Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection

PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch

June 10, 2021

This is good news but not mind-blowing news. Sigma and Sigma 2 can already be emulated pretty well on RPCS3, so I’ve played them at 1440p60 after playing the hell out of them on PS3 hardware. The Sigma games get a bad rep but they’re fine. Sigma is pretty close to Black, it just adds unnecessary bloom and filler levels that affect pacing. Sigma 2 misses the point, but it’s still fun to play. I intend to play through each of them through all difficulty levels.

Getting 3RE on modern hardware is nice. It’s on Xbox One BC, but notably it came out just before they shut down the One X enhancement process, so it’s stuck at a nasty 720p. I wanted to invest more time into it even though it’s the worst game out of the three, but it was hard to convince myself to play a mediocre game with mediocre graphics.

That makes 3RE the most exciting part of the collection. I’ll probably go through all difficulty levels here too. There’s a lot of trash though, so I can’t say for sure.

It looks like there’s no multiplayer. That’s too bad. It might’ve been kind of interesting to explore for a bit.

One last amusing historical quirk: the Sigma games were updates for the PlayStation consoles, but now they’re making their way back to Xbox. This probably means the originals are truly dead. Fortunately they still look great on One X.

Sigma and Black are very close. There are some nitpick differences. The major difference is they added a new playable character, Rachel. This was in the dark ages of DLC and remakes, so they stuck her into the middle of the game instead of an additional mode. And unfortunately it hurts the pacing, plus Rachel can be a little boring to play.

Ninja Gaiden Black is like Dark Souls before Dark Souls was a thing, so you can cut the sensitive fans some slack. Overall it’s fine, and I’m excited to play it. The Rachel levels will just be kind of annoying.

Sigma 2 has new side missions too, but they’re actually not so bad. Its problems go deeper. Sigma 2 is the infamous reworking of NG2 by new producer Hayashi after former director Itagaki left the company. Itagaki played up his rock star persona (documentary) and that’s reflected in the gameplay of NG2: hyper-aggressive, almost overwhelming, but get it right and there’s no better high.

There are a lot better lows, however, and that’s what Sigma 2 addressed. They reworked some awful boss fights, lessened some of the frustrating enemies, and eliminated some less useful throwing weapons. For the most part, these were smart, modern changes.

The problem is they also removed the essence of Ninja Gaiden 2. In that game, you fight hordes of difficult enemies and you’re challenged to improve your skills to defeat them. There’s nowhere to hide and no way to defend yourself indefinitely. You have to kill them faster than they kill you. At the highest difficulty level, this became total madness. It was certainly frustrating too as you sometimes exploded within seconds of restarting the checkpoint. The game may have been the peak of the videogame “bullshit” era before modern sensibilities took over (for good reason). But it also gave you tools to overcome the challenge, and when you abused the invincibility frames just right to slaughter a room full of ninjas, it felt amazing.

It also ran like total shit. The story goes that they ran out of time before they were able to fully optimize it. Or maybe that generation of console couldn’t handle it. Or maybe the PS3 especially couldn’t handle it. Or maybe Hayashi didn’t like bullshit. For whatever reason, he decided to drastically reduce the enemy count. Since you had the tools to cut down a horde of enemies, they had to adjust the difficulty in other ways. So they used fewer enemies but gave them a ton of hit points, and they made grab attacks do an extreme amount of damage. (Grab attacks happen to be complete bullshit, so what really changed?)

Now you weren’t getting juggled to death within seconds, but you weren’t hitting the same adrenaline rush either. You’re still playing a flawed game just like every other character action game. But without the highs, it misses the point.

Fortunately, playing Ryu in the sequel is still a lot of fun. I know I’ll have a blast. It’s just a bit of a letdown. There’s no other game like Ninja Gaiden 2, and now it might be lost in the dustbin of console history.

There’s a well-known video that shows the difference between 2 and Sigma 2 using the same level. This level is the climax of the game.

Keep in mind this is probably the most extreme difference you’ll find. Most of the time, there are still plenty of enemies to fight.

Also, think about how these are the fights to reach the first save point. If you died toward the end of that sequence in NG2, would you be happy about it?

Good to have this confirmed. I just bought NG2, but will probably end up getting this as well. Just have to wait and see how the performance shakes out. I like the idea of portability on the Switch version, but have been really enjoying the 120Hz smoothness on Nioh 2 on PC.

Team Ninja probably sent their programming team from the Nioh 2 port straight to this one. Maybe they learned a few lessons! It’s competent so I’m not too worried about this one.

So I am a bit confused. I played the first Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox years ago. They are getting a rerelease, what about them is in the dustbin of history?

The truth is all the different versions are confusing, and how are they not the same game? Aren’t the levels and story the same? Are those games no longer available? I don’t see how Sigma or Black or whatever consigns a particular version to be gone.

