Game: Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 (Via Backwards Compatibility)
The Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is a fun and sometimes frustrating experience. From the disappointing and questionable stories to the weak bosses, it still managed to give me a fun time. This was my first experience through all of these, so I was surprised as it did not live up to my expectations from all the praises I’ve heard, but nonetheless, I’d try to be as fair as possible.
In my opinion, the port is decent. Despite technical hiccups like occasionally mute cutscenes, the games still hold up well visually and ran at a stable 60FPS. So, props to Team Ninja for that.
Now, I will dive deep below to share my experiences with each game of the collection.
NINJA GAIDEN 1 SIGMA:
This game was known to be as challenging as the SoulsBorne games, and it didn’t disappoint in that area. But when it comes to the other aspects, it doesn’t look that good.
The gameplay was very fun, it was very smooth all around, there were so many combos to use and memorize – and many tools you’ll get to make the combat even better, the first chapter of the game you’d only have your base weapon, it was pretty boring bearing through all of that, but once you got past that the game really delivers, my only problems would be the very awkward camera that sometimes at boss fights it would be focused on the boss and while standing on a wall you’d be pretty much blind, having no lock on system was very problematic too for the combat, normally in other games you’d lock on to an enemy and keep attacking and if another enemy tries to hit from behind, you’d switch the lock on to counter but here there’s none of that, sometimes Ryu would just keep attacking the enemy you want to attack and when you want to switch to another target you’d just hit the wall or hit the floor when you want to hit an enemy below, and the outdated controls were a problem at first, it was very weird to go through but you get used to it.
The weapons in this game are great, though it lacked the quick weapon switching in its sequel and in Devil May Cry. It compensates for that by giving many of the weapons great depth, through upgrading. You’ll be able to use more combos for each weapon. My go-to weapon was the Dragon Sword, as it was the easiest weapon to use to combo into an Izuna drop, which is the best thing about the game, all of them are great to use and perfect for each situation. An example would be using the Vigoorian Flail to deal with the ghost fishes and the huge skulls from the big Skull boss.
Speaking about bosses, they’re very disappointing and extremely bad; some of these bosses don’t even fit into this game’s style, many of the giant bosses who can’t be staggered are great examples. Many of the bosses have been recycled, too, like the tentacle boss which you fight 4 times in the game. The only 2 great bosses were 2nd fight Doku, and the final boss, who both felt like an actual challenge and very fitting in the game.
The enemy variety isn’t really anything noteworthy in this; they’re pretty forgettable, except the warrior enemies in chapter 17, they’re pretty fun to fight, but there’s only 3 of them in the game, which is a shame. The rest of the enemies are pretty average and ordinary but still very fun to fight, except for the ghost fishes, and the Black Dragon Ninja’s were pretty unfair as they just keep ganging up on you, and whenever you try to fight back, they keep throwing Exploding Kunais which is annoying as hell, especially playing as Rachel as she’s very slow and can’t do a lot against them except countering and spamming jump attack.
The level design is great, and it reminds me of Resident Evil a lot as there a lot of rooms to go back to and return after getting certain items or keys to progress. Other than the lava sections, none of the levels felt badly designed. The parkour was great too. It really put a lot of focus on the wall running to get to certain locations, which not enough games do.
A good example of a great level is Tairon. It’s just great, you use it for a lot of chapters for Ryu and Rachel, and it just feels like everywhere you go, you’ll end up at that level, even if you obviously left it by train in one level, hell the train also ends up at Tairon again, so it doesn’t matter. The music is pretty good, it really fits the feel of the game, and some bosses just have good themes to listen to while playing.
The story is laughable, and there’s really nothing interesting about it. It’s just your usual dumb fantasy ninja revenge story. Honestly, the only thing that might invest you are the Rachel chapters, but that’s it. She’s also a boring character, Ryu too. He’s pretty much an alien with no comprehension of human conversations.
The story is very confusing in general; the plot twists really make you question “why?” and you end up laughing because they really didn’t try with them, except the ending, probably the funniest ending in gaming history, which is the only redeeming factor in its story.
Even though the cons of the game like the story and bosses are awful, that doesn’t compare to the pros of the game, which are the level design, the music, and the combat, which just gets better every time you play it again, which is why this game is an easy 7/10, a very good game, but could’ve been better.
NINJA GAIDEN 2 SIGMA:
Ninja Gaiden 2 really just feels like an entirely different game than its predecessor, it deepens and improves a lot of Ninja Gaiden’s 1 mechanics and systems, but it also fails at some parts.
