Koei Tecmo released the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, which is a port of Sigma 1, Sigma 2 and Razor’s Edge. While these three games are themselves remakes, they still provide a look into what makes the Ninja Gaiden series so well known. Regardless of its legacy, these ports are simplistic, almost to the point of ruining the experience. Luckily, the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection games can always fall back on a great protagonist: Ryu Hayabusa.
Despite its age, or maybe because of it, the Ninja Gaiden series is one of the most influential and known action series out there. Even if you’ve never played the games prior to the Master Collection, you can pick this up and it will feel familiar. What really takes away from that is the fact that these ports do not feel as though they are well loved and optimized ports. Their age really shows and creates a sometimes frustrating and lack-luster experience.
Just to describe the actual gameplay elements of the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection a bit more, each game plays slightly differently, but the main issues persist throughout. It really feels as though visibility is not a concern in any of the games. And that is where my main issue with the Switch port lies. Despite having a button dedicated to resetting the camera to Ryu’s back, I often struggled with seeing anything more than a wall. When the camera actually was moving freely, it was almost too free. While the games get progressively better as they get older, that problem never really leaves. The only saving grace is that by the time you get to Ninja Gaiden Razor’s Edge, the combat is smooth and quick enough that you can easily slice through a mob, whether you can see what you’re doing or not.
With the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection’s release, it’s more apparent than ever that Ryu Hayabusa as the star is one of the better things the series could have done. Beyond playing him and feeling like an absolute killing unit, he’s incredibly compelling outside of battles.
Some characters are so iconic that you see them and just know. You may not know what their name is, what they do, or even what game they come from but still, you know exactly how important they are. Ryu Hyabusa is that character. His name is almost instantly recognizable and even if you’ve never heard of Ninja Gaiden, you’ve seen him in his iconic gear.
From traditional Japanese gardens and ancient magical beings to the streets of London teeming with terrorists, Ninja Gaiden continues to up the ante and make Ryu the Ninja everyone wants to be. It’s the combination of seemingly absurd situations and Ryu’s calm stoicism that make the storylines feel oddly refreshing. He’s kind of the prototype for a tortured man, driven by forces beyond him and always ready to kill hundreds or, just lay a gentle hand on the shoulder of a distressed woman. It’s such an overused character model but I loved it in Ninja Gaiden.
This may sound contradictory, but while advancing through the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection was often frustrating, playing as Ryu was very fun and saved the entire experience. After the initial hump of getting used to how the games would play, I genuinely enjoyed myself.
The Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is currently available on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.