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Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Review

Initial release date: June 10, 2021

Developer: Team Ninja

Series: Ninja Gaiden

Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA Corporation

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Genres: Hack and slash, Fighting game, Action-adventure game


"Review Copy Provided By Koei Tecmo"

Ninja Gaiden is a series that is synonymous with hardcore. If you played the original trilogy on the NES and were able to beat them, then you achieved something not many people could do. In the 90’s the series was dormant aside from a remake (if you can call it that) on the SNES of the trilogy and Ryu Hayabusa being a fighter in the Dead or Alive games. In the early 00’s we got the first new Ninja Gaiden game in nearly 15 years which was (at the time) an exclusive to the original Xbox in the self-titled Ninja Gaiden which we thought at the time was a reboot of the franchise until we got additional entries in the series with 2008’s Ninja Gaiden 2 and Dragon Sword and then finally 2012’s Ninja Gaiden 3 and Razor’s Edge which firmly planted the new trilogy as a prequel to the NES titles. After sitting dormant for the PS4/Xbox One generation and not having a new entry since 2013’s ill-fated Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, we now have in 2021 the return of one of the action game genre’s true innovators in the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection which includes the modern trilogy of Sigma 1 and 2 along with Razor’s Edge available on all platforms. Is this collection the true path of the Master Ninja? Or does it fail and become nothing more than a Ninja Dog? Let’s find out!

Story

The Ninja Gaiden Master Collection follows the adventures of young Ryu Hayabusa of the Dragon Ninja Clan as he sets out initially on a journey of revenge and betrayal as he faces threats of rival clans, dragons, governments, and even gods all set prior to the events of the original NES trilogy of games.

Gameplay

The modern Ninja Gaiden games are all about nonstop relentless action. You need to always be on top of your A game as enemies will show you no mercy and will always be going out of their way to end the Dragon Ninja’s life. You’ll need to master the Swallow Dive Attack, Guillotine Throw, Izuna Drop, and many more moves if you hope to survive. Ryu moves around in various 3D environments with the ability to perform light and heavy attacks, jump attacks, shuriken throws, bow and arrow firing, guarding, counter attacking, dodging, and reverse wind evasive maneuvers’. Your camera is controller in all the games with the right analogue stick and your back trigger being used to snap the camera behind you.


During fights, the camera will try and pan it’s way to what the game believes to be the best angle to showcase the action which can often lead to moments of pure frustration. This is due in large part to the first Ninja Gaiden game being one of the first successful 3D white knuckle action games and generally redefining the genre with each successive entry making tweaks to it here and there.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma in this collection is based off the improved Ninja Gaiden Sigma + version that was released on PS Vita about a decade ago and includes everything from the PS3 original release from 2007 and the upgrades of the PS Vita version which included rearranged stages from the Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden Black along with new weapons and gameplay mechanics and improved graphics. This game is somewhat open-worldish even with it’s chapter-based gameplay as it has many interconnected levels that you can back track to and many secret areas you can find after getting upgrades and truly feels like a good 3D MetroidVania. You’ll go through the bulk of the chapters controlling Ryu Hayabusa with you getting to control Rachel for about 3 missions. Rachel plays differently from Ryu as she is slower and weaker than he is and only has access to her Warhammer and retractable whip.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 in this collection is based off the PS Vita versions called Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 + and includes everything from the original PS3 release and the Vita version (minus the gore option) which gives more levels than the Xbox 360 exclusive of Ninja Gaiden II along with gameplay tweaks to tone down the supreme gore of that versions and replacing it with light blood splatter and purple mist while offering different balancing of the enemies and improved graphics. NGS2 is chapter based like the first game, however, it does not have any semblance of an open world structure and once you complete a level; you move on to the next. Just as in the original Sigma 2, this one gives you not only missions where you control Ryu Hayabusa, but also access to Momiji from Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword and Ayane from the Dead or Alive games, and Rachel from the previous Ninja Gaiden. All 3 of the female characters plays differently from Ryu with Rachel carrying over her playstyle from the first game while adding a heavy machine gun to her weapon set, Ayane utilizing dual Kodachis and shuriken to dispatch foes along with her supreme speed, and finally Momiji who utilizes a Naginata and has the best range of the 3 while offering a more balanced playstyle.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is the most point A to point B game of the trilogy and has the most significant changes to the gameplay formula and is still head and shoulders better than Ninja Gaiden 3 vanilla, yet is the weakest entry on this collection. You no longer have access to Muramasa’s shop to buy or upgrade weapons or buy items and your move list and upgrade ability is handled differently. While the previous 2 games were campy in nature, Razor’s Edge goes for a decidedly more serious tone which……….doesn’t work. The combat is most like NGS2 with the added feature of the steel on bone mechanic which has you being able to chain together several instant kill attacks after the Dragon Sword glows fully red. Returning side characters to play as are Momiji and Ayane