The gameplay of this game drops the difficulty and complexity of 1 instead of that they ended up focusing on making the combat flashier and fun, and though the combat is very satisfying, it just doesn’t pull you in like Ninja Gaiden 1. It feels like just another original God of War rip off that doesn’t nail God of War’s combat style, but it is very fun.
This game isn’t difficult at all. The philosophy of this game is that more enemies will equal difficulty, which is not true. The enemies in this game are really pushovers, and by the end of the game, you’ll be so strong it won’t really matter. Some of them will feel like a nuisance. In fact, I never died once in Acolyte mode throughout the entire game, thanks to your pretty much infinite supply of healing items from all the shops and all of the money you’ll normally get throughout the game, and all of the save stations which do heal you in this game, and there are so many of them in this game, you can find one of them, and 5 minutes later, you’ll find another one nearby, if I knew this, I would’ve saved some healing items.
There aren’t really any major problems in this game like NG1, other than the exclusion of a lock-on system, which is not a problem in this game at all, I never had any tracking issues compared to what I had in NG1, other than some jump attacks I missed, but those don’t really matter, this game is really forgiving.
The weapons in this are absolutely perfect. There is a quick weapon switch option in this game which was a welcome surprise, but it really was just changing weapons faster; it wasn’t combo extenders like in DMC, the game pauses a bit while switching too, but it wasn’t to be a combo extender it was more of a quick switching to the weapon that fits the best situation, if you’re in a bridge and hallway and enemies are running at you, pull out the Scythe and max charge your heavy attack, if a lot of enemies are ganging up on you, switch to Enma’s and max charge your heavy attack, if it’s time to fight a boss, pull out the Staff, all of them works in those sorts of way, and none of them feel way too powerful than the rest for every situation.
The combos in this game are much flashier, and with the controller vibrating for every single possible thing you can do in the game except walking, it really makes it much more dynamic.
The bosses in this game are better than the ones in NG1. That’s it. They’re just better than the ones in NG1 but they’re all average, nothing to write home about, except for Genshin, Volf, and the statue bosses. They were honestly pretty fun to fight, while bosses like Elizabet and Zedonius are just frustrating.
There weren’t as many reused bosses in this game like Ninja Gaiden 1. However, there were some, but the reused bosses at least had some story attached to it, wherein Ninja Gaiden 1 they were just there for the sake of another boss battle.
The final boss is one of the worst final bosses ever made; it’s just laughable how they thought that making the final boss of the game only beatable with a bow and arrow in a ninja sword-fighting game was a good idea since you can also stun lock the boss so easily there’s honestly no difficulty until phase 2 that is.
The enemy variety here was good. They weren’t challenging; however, not a single enemy in the game can be looked at as a threat since there are so many of them at once they didn’t need to be too complex, but there were many types of enemies, a lot of them are unique, even all the Ninja enemy reskins have a trick that other versions don’t.
The RE style backtracking level design of NG1 was dropped in NG2 to favour more linear style levels like Uncharted.
Sacrificing the old level design meant that smart parkour opportunities couldn’t have been used to find a new path, like how ninjas should do. Instead, it just keeps going forward, which really doesn’t work well for the Ninja fantasy that they were aiming for.
The levels look great, and many of the chapters have you in new locations like Japan, New York, Russia, and more. It still holds up graphically in this generation.
The music in this game is great, and I was surprised at how good it was after I finished the game and decided to check it out; ones like Fighting Soul were really good to listen to.
The story in this game was pretty straightforward. It was decent, nothing crazy, and it wasn’t as bad as 1. There is honestly nothing to complain a lot about it, and it did its job.
Some characters were really fun to watch too, especially the Greater Fiends like Alexius, who is just a dude who loves the statue of liberty, Volf, who’s your typical “I want to fight strong opponents” character, Marbus, who isn’t as cool as the rest, and Elizebet but she’s nothing special.
The other characters are irrelevant; they’re just there, they’re not important, and Ryu is still a brick wall.
This game was really fun. The combat was fun though it lacked the difficulty, the enemies were cool, but they lacked the complexity, the level design was good, but it wasn’t as good as 1, music was good, bosses were average, and the story was ok.
I’d give this game a 6.5/10, it just fails to deliver at a lot of parts, but it is still very fun to play, but not enough to warrant a second playthrough.
NINJA GAIDEN 3 RAZOR’S EDGE:
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge is easily one of the worst games I ever played. How did anyone think this was a good idea is beyond me.
