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Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Cuts No Corners On Switch

Courtesy of Team Ninja

Ninja Gaiden Master Collection

Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: June 10, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical (Asia Only)

Become One With The Falcon In Ninja Gaiden Master Collection

The release of Ninja Gaiden Master Collection was first announced via a Nintendo Direct in February 2021, which came as a general surprise for fans of the series as it was the first time the entire modern trilogy was released for a Nintendo console, the first time the “Sigma” games were released on a Microsoft console, and the first time any of the games appeared on Windows. 

The release of the modern trilogy available for all consoles was long overdue and it was assumed that such a compilation would never exist, which made the announcement even more of a surprise. In June, the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection was released for all major consoles including the Switch. A fun trivia about the Switch version of NGMC is that its release marked the 26th anniversary of the original Ninja Gaiden Trilogy on the SNES in 1995, showing the age of the Ninja Gaiden series and the history of Tecmo before it became Koei Tecmo as players know it.

ninja gaiden sigma gameplay
Ninja Gaiden Sigma - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Only Saw A Physical Release In Asia

Perhaps even more interesting about the release of the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection is the way the product was handled in Western countries. For the West, NGMC was only released digitally, both standard and Deluxe editions, while in the East, physical copies existed for at least the PS4 and the Switch versions. The physical copy I was able to take a look at was one such copy, as the general “Asia” region is in English much like the SaGa Frontier Switch copy I looked at a while ago.

What I was most curious about was how the games, as a compilation, would handle themselves on the switch after already dealing with two compilations. While Team Ninja's other series, the Nioh Master Collection, was simply two games on two separate discs, there was also the train wreck that was the Mass Effect Ultimate Edition

ninja gaiden master collection game menu
Ninja Gaiden Master Collection - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Is ‘Masterfully’ Packaged 

Surprisingly, all three games are on the cartridge with small updates designated for each game. I even booted up each game to make sure it wasn’t pulling my leg, but indeed Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge were immediately loaded onto the Switch dashboard upon insertion of the cartridge.

While it’s not as fancy as Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ in-game menu, Ninja Gaiden Master Collection’s method is a simple yet effective way for players to play the game they wish to boot without any difficulties involved. It was time to see how Ninja Gaiden Sigma played on the little console that could.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma

ninja gaiden master collection sigma title screen
Ninja Gaiden Sigma - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

When Ninja Gaiden was released on the Xbox in 2004, it was an impressive game graphic, gameplay, and difficulty-wise as it was barebone and honest about its expectations. Players controlled master ninja Ryu Hayabusa as he gets revenge on those who destroyed the Hayabusa clan across various areas of the world. The game immediately starts with Hayabusa ambushed by a rival ninja clan as he storms the castle, with aide from Ayane in the form of helpful hints.

Compared to the other versions, the Switch is “inferior” graphics-wise, with simple polygons and textures offering just enough quality for the game to run as smoothly as it did in 2004. While the graphics took a bit of compromise, the gameplay certainly did not as the game ran at a solid 60fps with very few hiccups. 

ninja gaiden sigma gameplay
Ninja Gaiden Sigma - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Explore Ryu Hayabusa’s Origins In Ninja Gaiden

The only time the game took a while to load was during the entrance of new locations, connecting one part of the level with another. Other than that, players won’t see the downgrade in graphic quality unless if it’s during cutscenes when the facial models are shown in more detail. This was especially true when I saw Ayane’s face for the first time and I barely recognized her from her usual appearance.

Unfortunately, faults that were with the original game also exist in this version as well, including a camera that I ended up fighting more than I fought the enemies. Later on, in the second level, when more evasive enemies have introduced that attack from a distance, this became especially annoying. I even died once not knowing what exactly killed me, until I realized I underestimated how much damage the enemy was dealing with me. 

ninja gaiden sigma ryu hayabusa
Ninja Gaiden Sigma - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ninja Gaiden Sigma’s Simple Gameplay Is Fluid And Difficult

Very quickly, the game teaches newcomers that the best way to survive is to block, guard, and evade attacks. Enemies can and will do damage equal to more than half of Hayabusa’s health, meaning defense is key. It was often easy to allow the enemy to harm themselves by attacking into my blocking stance, then retaliating once they finished attacking.

From the first two levels and with my limited knowledge of the first Ninja Gaiden, it was easy to pick up the controls and play without worrying about the Switch’s capabilities of handling the games. It will be interesting to see how it handles the games from two generations ago in their full glory.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

ninja gaiden master collection sigma 2
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Any and all previous quips about the “Switch version being ‘inferior’ to other versions” are immediately tossed overboard as the graphics for Sigma 2 trumps the first game by miles. It’s to be expected as the former was released on the PS3 which trumped the original Xbox in many ways. What’s most interesting about the original Sigma is that it, too, was a PS3 exclusive although many of the elements from the original Xbox version was retained with a graphics overhaul.

