curse is put on Ryu and time is ticking since the world is going to be destroyed within seven days.
The gameplay is not that different to Sigma 2. You can chain combos, pull off aerial moves, and can finish off your enemies with a magic Ninpo attack. You can unlock new moves in a skill tree like menu and can also unlock many cool weapons. Razor’s Edge has quite a few quicktime (QTE) events that can get annoying, but thankfully, it doesn’t effect the core experience. The camera in Razor’s Edge is definitely an improvement over Sigma 1 & 2 and you’ll notice a massive upgrade with the visuals.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge has many improvements over the first 2 games, but it’s definitely the weakest link out of the 3.
Since I was playing the PC version, I was expecting some extra options when it comes to graphical settings. First, there’s no option to play the game in 1440p resolution. Second, the game is capped at 60FPS with no option to unlock the framerate. Last, I didn’t understand why this collection required 3 separate downloads. Since it’s packaged as the Master collection, it would’ve been much more convenient if it had a single unified interface where you can jump in and out of each game without having to close the application.
Overall, I had a great time revisiting the Master Collection. The games still hold up graphically and the gameplay can still outclass the modern games we have today. While the PC port is barebones with some huge QOL omissions, the games themselves are fantastic. Overcoming the challenges feels rewarding and the games will go down in the history books as must-plays that defined their respective eras.
A review code was provided by Koei Tecmo Europe
Developer: Team Ninja / Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release date: 11/06/2021
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam