A good remaster is like a comforting serving of your favorite meal from a diner when you drop in late at night. Sure, it’s probably a little old. Maybe it’s been reheated. That doesn’t mean it’s not still something you love – it’s just that same thing but a little older. That’s the case with the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection; a trilogy of fantastic action games worth your time – though probably could have used a little more love than just being stuck back in the microwave for a few minutes.
While purists will likely consider the NES-era Ninja Gaiden games the definitive adventures for our protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa (also of Dead or Alive fame), his foray into fast-paced, polygon-rendered action are no joke. He’s armed to the teeth, wielding a variety of weapons, an infinite supply of shuriken and a red-hot hatred for demonkind. He’ll try to take out the demonic hordes with you at the wheel, but unless you’ve had the time to git gud, as the kids say these days, he’s probably not going to succeed. These games are no joke.
We start our journey in Ninja Gaiden Sigma, a 2006 director’s cut of the original reboot of the classic Nintendo-hard series, and guess what? It’s hard as hell. You’re going to die repeatedly and keep coming back for more. Ryu is a ninja armed with a sword against an army of evil ninja and demons…and, well, when you’ve had some practice with the game, those odds are going to seem unfair and imbalanced in your favor.
At first, though, expect to get splattered. Learning when to block, when to dodge and how to predict your enemies’ moves is paramount, as is learning which of your impressive array of offensive options and weaponry to use at any given time. A hint: anything involving leaping off the wall tends to be a pretty good call most of the time, so try those.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 comes next, a 2008 director’s cut of the original game’s sequel. It’s probably the high point of the series, offering top-notch polish and gameplay to go with that crushing difficulty. Sigma 2 takes everything you loved about the original, from stylish weapons to spooky foes to ridiculous ninja action, and slathers on more to keep you playing. Fans of character-action games rejoice!
Well, back in the day they did rejoice, but promptly ceased rejoicing when Ninja Gaiden 3 was released back in 2012. It went in some unusual directions plot-wise, removed every weapon but the sword and all of the ninja magic and loaded the game up with unnecessary quick-time events. Mercifully, what we’ve got here is the much-improved Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, which brings back multiple weapons and ninpo and makes the gameplay far more bearable. It’s still probably the weakest of the series even considering the improvements, but at least it’s worth a playthrough.
Considered as a whole, this is a fantastic trio of character-action games and each is well worth checking out! This remaster doesn’t do much to help them shine, though. Sure, you’re playing on PC now, so there’s a pretty good chance they’re all going to run like a charm. On the other hand, there aren’t many display options and tweaking the game to suit your visual needs is largely a no-go. That’s not to say these games are unplayable – far from it – but this is about as bare-bones a port as you can imagine.
When I say “bare-bones” I mean it, by the way. There’s not even any resolution or screen options, so if you want to adjust those you’ll need to use Steam launch commands so far as I can tell.
That’s pretty unfortunate, but it’s not enough to keep Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection from earning a recommendation. These are three superlative action games packed with plenty of depth for players willing to stick to them, despite their sheer brutality. Somewhat lazy porting decisions aside, it’s fortunate that it’s possible to play the Ninja Gaiden trilogy on modern hardware and it’s entirely reasonable to check them out this way. Grab that Dragon Sword and get to slashing.