Regardless, a game meant for a new generation would play better and more refined than its predecessor and it’s not long until players are leaping through city rooftops, fighting enemy ninja and giant buddha statues. This was a game that was tailor-made for action enthusiasts, overhauling the gameplay of the original with emphasis on fast-paced enemy combat. 

sigma 2 character select
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Is “NG” As Players Know It

The new changes to the “Ultimate Attack” system, present in the original Sigma, are enhanced with Ryu having the ability to chain Ultimat Attacks through absorbing the essence of fallen enemies, fueling his bloodlust. Initiating a chained Ultimate Attack is difficult as enemies can hit Ryu out of the changing animations without proper spacing, but it’s satisfying when pulled off successfully.

Compared to the original, new additions to Sigma 2 included a tag-team mission mode where a second player can assume the role of Momiji, Rachel, and Ayane to assist Player 1 in completing various mission objectives. This form of co-op only exists in this particular mode and not in the main campaign. The density of enemies, compared to the original NG2 on the 360, is also reduced, meaning that Ryu isn’t as overwhelmed by his foes, yet the amount of health they have is increased to compensate.

sigma 2 gameplay
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Sigma 2 Is Marred By Pointless Censorship Quips

The gameplay on the Switch is, once again, a spot on comparison to the original Sigma 2 on the PS3 and it is a fairly accurate port, for better and for worse. Sigma 2’s PS3 port was infamous for censoring all of the blood and gore from the original release. 

Dismembered limbs instantly vanished as all resemblance of blood was replaced with a “purple mist.” Scenes such as decapitation were also censored, leaving heads intact but leaving missing parts on the enemies due to the mechanic of executing foes who have lost their arms and legs. 

sigma 2 boss
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Team Ninja’s Questionable Decision Remains A Mystery

While these changes to censorship were originally fixed for the PlayStation Vita’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2+ port, retaining the original game’s blood and gore, the game featured in the collection returned the censored gameplay, much to the disappointment of many players. Personally, experiencing it for myself wasn’t as big of an issue as I initially thought. I thought Nintendo had a hand in the censorship, at first.

Upon realizing that this would not make any sense because the first game was bloodier, I researched it and Team Ninja did indeed confirm the removal of blood and gore. It doesn’t take away from the gameplay in the slightest, as Sigma 2 trumps the first game in every way except maybe its difficulty and aesthetics. However, the gameplay elements introduced in the second game would carry over into the final game of the trilogy, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. How does the final chapter of the Hayabusa clan’s legacy fare on the Switch?

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

ninja gaiden master collection razor's edge
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Of the games featured in the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, NG2 is the only game I’ve played and even that wasn’t included in this compilation as the heavily censored version, Sigma 2 was what players would receive. This meant that this would be the first time I’d play Ninja Gaiden 3, as with the original Gaiden Sigma. During my first impression of the game, I can say subjectively of course that Ninja Gaiden 3 is the best game in the series. 

It built upon what made the second game an important one for the franchise and elevated it to make anyone with a controller feel like a master ninja. Several mechanics were modernized, including eliminating items altogether and keeping the flow of battle seamless because of it. Rather than fixate on the amount of health and ammo Ryu has, Ryu’s health will recover automatically up to a set amount after each skirmish. 

razor's edge gameplay
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Razor’s Edge Makes The Linear, Linear.

This is because each encounter takes place in an “arena-style” format, not unlike games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. While the previous games included these “gated off” battles in the past, Gaiden 3’s entire gameplay is like this, with players earning a grade based on how much damage Ryu has taken and how much time it took for him to defeat each enemy. The replenishable health also means that Ryu is never in grave danger for each encounter as he starts with full health. For the most part.

One of the mechanics taken from Gaiden 2 is the “red health” system, where the more damage Ryu takes, the more it cuts into his health bar, lowering his maximum HP. In this game, the only way he can recover red health is through falcons, serving as this game’s Dragon Statue. This also means that players will need to be careful in fighting as simple mistakes can cost them future battles.

razor's edge izuna drop
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Razor’s Edge Returns To Bloody Carnage

While Sigma 2 was infamously censored, Gaiden 3 returns to full form with blood and gore, with blood even accumulating on Hayabusa’s gear as he shreds and tears through enemies. The Razor’s Edge version is comparable to the previous Sigma versions as it builds upon the game, adding included DLC from the vanilla game, as well as overhauling the skill system so players can learn new skills with their Karma points.

For the gameplay and presentation alone, Ninja Gaiden 3 is an excellent game to start off with, but all three games are best enjoyed in order to see how the series evolved in its eight-year span. Each game has something unique to bring to the table and the topic of “which game is the best in the series” is purely subjective. 

razor's edge gameplay
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ninja Gaiden Master Collection Conclusion

There is no one bad game or good game, but all three games are impressively run on the Switch console. In the end, it proves to developers and publishers that when proper ports are made and developed, the Switch is not a terrible console when optimized properly. When it comes to playing bloody and gory ninja action on the go, the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection is a fair purchase for any fan.

Ninja Gaiden Master Collection is now available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.

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