Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection Review
Ninja Gaiden is one of the greatest action franchises in the history of video games. The original game was an arcade beat ‘em up in the style of Double Dragon, but it was Ninja Gaiden for the NES that perfected the action-platforming formula and pioneered quality cutscene storytelling. It is still heavily played by speedrunners worldwide and is a shoo-in for the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Ports aside, the NES game had two excellent sequels made in the same style, and these three games are often referred to as “The Ninja Gaiden Trilogy.” This trilogy received sequels for the Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System and a prequel for the Game Boy.
In 2004 the series saw a rebirth, starting with Ninja Gaiden X, a Japan-only mobile phone prequel to the NES trilogy, and Ninja Gaiden, a Devil May Cry-inspired third-person action title for the original Xbox. Ninja Gaiden was upgraded and released as Ninja Gaiden Black, then remade and released for the PS3 as Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Ninja Gaiden II was released for the Xbox 360 and was remade as Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for the PS3. A prequel to Ninja Gaiden II – called Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword – was released for the Nintendo DS the same year. Ninja Gaiden 3 was released for the Xbox 360 and PS3, then was updated as Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for the Wii U. Another Japan-only mobile game followed in 2012, and finally, in 2014, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z was released to very little love for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Missing In Action
I mention all this history because the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection only contains three of these games: Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. This collection should’ve been called the “Ninja Gaiden Sigma HD Trilogy,” as that better explains what you’ll find within. It does not contain the classic NES trilogy or the Xbox versions of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II.
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a bad thing. The Ninja Gaiden Sigma Trilogy is still three great versions of three great games. Still, when reviewing something like the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, it’s essential to inform the potential buyer of exactly what they’re getting. I think the title of “Master Collection” is a bit misleading.
What will probably upset most post-2004 Ninja Gaiden fans is that playing the Xbox versions of the first two games isn’t an option. This is a potential issue because the first two Sigma games were remakes and not necessarily upgrades in every way. Ninja Gaiden Black expanded the story mode, added new enemies and bosses, modernized the camera controls, included a mission mode, designed extra costumes, and made other tweaks to enemy AI and controls. Many consider this to be the definitive version of Ninja Gaiden. Ninja Gaiden Sigma adds Rachel as a playable character in three new levels, adds extra weapons and spells, improves graphics, and makes several in-game quality of life improvements (such as more save points). Ninja Gaiden Sigma also removed some content like cutscenes, chunks of levels, and costumes. In addition, overall, it was a much easier game. Both versions have their pros and cons, but only the Sigma version is offered in the Master Collection.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has an increased resolution and a better framerate than the Xbox original, but to achieve this, it can’t have as many enemies or polygonal objects on the screen. Sigma 2 also has toned down violence, where blood spray is not only lessened but replaced by purple mist. Meanwhile, fallen limbs and foes also disappear much more quickly. Again, it comes down to personal preference as to which version is better, but only the Sigma one is found in this Master Collection. Thankfully Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was only an improvement on the original, featuring all DLC and several minor enhancements.
Thirsty For More
The three games found in the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection are great, especially the original (the other two are more of the same). They all look, sound, and play as well or better than any other versions that have been released. If you enjoy third-person action games, the Ninja Gaiden Sigma Trilogy still holds up today. And the original should be required playing, as it is one of the original Xbox’s finest exclusives. However, buyers beware that these are only the Sigma versions of the modern Ninja Gaiden Trilogy. I don’t want to judge this collection for what I wish it contained (it already has three great games with tons of content), but by calling it a “Master Collection,” the game loses a couple of points due to false advertising.
***Switch review code provided by the publisher***
- Excellent Value
- Contains all DLC
- Gameplay Holds Up
- No Original NES Trilogy or Other Spin-Offs
- No Ninja Gaiden Black or Xbox Ninja Gaiden II
- Missing Some Online Features