Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Review

Release Date
June 9, 2021
Devloped By
Team Ninja
Published by
Koei Tecmo
Available on
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam

Ninja Gaiden’s legacy is one that has a strong start, but is rife with controversy in its latter half. The series originated as a beat em up arcade game, a couple of releases on the NES, and then series went silent for nearly a decade. In 2004, the series erupted back to life with a revolutionary new entry on the original Xbox. Like its predecessors, the game was tough as nails, had cool visuals, and a bloody take on combat. The sequel, Ninja Gaiden II, further propelled the series with faster combat and linear levels with cool set pieces. But the other half, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, were both critical failures and the series was put back on ice for a while.

I love this series despite the stumbles, so when they announced that the Sigma versions of 1 & 2, and the Razor’s Edge version of the 3rd game were coming to current consoles I jumped at the chance to try them again. This will be more of a review of the actual porting work and whether each title is still worth its cost. The first major thing I do wish to point out is these games will only be available digitally and each game is a separate download. The games are going to be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. This review is for the PlayStation 4 version of the collection.

Ninja Gaiden is the game that revolutionized the action genre. Originating on the first Xbox, the series wowed people with its graphical prowess, artistic choices, and a combat system like none before it. The first games combat places a higher emphasis on efficiency and defense. Killing enemies would release a huge spurt of blood, and leave spirit orbs known as Essence. This allowed Ryu to either recover health, magic, and serves as a currency used to buy items and upgrade weapons. Ryu can use a charge up ability to unleash a more devastating attack that also increases the amount of essence released. With a handful of different weapons to use, a fast overall pace, and awesome flashy moves make for a great overall combat system.

The main location, the Vigoor Empire, is an interconnected city with a wide variety of locations and has some light Metroidvania elements. The original’s only real weaknesses are from its sometimes frustrating camera and that the story is kind of one note. It does a good job enough of setting up the world and some of its lore, but as a narrative it’s just things going on around the characters. The gameplay holds up even by today’s standards and the graphics still hold up really well. In this port there are two other grievances. First, for some reason the pre-rendered cutscenes are blurry and slightly pixelated. The in game cutscenes look sharp as ever, though. The second is the game still has a lot of loading sections, typically only 3-5 seconds in length, but are frequently enough to mess with the flow.

The second in the trilogy is my favorite. While it does have a linear level progression, I do not feel as if it is a great loss. The levels still have plenty of secrets and explorable areas. The combat is also greatly enhanced. The flow of combat is much faster and frenetic. Your attacks can lop off limbs from your enemies, which leads to a new feature, the Obliteration Technique. If you remove an arm or a leg, the enemies will often tine try to take you down with them. Using the obliteration technique not only eliminates them as a threat, it does so in a brutal and satisfying fashion. You gain access to a nice handful of awesome weapons that all have unique combo routes and obliterations. The technical issues of the first game’s port are not really here. I found load times to be reasonable and less frequent.

The last game in this collection was an interesting experience for me this time around. The original version of Ninja Gaiden 3 was a mess. I went into this one with a bit of hesitation. The core feature of this game is called Steel on Bone. The original had this feature trigger seemingly at random. However, in the updated version there is a prompting red glow from the enemy that let’s you know the mechanic can be triggered with a specific input. The game also removes the collectable essence or usable items purchases as you regenerate a certain amount of health at the end of the fights.

Many of the previous game’s weapons return and you can purchase upgrades with points you earn as you progress. Sadly the flaws are quite strong, however. The series propensity for camera issues returns and the game has a heavy emphasis on quick time events. The story is sadly at the lowest point. It attempts to be introspective but falls flats and skids through the ending. The set pieces can be fun and when done right the Steel on Bone mechanic can be satisfying, but the game still has a few issues.

Overall, I feel like the whole collection is worth getting despite each game’s individual flaws. Razor’s Edge is a strong improvement over vanilla NG3 and if you missed it the first time I think it’s a great time to give it a try. The games all play well on the PS4 and you are getting three games for the price of one.

Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Review
A Ninja Worthy Collection
While this remastered collection has a couple of flaws, the games as a group are excellent. If you haven't given Ninja Gaiden a chance before and love a good challenge these games are for you. You are getting three games for the price of one!
The Good
All three games run at high frame rates and 1080p
Controls are very responsive
Load times are very short overall
The bad
First game has blurry pre-rendered cutscenes and frequent level loading
Simple remaster without any in game touch ups