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Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. Mediocre reissue of legendary games




You can endlessly look at three things: how the fire burns, how the water flows, and how Ninja Gaiden fans continue to hope that one day the once-great series will return fully armed. But this day has not come for several years in a row. In the 2000s, the brainchild of Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja was actually considered the standard of hardcore action games, but now even the authors themselves do not seem to want to remember it again. Itagaki went to free bread and since the time of the disgusting Devil's Third has not done anything remarkable, and Team Ninja with varying success is engaged in Nioh - and games that are suspiciously similar to her.
However, fans of the series still waited for a small miracle - although, perhaps, it would be more correct to say “begged”. Publishing Koei Tecmo met many requests and released Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection - a re-release of all numbered parts of the series for PC and platforms of the previous generation. This, alas, is not a continuation, but better than nothing. Plus, people unfamiliar with Ninja Gaiden have for once had a convenient opportunity to explore the franchise. And it just so happened that I am one of these "strangers." Therefore, I sat down at the Master Collection for a week and a half to study all three games and satisfy my scientific curiosity.
One thing I can say from my research is that I can now fully understand why Ninja Gaiden fans are so eager for a return to the series - and why so many of them are disappointed with the reissue.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Let's start in order - from the first part, for which the cult status is firmly entrenched: it is regularly called not only the best game in the franchise but also one of the best action games in history. True, looking at Ninja Gaiden Black (re-released - Ninja Gaiden Sigma) from the outside, you involuntarily ask yourself a question ... Why. Where did such a serious claim come from and why people have been singing praises to the game for almost twenty years. That is, I understand that before the grass was greener, and to buy a video card you didn't have to sell yourself for organs, but is nostalgia really that strong? Still, over the years that have passed since the release of the game, the industry has not stood still: at one time Ninja Gaiden, I suppose, was really caught off guard by the high complexity and speed of the gameplay, but now you will hardly surprise anyone. Perhaps the fans of the series (no offense) are just hopelessly stuck in the past?
Before starting the game, I was sure that it was so - but, as it turned out, completely in vain. At first, Ninja Gaiden instinctively wants to be put on a par with Devil May Cry, because at first glance they have quite a lot in common. Both games are high-speed third-person action games starring the demon hunters Dante and the ninja Ryu Hayabusa. That the son of Sparda, that the heir of the Dragon clan, destroy crowds of enemies, cranking out cunning combos with the help of a wide arsenal of weapons and other tools, fighting bosses, pumping skills - in a word, a standard for the genre, time-tested entertainment program.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
In this regard, the Team Ninja project is not particularly out of bounds - with one small exception, which may well be considered the secret of the game's longevity. The key difference between Ninja Gaiden and many other works of this kind - both old and modern - lies in its attitude towards the player. Usually, opponents in slashers (or stylish actions, as they are called in the West) in fact exist only for the player to figure out how to deal with them - the more spectacular, the better. Yes, in theory, enemies can pose some kind of threat, but in the end, they will still be destined for the fate of test dummies on which the player hones his skills. And the game, in turn, encourages this work on itself with various awards: at least SSS rank system, at least cool animation and impressive special effects, at least trivial glasses.
All this is in Ninja Gaiden, with only one important caveat: enemies in it exist not for the player to practice on them but to kill the player. Fast, painful, and as honest as possible. In every battle, there is a real and completely non-zero chance of dying, but the developers create tension unexpectedly organically, almost without resorting to cheap tricks: all thanks to the pace of gameplay and the behavior of artificial intelligence. Opponents (at least reasonable) on the way of Ryu Hayabusa, contrary to the laws of the genre, do not really want to part with their lives. They maneuver, dodge attacks, block blows - in a word, they do the same thing that the player would have done in their place.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Most enemies can be defeated with just a couple of accurate strikes, but in practice, it is much more difficult than in words. Even when it seems that it finally found the right solution and saw through the AI, the game still finds a way to throw a new problem, to force the player to adapt. For example, the ninja from the Spider clan, with whom Ryu often crosses swords, rely on their dexterity. They always try to get behind the player with one roll or provoke him to a slow attack to jump back at the last moment and immediately go on the offensive. Particularly cunning shinobi, among other things, throw explosive kunai: if the knife hits the target, they first wait for an explosion that knocks Ryu off his feet and only then rushes to the attack. Petty annoying demons use similar tactics; while you fight off one, the second "hides" under the ground, where it's hard to spot - and jumps out when you least expect it. Even the notorious men with bazookas have enough brains not to blindly shoot at a tumbling ninja, but to try to catch the player exactly at those moments when he is on the ground - in my case, they succeeded. And more than once.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
In Ninja Gaiden, it is extremely rare to feel safe and even less likely to feel that you are in complete control of the situation. Battles are here, unlike, for example, the same Dark Souls, it is unlikely that you will be able to learn by heart and go through on the machine: the battles are too dynamic, there are too many variables in them. You need to defend yourself in time, know when (and how) to attack, watch the enemies on the screen, and your own health, which sometimes melts so quickly that you don't even have time to notice. Ninja Gaiden makes you survive and requires the player to fight effectively, not spectacularly - she constantly checks how well you understand combat mechanics. Ryu has tools for every situation in his arsenal: the list of combos for each weapon is so voluminous that some fighting games may well envy him. Over time, you really start to look at him as if you are playing some kind of technical fighting game. Which ligaments work best with each other? Which allows you to quickly close the distance, break a block, or toss the enemy into the air? What works best for multiple enemies, and what is more appropriate to use against one? This is not to mention a bunch of different gadgets, from shurikens to smoke bombs, ninpo magic, and acrobatics - Ryu runs much faster along the walls than on the ground.
