The 3D Ninja Gaiden trilogy is coming to the Nintendo Switch and other platforms as Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, announced in the recent Nintendo Direct presentation. Along with the announcement is the reveal that the trilogy bundle will also appear on the PC and the previous generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles - the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. The Master Collection is set to launch on June 10, 2021.
Which Ninja Gaiden Games Are Included In The Master Collection?
The games included in the collection are Ninja Gaiden Sigma (released way back in 2007), Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 from 2009, and the most recent Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, originally released in 2012.
Unfortunately, the 2D Ninja Gaiden games are not included. We named Ninja Gaiden for the Atari Lynx our best action-game for the platform, and the series' classic roots are the unforgiving 2D action-platformer genre. The original Ninja Gaiden for arcades was designed primarily to replicate Tecmo’s success with Double Dragon - Ninja Gaiden was a quarter-muncher beat ‘em up with notorious difficulty, yet it was also highly addicting and players were willing to try again and again...
However, the Ninja Gaiden of arcades is different from arguably the most popular version of the game, the Nintendo Entertainment System port. While the arcade Ninja Gaiden is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, the NES version puts the series protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa, in a pixel-perfect platformer.
Both are extraordinary games in their respective genres. The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden was ported to the following platforms: Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari Lynx, PC (DOS), and ZX Spectrum. Meanwhile, the NES version also had rereleases in significantly altered forms in the PC Engine, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (as part of the trilogy, more on this later in the article), and on mobile phones (not Android or iOS) in BREW and Java platforms. The NES version of the game also got released on Virtual Consoles on Wii, 3DS, and the Wii U. Finally, the NES version of the game was part of the NES Classic Edition and as part of the NES: Nintendo Switch Online service.
Fans might remember that this is not the first time Tecmo released a Ninja Gaiden trilogy: In 1995, the three Ninja Gaiden games were part of the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES. Unlike the first game, though, the two sequels did not receive the same love and were available on fewer platforms. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, in particular, was viewed as the weakest of the trilogy. Players can unlock this trilogy in Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, released in 2004 setting the precedent for the 2D trilogy being included as an unlockable in the Master Collection too. The first 3D Ninja Gaiden was reworked in 2005 as Ninja Gaiden Black, which includes several new in-game cutscenes, greater challenges, and other additions and changes.
Sigma Versus Black
Fans of the series are generally not receptive to the Sigma versions of the 3D games which are part of Master Collection. In contrast, Ninja Gaiden Black is beloved by fans but it is trapped on a single platform, the Xbox. This was due to the toxic fallout between Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja founder, Tomonobu Itagaki, which buried any chance that Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden 2 (2008) will ever get re-released in their original form. KOEI Tecmo had “reimagined” both Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden II as Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and the changes are significant - these include core gameplay, new playable characters, the omission of some costumes, streamlining the game, different starting weapons. Sigma did offer updated graphics compared to Black, though.
Many fans do not like the changes made from Ninja Gaiden 2 to Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, but performance issues mar the former. Due to Ninja Gaiden's trademark reliance on perfect precision reactions, stuttering and lag make it difficult to enjoy. This was remedied by reducing the number of enemies which made the game relatively easier, however it is still difficult compared to other games. The removal of gore is also a common point of contention.
Nevertheless, even in their flawed states, the Sigma versions are in a league of their own as Ninja Gaiden remains the best pure action game in this writer's opinion. The Sigma versions of the Ninja Gaiden games were ported to the PlayStation Vita with additional content, like making the game easier with Hero mode, new accessories, and new costumes. Vita exclusive controls like gyroscopic detection, back-touch, and touch screen commands are also baked in. More importantly, the Sigma Plus 2 version includes a toggle to bring back the gore of the original game.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was first released for the WiiU and Itagaki was not involved in making the game. The game received mixed reception citing that it is not just as great as its predecessors. However, when judged on its own, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is still a great action game.
Other Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection Details
Together with the announcement of the Master Collection, Team Ninja has announced a crossover to the Nioh universe. Owners of Nioh 2 and Nioh 2 Complete Edition can download the “Dragon Ninja” skin to play as Ryu Hayabusa. The Master Collection itself comes with almost all the game modes and DLC costumes of the games' original releases. Team Ninja stated that "Most of the previously downloadable contents are included", so better expect some content not making it to the collection. It is not yet certain if the Sigma Plus features will also be added to the collection, such as the Hero difficulty setting. Besides Ryu Hayabusa, the four female characters; Ayane, Rachel, Momiji, Kasumi will be playable but only to the extent as to how they appeared in the original games. The online components of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge will not be available in the Master Collection.