Graphics

These games have stood the test of time and continue to look incredible. When stacked up against games like Devil May Cry 5, Bayonetta 2, and even the Nioh games; it definitely shows it’s age especially with NGS and NGS2 as those were early and late 00’s titles. Each title looks great on all platforms and utilize dynamic resolution; what surprised me most was how great they look on the Nintendo Switch, especially the OLED model which really brings them to life with its better capability to showcase the color gamut.


NGS looks just as good on the Switch as it did on the PS3 back in 2007 and actually removes the loading issues you experienced back then and doesn’t require an initial install to run properly. It runs at 720p 60fps in handheld mode and docked 60fps; NGS doesn’t drop in its performance at all making it the superior version to play over the PS3 and Vita versions of the game. On Steam, Xbox One X and Series X, PS4 Pro and PS5; the Master Collection runs up to 4K. On PS4 and Xbox One S It runs at 1080p 60fps.

NGS2 also looks just as good as it’s PS3 counterpart and substantially better than the Xbox 360 original version that ran at 540p. The performance occasionally dips when there is a lot going on, yet these performance dips are very few and far between and only occur in handheld mode. Portably the game runs at 720p 60fps with occasional dips in fps, while docked it also runs at 720p 60fps with occasional performance issues. On Steam, Xbox One X and Series X, PS4 Pro and PS5; the Master Collection runs up to 4K. On PS4 and Xbox One S It runs at 1080p 60fps.


NG3RE is where the game struggles on the Switch and is where you’ll see the most substantial jump in graphics compared to every other platform. In both docked and portable; the performance struggles greatly to maintain a solid 60fps and dips down to below 30fps at times (it noticeably does this in the opening level). Handheld mode tries to maintain 720p and frequently dips below that and the color palette is a lot more muted on the switch than any other platform including the Wii U. Docked, the Switch struggles to maintain 60fps and dips to as low as 24fps and has a variable framerate between 720p and 540p. Compared to the Wii U version, this game is pretty disappointing when it comes to performance on the Switch and needs to be optimized with some additional patches. On Steam, Xbox One X and Series X, PS4 Pro and PS5; the Master Collection runs up to 4K. On PS4 and Xbox One S It runs at 1080p 60fps.

Downsides

The only real downside to this collection is the performance issues of NGS2 and NG3RE (especially that one) which I feel can be patched to be better optimized for the Nintendo Switch as honestly having the collection on the go is very appealing.


The fact that this does not have a physical release in the west is baffling.


Outside of that I just wonder why the collection didn’t include the original NES trilogy or even Yaiba:Ninja Gaiden Z, although that isn’t a downside and more of a curiosity as to why they aren’t there.

The Wrapup

When collections of previous games are released, that’s usually a sign of a new title in the works and with the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection I am hoping that we are getting a potential return of the Dragon Ninja. Having these 3 games available on modern consoles is amazing and even more so amazing when you factor in the ability to play them portably on the Nintendo Switch wherever you go. This collection offers you some of the best pure white knuckle adrenaline action of any game and is one that will have you embracing the path of the Ninja. If you get the chance, then pick up this game today.

The Verdict