There are not so many ways to restore health in Ninja Gaiden.  The only safe option is to look into the shop of the blacksmith of Muramasa, where you can replenish the supply of healers all the way.  True, for this you need to spend the same currency that is needed to pump weapons
There are not so many ways to restore health in Ninja Gaiden.  The only safe option is to look into the shop of the blacksmith of Muramasa, where you can replenish the supply of healers all the way.  True, for this you need to spend the same currency that is needed to pump weapons
There are not so many ways to restore health in Ninja Gaiden. The only safe option is to look into the shop of the blacksmith of Muramasa, where you can replenish the supply of healers all the way. True, for this you need to spend the same currency that is needed to pump weapons
In short, the first Ninja Gaiden is pleasantly surprising: it really has that depth that fans of the series tirelessly repeat. Even in 2021, it is perceived fresh, and then, in 2004, it probably blew people's brains altogether - such a cunning, uncompromising game design is rare even now. For all its hardcore nature, the game does not seem unfair or deliberately sadistic: naturally, it was not without curiosities, but it never seemed to me that the developers are openly mocking the player.
Although ... Okay, this is not entirely true - sometimes Ninja Gaiden does not hurt that you want to pay money for. If the combat mechanics have not lost their sharpness, then in many other aspects the game has not aged well - the problems that were present at the release have only become more noticeable over the years. Most of all, in my opinion, this concerns the pace of the gameplay: in battles, it is sustained with dignity, but in moments of calm it seriously sags. Segments where Ryu has to bounce around platforms, search for clues and solve "puzzles" in the spirit of The Legend of Zelda, at best they are boring, and at worst they make you want to rip your hair out from annoying backtracking. An incredibly crooked camera without the ability to capture a target was not scolded only by a completely lazy one, and Ninja Gaiden simply does not explain some important mechanics. If you do not have a Galactic 500IQ superintelligence and eagle vision, you can only find out about their existence by reading or watching videos on YouTube.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
What prevented you from correcting at least some of these shortcomings in the re-release to please old fans and slightly lower the entry threshold for a new audience? What is responsible for the release of the Master Collection is Koei Tecmo, which is famous for the low-quality ports of its console games on the PC. I played the PS4 version, so the technical issues reported by Steam users passed me by, but it's still a shame: Ninja Gaiden clearly deserved more.
However, even the lazy port of Ninja Gaiden is an invaluable chance to experience one of the most iconic action games of today, and it lives up to its reputation. If you have long wanted to challenge yourself, this chance should not be missed: the game will give you impressions and gray hair for several years to come.

