Return Of The Master
HIGH The Ninja Gaiden series is finally available on PC!
LOW It’s a barebones port offering few additional features or graphic options.
WTF It seems a little suspicious that only the source code for the original Itagaki versions were lost…
Ryu and Rachel are back to kill again! Not content with slaughtering thousands of evildoers since the series was initially revamped in 2004, they’re back to murder on PC after more than fifteen years of console exclusivity. There have been a few notable speed bumps along the way, but the core experience still stands as some of the finest action ever crafted.
There are three games in this collection — Ninja Gaiden Sigma (2007), Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (2009), and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (2013) and right out the gate, players are going to argue about which versions should have been included. More on that later.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma is a strong start for the collection — it’s a graphically overhauled version of Ninja Gaiden Black (2005) with new and retuned content including new enemies, costumes and a fully-playable Rachel with her own missions. There’s a lot of great content here. Combat is more precise and measured than later entries in the series, and the semi-open world approach is a joy to explore. It’s challenging, but rarely unfair outside of the occasional dodgy camera angle. (PROTIP: if this happens, just block and roll!)
While some may regard Sigma as slightly inferior when compared to Ninja Gaiden Black, in my view there’s not much of a gulf in quality between them. A few easy puzzles have been removed, some of the new enemies aren’t great and certain challenges have been reworked, but I certainly won’t be hurling bricks at Team Ninja’s offices protesting over any of this. It’s unfortunate that side character Rachel’s missions are mandatory given that her combat style isn’t as fleshed out as protagonist Ryu’s, but I still enjoy using her, and her Biker outfit from the Vita version Sigma Plus is a nice little unexpected bonus.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, however, is a less successful reimagining of its source material. Ninja Gaiden 2 (2008) was known for its brutality and excess, throwing waves upon waves of enemy soldiers at Ryu with reckless abandon. Enemy limbs could be amputated during combat, opening them up to a swift, bloody and beautiful execution known as an ‘Obliteration Technique’.
It was bloody, it was brilliant, and absolute masterclass in combat design. However, Sigma 2‘s approach drastically dilutes the original concept. Enemy numbers for each encounter became a fraction of what they once were, the proceedings were overall easier, cutting an enemy apart would spray out a mist of purple smoke rather than blood, and the whole thing was censored and toned down to a ludicrous degree.
There were some additions — new giant-sized bosses, more (mandatory) playable female characters in the form of Rachel, Momiji and Ayane, and a few of the rough edges were sanded down, but the result was that it was simply a less interesting game at its core. Not a bad one, though — it still holds its own against its contemporaries thanks to slick and weighty combat. However, it’s still in the unfortunate position of being an inferior copy of the stunningly violent and satisfying original.
Then comes Razor’s Edge. This one is in the unique position of being superior to its original incarnation — a good thing, because Ninja Gaiden 3 was the weakest entry in the series thanks to a massive step down in bloodshed, difficulty, available weapons, general control and other issues apparently aimed at making the game more palatable to a larger audience.
Razor’s Edge did a surprisingly good job of taking that original mediocre work and buffing it back to respectability. The gore’s back, there are a ton more weapons and magical attacks, and the difficulty/general balancing has been boosted and given an overhaul in response to complaints from series veterans. It’s not perfect game, but it is a huge improvement. However, the additional focus on ‘cinematic’ kill sequences means that there’s a slight (but annoying) loss of control while Ryu chases enemies across the screen, and he’ll occasionally attack the wrong enemy.
Still, I enjoyed Razor’s Edge more than I expected. It has some weak boss design (the Dinosaur and Goddess boss fights are excruciatingly terrible) and enemies have too much health and can escape combos after being hit, but it also feels genuinely great when the action flows and limbs and heads go flying all over the place. The bottom line is that regardless of any issues it has, it’s a marked improvement over the original Ninja Gaiden 3.
A couple of things worth mentioning about this collection as a whole is that though most of the content is faithfully replicated, certain modes online modes such as the tag team challenges in Sigma 2 and the adversarial battles from 3 are missing. Not a huge deal, but worth noting. Also, I hate to say it but this PC port is weak — it feels like emulation, there are no graphical options whatsoever, the resolution can’t be changed, and an SSD won’t help with content streaming or loading times as they’re ‘accurately’ emulating the Playstation 3 version. Hell, it can’t even be exited with Alt+F4 like a normal PC program. It opens in its own window and can be resized to full screen where it’ll adopt the resolution to the current setting — that’s it.
As a result, there are two ways to look at this collection. One is that it’s an undercooked, thin offering that does the bare minimum necessary to resell three legendary action games to a new generation of buyers. The other perspective is that these titles are still some of the best action games ever created, and still worth an action fan’s time despite not having many bells and whistles.
Sure, it’s a shame Bluepoint Games weren’t drafted to take care of this collection of and give it some real love, but what the hell. I still had a great time revisiting them, and my only real criticism is that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was a poor pick in a world where Ninja Gaiden 2 exists. It’s a shame that more of an effort wasn’t made to jazz these up, but it’s still great that the classics are finally on PC.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei-Tecmo. It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S/PS4/PS5/Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 30 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the games were completed. Additionally, I’ve put thousands of hours in the series to date. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language and Suggestive Themes. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a compilation of three action games in which players assume the roles of Ryu Hayabusa and his companions through a series of adventures. As players traverse various locations (e.g., a ninja village, ancient ruins, modern day cities), they use swords, axes, scythes, and throwing stars to kill human enemies and fantastical creatures (e.g., demons, dragons, skeletons) in frenetic melee-style combat. Some attacks result in decapitation and/or dismemberment of enemies, often from a close-up perspective. Large bloodstains and severed torsos can be seen on the ground. A handful of sequences depict additional acts of intense violence: characters impaled through the chest with swords and spikes; slow-motion depictions of characters getting dismembered; a character decapitating a human minion, resulting in large blood-splatter effects. Female characters are usually depicted wearing outfits that expose deep cleavage; some characters’ breasts jiggle in an exaggerated manner during combat and cutscenes. In one cutscene, a female character emerges from a dark pool with streaks of blood on her body; her breasts and buttocks are briefly visible before she transforms into a boss demon. The word “f**k” can be heard in the dialogue. (Rachel’s great.)
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. It’s playable without being able to hear the sound, but there are going to be issues when offscreen enemies are attacking. The sound cues help players realize that projectiles might be heading their way, and the lack of visual cues will lead to a few cheap hits.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls. FYI, it cannot be played with a keyboard and mouse.
The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.
The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.
Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.