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NINJA GAIDEN: Master Collection Review

NINJA GAIDEN: Master Collection Review

Ninja Gaiden’s reinvention back in 2004 made it a significant exclusive franchise for the Xbox brand. Turning the childhood destroying difficulty of the original NES platform games into a crushingly difficult character action series. After Ninja Gaiden II launched on the Xbox 360 the series appeared on other platforms with varying success. The NINJA GAIDEN: Master Collection attempts to gather all three modern titles together but how does it fare?

Fantastical elements from the start show this is no grounded adventure.

The Ninja Gaiden series is a fast-paced character action affair set in the same universe as Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive games and features intensely satisfying combat that has nuance and rewards reactions and skill. As Ryu Hayabusa you’ll fight through hordes of enemies both human and demon whilst trying to retrieve the stolen Dark Demon Blade and other mystical trinkets.

It’s impossible to talk about this collection without talking a little bit about the series’ history, the modern series started life as an Xbox family exclusive with Ninja Gaiden, the enhanced re-release Ninja Gaiden Black and the Xbox 360 sequel Ninja Gaiden II. The PlayStation 3 got exclusive remakes of the first and second games, the Sigma titles, before the series went multiplatform for Ninja Gaiden 3. This was followed up by an enhanced release, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for the Wii U which also came to the Xbox 360 and PS3 later on.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge still looks fantastic.

The reason all this matters is because this collection comprises both Ninja Gaiden Sigma games along with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge but not the original titles. Which for fans of the series is a bit of a shame as those original Xbox games are still exclusive to their original platforms. So, what about the games that are included?

The Sigma titles were major remasters, bringing the games to a new engine with visual improvements but also making significant changes to how the games feel. The move to the PS3 brought higher resolution visuals and enhanced lighting effects but lowered the enemy count, neutered the gore and dismemberment systems, changed weapons and moves and altered level layouts. They also kept most, but not all, of the DLC and unlockables from the original titles.

The original Ninja Gaiden Sigma still manages to look great too!

To newcomers these changes won’t really matter to their enjoyment and the games are still fantastic experiences but as a Master Collection it feels a little incomplete to not feature the originals as well. The Switch version of the collection targets a resolution of 1280x720 at 60 frames per second and it holds up well, outside of the resolution and performance profile however there aren’t any major changes to all three of the titles with them being relatively straightforward ports.

The series’ visuals have always had a clean, pleasing aesthetic, the first two games especially really showcasing the interesting mix of urban environments with traditional Japanese shrines and temples. The third game is aesthetically more confusing but the mix of cityscapes and futuristic sci-fi-like areas still look great.

Speaking of the third entry, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is widely considered the worst entry as it eschews a lot of the franchise's thoughtful combat for something that feels more button-mashy. It’s also the most linear entry of the three, with little to no exploration as you slice and dice enemies throughout your adventure. It’s still not a bad game however but compared to Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Sigma 2 it feels a lot more unfair in its enemy placement, especially in its use of ranged enemies.

Characters you may know from Dead or Alive make appearances throughout.

Fortunately, the combat in all these games is still excellent and sees you utilising a variety of weapons as you mix light and heavy attacks to destroy enemies. There are enough combinations and choices to make during every encounter to make mastering the combat system extremely satisfying. Combine that with some downright thrilling boss fights and gorgeous environments and you have a series that still stands the test of time.

Overall NINJA GAIDEN: Master Collection is a solid, if unremarkable, set of remasters for a great trilogy. It’s a shame the original versions couldn’t be included to make it the definitive collection but if you’ve never played these games or want them on modern systems in a convenient package you can’t really go wrong with this.

7.50/10 7½

NINJA GAIDEN: Master Collection (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

A competent collection of ports that does the bare minimum to bring the series to modern systems. The games themselves are still fantastic action classics but it’s a shame all versions couldn’t be included.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Simone Brown

Simone Brown

Staff Writer

Often reminiscing about the 'good old days'. Simone has almost perfected her plan to enter the Speed Force and alter the timeline.

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