Ninja Gaiden 3 takes a more story-focused approach compared to the other 2 games. Even though the story here was one of the worst stories I ever saw in a game, it’s full of confusing plot points, random character appearances that shouldn’t even make sense, and the game trying so hard to make it emotional, and it just can’t. The gameplay in this is very bland. It really just feels like a downgraded version of Ninja Gaiden 2.
It can be enjoyable, but it doesn’t really have anything special to make it stand out. The Blood Rage mode seemed cool when you killed enough enemies, but it really was just boring as you’d get it and killed a couple of enemies, and it’s gone.
The ninpo here was really badly implemented, it has a meter now to fill up instead of the usual orbs to tell you one is usable, and there are only half of what Ninja Gaiden 2 had. It did have a mechanic where it heals you every time you use it to make it more important, but it really does make it the only reliable way of healing with no healing items in this, there is a skill to heal yourself, but it’s practically useless since a lot of enemies can cancel it in a fight.
Speaking about Skills, there are unlockable skills in this game, which only amount to max health, some basic skills, weapon upgrades, ninpo upgrades, and outfits. It really didn’t need to be there, and it was awful. I mean, why did I have to spend points on the Air Slash when in the other games that’s something you have by default.
My last point is the story focus of the game and affecting the gameplay, there are certain sections where Ryu has to walk slowly because of the curse and sometimes ruin the pacing, but it was only for the story. The main thing was before them, and that was the Curse Arena, where you fight a lot of enemies in a time limit; it was honestly pretty fun, but again there was no reason for it to be there other than to extend the game’s length.
The weapons in this game are awful. And it makes sense since the original Ninja Gaiden 3 only had a sword. They added stuff like claws, staff, scythe and double swords in this game to add “more content”, but it’s clearly visible that this game wasn’t designed for them. The claws are way too fast, the scythe has too much range, the staff is useless, and the double swords are ok, and playing with the sword honestly felt better; most of the combat was focused on it. But the variety was still there.
The bosses here, or lack thereof, are the worst in the series. There’s about 6 repeated bosses, 1 boss used as QTE later, 2 bosses that were pretty bad, 1 cool boss that clearly seemed to have been inspired by God of War, and the final boss was everything you could hate combined, QTEs, mobs, and the list goes on.
Enemy Variety was repetitive with fighting the same soldiers for most of the game, but it honestly isn’t that bad, it’s just that they’re not good either, the only 2 actually new enemies being the Chimera Brute and Snake were ok, but they really aren’t anything special.
The level design was pretty bad, at least in Ninja Gaiden 2. Some levels were great to look at after the linear change, but here it just doesn’t cut it; they’re all pretty generic and just doesn’t have anything special in them. No personality. No visual. No flair. Absolutely drab.
The music in this game is decent, not as good as Ninja Gaiden 2, but it’s okay, some like Showdown were good, but it really doesn’t live up to the other game’s music.
The story in this game is so unbelievably bad I almost didn’t want to finish this review; it’s just how that how can this game focus on a story like this which is like a fan-fiction at best, and Ninja Gaiden 2, which didn’t have the best story, but it was better than 1 and certainly better than this, yet it didn’t focus on it as this game did.
I mean, you go from Ryu slaying the Archfiend and wielders of the Dark Dragon blade, to out of nowhere, started having a very close relationship with a little girl, that completely doesn’t work.
The ending in this game was so frustratingly bad, the entire game is just trying to shove its idea of Ryu’s curse and what it means for him only for the ending to throw all of that way and it just doesn’t feel deserved.
I don’t have a lot to say about this game, it’s one of the worst I’ve ever played, and despite the combat providing me with some moments of fun, everything here is absolutely terrible and a huge downgrade from the first 2 games. I’ll be going with a 4.5/10. And I am glad it wasn’t the original Ninja Gaiden 3, as I’ve heard nothing but bad things about it. So who knows where that would’ve landed.
These games were fun and technically competent (minus some odd audio hiccups I mentioned), and even with the 3rd game’s problems, you can enjoy it, and it doesn’t have to be said for the other two games.
Even though the bosses are average at best and garbage at worst, they still work, there is still some enjoyment for some of them.
The collections total score would be a 6/10; they have great gameplay for the most part, but everything else just doesn’t consistently deliver to warrant a better score, and if 3 didn’t exist, this might have been a more recommendable game collection.
Hopefully, if Ninja Gaiden 4 ever happens, and with Nioh 2’s director wanting it to happen, it can learn from the past mistakes, and improve everything to the same quality as current Team Ninja games.