Reissuing classics has been more difficult in recent years, as remakes like Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII and impressive remasters like that Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. Simply releasing old games is no longer so attractive. Regardless of this reality, it is just that Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection and while it includes two classics and a total misfire, nothing has been done to mitigate the aging of the two.
The original Ninja Gaiden killed a 2D title in 3D in 2004. It was an inventive way to bring the brutality of the original into the modern and raise the bar for character action games.
Ninja Gaiden is essentially a genre classic, so many of its strengths are still there almost two decades later. Melee combat is punishing, but it rewards quick reflexes and first-class decisions in fractions of a second. It’s not quite as fast as its sequels, but its relatively slower speed (“relative” is a lot of work here) which focuses more on small duels for those with multiple deadly enemies. Even a flock of bats can kill unwary players. With this specific pace of quick yet methodical action, it feels like the early beginnings of Nioh, the action-heavy Soulslike Team Ninja was only released in 2017.
High difficulty levels and skill-based battles are just two common DNA threads it shares with Soulslikes as well. Boss fights are climatic skirmishes that quickly kick the player in the butt if they make a wrong move. Dying is unforgiving too, as there are no autosaves and safe statues are sometimes rare.
Most games with this type of punitive structure would disintegrate completely 17 years later as modernity reduces them to the fossils that they are. Ninja Gaiden is not one of these games as the fight still holds in the aforementioned way. Well, for the most part, because there are still some unmistakable crumbs here. The camera is absolutely terrible, often hiding threats and allowing cheap shots after cheap shots. The controller doesn’t vibrate either, which is an enigmatic holdover from the 2007 PS3 release before the system was fitted with the DualShock 3.
Most of the issues, however, were addressed in the sequels but not implemented retrospectively here. Dodging and a handful of other movements have a few too many recovery frames and can make Ryu feel more sluggish than he should. The shot control is still weirdly bad and doesn’t take over the traditional trigger setup of the last two games mentioned. All the menus that appear after killing are excruciatingly slow. Picking up items, saves, and switching weapons – especially switching weapons – also requires too many menus or keystrokes, and those extra roadblocks bring the pace to a standstill.
All of these little issues are starting to add up in the most frustrating way as they indicate that Team Ninja did almost nothing to update this game. It’s a sloppy way of treating one of the most sought-after titles in the genre if one fails to account for changes in the quality of life. While it would have been great, it didn’t need a remake from scratch. Similar to the first Mass effect by doing Legendary editionIt just needed a handful of touch-ups here and there because the core is so solid. Without them, its age can obscure its accomplishments and likely repel anyone who didn’t originally play it in some form.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 performs a bit better, but that’s just because it’s a sequel and it has ironed out a lot of the rougher edges of the first game when it originally came out. The sublime fight is a little more responsive and fluid than last time. The new annihilation mechanic, which takes down weakened enemies, adds an extra layer of strategy to battles as it encourages players to keep an eye on everyone and quickly prioritize or re-prioritize who to attack.
A handful of additional moves, optimized weapon changes, faster and fewer menus and additional save points that grant full health make this follow-up much more accessible. It’s still reasonably difficult, but more healing sometimes makes it even more difficult as each fight can be more intense; it’s a sprint, not a marathon like the first title. leaving Sigma 2 unchanged is more forgivable because it is not as outdated as its predecessor and therefore did not need to be saved.
But it is not saved Ninja Gaiden 3: razor blade since it is a terrible game at its core. The sad case of Team Ninja hasn’t gotten any better with age, and the bundling with two vastly superior games only makes it look worse. The fight loses much of its finesse by blocking more enemies on screen and focusing more on big brawls in intimate duels, which upset the balance Dynasty warrior Area. Cutting through crowds is more of a chore than a challenge, especially when there are almost always too many distant assholes with rocket launchers. If the first two entries were scalpels – precise and focused – the third is a shotgun – loud and dumb.
“Loud and Dumb” also describes the story perfectly. Usually bad narratives are excusable in action games, which is the case with the first two games. Still Razor’s Edge tries its best to pretend its cryptic act is worth the ridiculous screen time it takes up. It also has it all: flat, boring supporting characters, a dumb kid game for players to take care of, a monotonous protagonist, a goofy villain prone to flat monologues, and most importantly, a flurry of ridiculous attempts to blame so many on the players Kill people. Every single aspect would be bad, but it becomes one of the worst gaming stories when it is all mixed up and brought to the fore over and over again.
Ninja Gaiden deserves better than being dumped like the last generation of consoles. Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection doesn’t seem to have any visual improvements (the levels are still unimaginative and the women are still ridiculously over-sexualized) nor is it going better as it was already running at 60 frames per second. It’s not even on the newer consoles, so it still has some unnecessarily long and frequent load times as well. The mere porting of these old games indicates their age and doesn’t really highlight the quality of the first two entries. And during Ninja Gaiden Sigma and its sequel are still worth checking out, even the best swords can rust a little if not properly maintained.
Result: 7.5 / 10
As the evaluation guideline of ComingSoon explains, a score of 7 corresponds to “Good”. A successful piece of entertainment that is worth a visit, but not everyone likes.
Disclosure: Publisher’s Verification Code. The game has been verified through backward compatibility on PS5.