Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection Review – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

An enticing and frustrating collection that leaves much to be desired.

Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection on PS4

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At first glance, the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection offers a great ton of value based on its legacy alone. The inclusion of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is an absolute whirlwind of action and intense combat designed for white-knuckled fun.

However, while it is a blessing to have these Ryu Hayabusa games in a modern console experience, it appears that old habits die hard. Many of the problems that plagued the initial releases of the later games are still present in this collection, and Team Ninja has not adequately addressed them even for a new release.

If you are already familiar with the overarching plots in each of the games, you are stepping into old territory with the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. Granted, plot has never been a strong suit of such games, but it is still quaint to see cutscenes from the past still looking the way they do in 2021. For newcomers, it is a great way to step into the past and experience the genre’s beginnings for yourself.

An Exceptional First Course in Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection

Thankfully, when it comes to the action, the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection offers easily some of the best you could ever want. Ninja Gaiden Sigma remains an excellent action epic, offering the amazing level design to the challenging foes that can make your life hell. Players can only stand a chance by honing their instincts and precision, and fights are never boring, especially with the different bosses. Even the puzzle and platforming designs are in stellar form.

However, the fact that it is a remake of Ninja Gaiden Black instead of being Black itself, is a major problem for the purists. The addition of Rachel’s missions is the biggest culprit here. While her appearance borders on pure fan service levels, it is what she brings to the gameplay itself that bothers. Instead of a variety of upgradable weapons at her disposal, you will be stuck with just her hammer as you rerun the same levels.

Yes, she is powerful in her own right, but it is most certainly not fun. Add to the fact that her missions often break up a good run for Ryu, and you will be forgiven for wanting this addition removed instead.

Going Downhill

The Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection also contains Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, which simply suffers from the fact that the original was not a great game either. You are looking at reduced gore, a staple of the series, a more linear experience overall, and the game ultimately feels unfinished. The troubled development of the original Ninja Gaiden 2 is still showing its effects even to this day.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 does not just remove things, it also adds its own bells and whistles to even the score. Certain levels have been changed up, new bosses take the place of older ones, and players have new missions for Rachel, Ayane, and Momiji alongside a mission mode.

The key problem is that rather than making the game better, the additions only feel like they’re papering over the cracks that were present in the first place. The new missions are just not that fun to play around with, and even the mechanic of dismemberment, which is great fun, is offset by the lessening of enemy numbers. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 gives and takes at equal measure, which leaves it neither impressive nor forgettable.

A Tumultuous End

Perhaps the biggest problem in the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is the inclusion of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. With the original already being a thorn in fans’ side, Team Ninja has attempted to sweeten the pot by making certain fixes without a total reworking of the game.

Combat remains undoubtedly the star of the show, with dismemberment continuing its welcomed stay. Enemy count has also been ramped up to the satisfying levels of old, and you will always have a swell time cutting your foes down. That is, if you manage to survive long enough. The way difficulty is presented in the third game of the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is throwing waves after waves of enemies at players.

Usually, that can still be considered a fair fight, but the odds are further skewed with the inclusion of enemies wielding rocket launchers. There is difficulty in reaching said enemies without the use of Ryu’s bow, which is a pain to use when everyone around you wants your head. Even if you emerge victorious, you still have to deal with a nefarious health system that will frustrate at every turn.

There are no health items in Ninja Gaiden 3, and the only way you can heal is using a meditation ability. To do so, you have to build up enough Ninpo from killing enemies. This vicious cycle punishes players who are essentially unable to perfect a run. Even more egregiously, your maximum health gets reduced every time you get hit, and it remains that way until you reach a save point. It would be no surprise to find yourself heading into a tough fight with such low health that it is over before a sword has been unsheathed.

Player’s Choice

A challenging difficulty is to be expected, especially in Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, but it has to be fair to a certain extent. Repeating frustrating mechanics and design is by no means a satisfying experience for players. Even with the other problems that are present in the two other games, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is an utter mess that is simply not worth your time.

The Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is an enigma. It represents the easiest way of allowing a new generation of gamers to experience a revered series, but it also happens to consist of one amazing game in Ninja Gaiden Sigma, an okay offering in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and an absolute abomination that is Razor’s Edge. Depending on your appetite for punishment, it might just be worth getting the collection just to experience the first two games, while the third is better off being missed.

Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection
A curation that equally frustrates as it impresses, the Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is made for fans and newcomers who can overlook its obvious flaws to experience the remaining goodness in bits and pieces.
  • Looks good and runs well.
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Sigma 2 are still awesome games.
  • Plenty of content for replayability.
  • Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is a mistake.
  • Not Ninja Gaiden Black or Ninja Gaiden 2.
  • Does not include all DLC.
  • Unbalanced difficulty.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PS4.
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Jake Su
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and a part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help. Jake was a freelance writer for Twinfinite between 2021 to 2023 and specialized in writing detailed guides on every new release he could get his hands on.