Edit: I did watch the video and the first version is nearly empty, almost downright boring. But I don’t know what version we’re watching, and don’t know if that is the version in the collection.

The second video reminds me much more of the game I remember playing (only played 1, not 2, but talking in terms of substance and enemy count)

Thanks for the detailed breakdown. I’m definitely going to watch that NG 2 doco, too! By the sounds of it, I’ll be fine as a first-timer jumping into these, even if some of the QOL additions detract from some of the luster of the originals. The pacing complaint in Sigma 1 sounds like it’ll be the biggest issue for me; the original punishing difficultly I can leave, as I’m not the kind of guy who’ll enjoy getting my ass handed to me, but I understand why people who are awesome at these kinds of games would miss that. I just don’t think I have the muscle memory to deal with it anymore.

I always wanted to try this series ever since seeing Greg Kasavin’s old Gamespot review way back when:

This is insane, just yesterday I was talking to my (equally Nioh addicted) friend about how I used to think about eating the gamepad while playing Ninja Gaiden Black back on the x360. Not sure I’d be able to stomach the fixed camera these days though, so I don’t know if I’ll be picking this up. But I’m happy that more people will be able to experience what real difficulty in character action games is.

The first part of the video is Sigma 2. It’s getting the re-release in this master collection. The second part of the video is Ninja Gaiden 2. It’s consigned to the Xbox universe unless Microsoft one day creates an emulator for PC Game Pass or something.

Oh for sure. Most of the difficulty and most of the differences in the sequel don’t show up until the very hard or master ninja difficulty. Anyone that has made it through a Souls game should be able to beat Sigma 1 on normal difficulty, and that’s a great experience already worth the price of the collection — whatever it ends up being.

For anyone serious about playing this collection, which I recommend despite my critical analysis above, I suggest this single video to help overcome the old fashioned camera and to understand the basis of movement and defense in the series. It applies to every game and it will help you play and appreciate them.

Feel free to bookmark it for later.

[EDIT] You only need the first 10 minutes. It starts with the concept of roll jumping and then at the 7 minute mark he talks about the camera. He says there are some differences with Sigma 1 but it’s the same concept. Both roll jumping and camera problems became less important in the sequels, and by then you should know what you’re doing anyway.

Nothing to see here. Just collecting links for the diehards that are brave enough to play this with me.

Why doesn’t this collection include the all-time classic Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z?

Speaking of which, am wondering if the Sigma variations includes the older games as bonus like the Xbox ones?

Interesting, according to that article, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a different game than Ninja Gaiden 2, which is what I have on my Xbox. Much more different than Sigma is to the original Ninja Gaiden and Black (both of which I have).

I really think I’m too old for this game now though. I should leave my memory of finishing Ninja Gaiden on Hard as a happy and proud accomplishment and not try to go back and get humbled. My action game skills have atrophied a lot over the years.

On the other hand, I’ve always been a fan of “intuitive” method of playing action games. Where my friends would memorize moves, I would just go by instinct and I feel like memorizing moves kind of takes the fun out of it. I just love knowing “approximately” what the character will do with any given input, and intuitively trying to just do it, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. And I actually got all the way through Ninja Gaiden that way, which I always admired about it. It didn’t require me to memorize moves.

I’ve never played a NG game before (well, except for the original NES game). If I dig Devil May Cry will I like these? They seem at least somewhat similar. How are they the same and different?

Oh sure, probably. DMC is more about style. Ninja Gaiden is more about efficiency while also looking stylish. It’s a little more defensive game as well. The block key is important like in Nioh.

The first game is a bit more of an adventure than an action game. It eventually reaches a very loose open world.

Mechanically, Ninja Gaiden has a greater emphasis on dial combos. Press XYXXXY and you’ll do a built-in special move. Go through a menu to change your weapon for different attacks. DMC is more freeform and has more variety.

I’d say the ultimate goal or point of Ninja Gaiden is to surpass the challenge and complete the game on maximum difficulty. You can also do that in Devil May Cry, but there I feel like the “endgame” is the stylish combos.

Thanks, I just may pick this up.

How do you like the taste of a controller? If the answer is yes, by all means, dive into NG.

I wonder if I would like these. I played all of the Souls games (Demon’s and Dark) and Bloodborne. I started Sekiro, but quit in the middle because it looked like it was going to become excessively difficult. I bounced off of Devil May Cry (but that’s an old game with fixed camera and 90’s graphics) and I played some of Bayonetta on the Switch, but didn’t finish it. I never tried Nioh, although I have it on my backlog as a PS+ game.

And I believe that rounds out the genre.

Also, what platform to get it on? I like the idea of the Switch, but I find I like my Switch more in theory than in practice. The Switch controller and the tiny screen turn me off. I have a PS5 and a pretty decent PC. What do we think the graphics of this remastered title will look like?