Ninja Gaiden sigma 2

But with the sequel, unfortunately, everything is far from clear - there is good and bad news. The good news is that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Is a much more friendly, neat, and tidy game than its predecessor. In a sense, it can be called an almost perfect continuation: Team Ninja worked on the quality of life and put in order almost all the elements of the first part, to which questions arose. Intricate levels that made you rush back and forth without any distinct landmarks? Please, the level design has been simplified and made more linear - and if you still manage to get lost, then pressing one button will point you in the right direction. Tired of digging through your inventory to change weapons or gadgets? Hotkeys are provided specifically for this, and all-important mechanics are clearly explained. Annoyed that the checkpoints are extremely inconvenient? Now they not only meet a little more often,
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
At one time, these innovations were not to the taste of all fans of the first part: someone, on the contrary, missed the labyrinthine levels, someone complained that now the game simply leads by the hand from one battle to another. But, as for me, this is only a plus, because the sequel just highlights the main advantage of Ninja Gaiden - the combat system. She did not lose at all in-depth and dynamics, but she seriously gained in reward, so to speak: it is a pleasure to cut through the legions of ninjas, demons, and cyborgs here. In the first part, I always took pride when it turned out to behead several opponents at once with one swing of the katana, but in Ninja Gaiden 2, the authors modified the dismemberment to a full-fledged, non-cosmetic mechanic. Ryu's attacks can strip enemies of literally any limb, which not only looks gorgeous (especially by the standards of 2008) but also directly affects the behavior of AI. Chopped off the enemy's hand? He will attack much slower and will not be able to defend properly. Cut off your leg? Injured ninjas will start tossing shurikens, literally sitting on the floor, or even rush into a suicidal attack to take Ryu with them to the next world. Even a half-dead enemy should by no means be written off.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Moreover, Ryu has a lot of new tools at his disposal that are great for ripping enemies apart - they make the combat system even deeper. "Falcon claws" - razor-sharp blades on the arms and legs - allow you to move with lightning speed from one victim to another, prescribing quick combos. With the help of the kusarigama and her long chain, you can attack a whole crowd at once, and a two-handed scythe ... The sound with which it cuts through enemies is difficult to compare with anything. Team Ninja clearly paid a lot of attention to the staging of battles, both spontaneous and dictated by the script. Where else can you fight the fiery demon, erroneously quoting Macbeth, in the tower of the Moscow Kremlin? Where else can you free Venice from storm werewolves by fighting in the gladiatorial arena in the middle of a thunderstorm?
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
The good news ends there. For the bad ones, one thing needs to be clarified about the contents of the Master Collection: Koei Tecmo included in the re-release not the original games, but their augmented and modified ports for the PS3In the case of the first Ninja Gaiden, this is not particularly critical. Although many old-timers argue that Ninja Gaiden Black ( Xbox version ) is better than Sigma, in fact, according to the Internet, there are not so many differences between them - the graphics look a little different, enemies have been changed in some places, some segments have been cut, others have been added. ... Black may actually play better, but Sigma is still a good (at least somehow) way to get involved in the series.
The situation with Sigma 2 was unpleasant. Shortly after the release of the original game on Xbox 360, the father of the series, Tomonobu Itagaki, left Team Ninja with a scandal: the publisher allegedly did not pay his bonus for Dead or Alive 4As a result, creative control over the franchise passed to the producer of Ninja Gaiden Sigma Yosuke Hayashi, and when the second part was transferred to the PS3, he overhauled many elements of the original - almost nothing remained of Itagaki's creative vision.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
The developers justified most of the changes by improving performance and graphics. In the original version of Ninja Gaiden II, Itagaki focused on mass carnage, but Ryu had to fight with so many enemies that even at 585p, the fps rate often sagged - the console simply could not cope with the rendering. In Sigma 2, which aimed at 720p resolution, this problem was solved with a clumsy method - they cut the number of opponents on the screen somewhere in half. The brutal dismemberment was subjected to strict censorship: the fountains of blood were replaced with mystical purple smoke, and the severed limbs and bodies of fallen enemies almost immediately evaporated into nowhere. But this change is related not with the economy on special effects, but allegedly with the fact that Hayashi and his team "doubted the need for such defiant violence." But the opportunity to shake the PS3 gamepad so that the female characters in the cutscenes swayed their breasts did not bother anyone - even Itagaki himself, greedy for such vulgarities, twisted his finger at his temple.
I hasten to disappoint: this high-tech feature is not in the Master Collection, you can disagree
As a result, Team Ninja ended up with a game that, despite its merits, does not come close to the first Ninja Gaiden in terms of thrill. I say this as someone who has never seen the "real" Ninja Gaiden II. Sitting down for Sigma 2 right after the first part, and without knowing the context, you will quickly feel that something was wrong: in comparison with the original, the game is absolutely not challenging. The gameplay is more than competent, but the emotions are not the same. To compensate for the decrease in the density of cannon fodder per square meter of space, the developers increased the health reserve of opponents, but at the same time reduced their damage - in Sigma 2 there is no reason to fight carefully and prudently. In addition, because the number of enemies has sharply decreased, finishing off the wounded from a useful mechanic has turned into a legal cheat: you just need to mutilate the losers, and then calmly execute them one at a time. But even if you suddenly find yourself on the verge of death, there is nothing to worry about. Sigma 2 completely ruined the economy of the first part, where the player had to choose between buying healing items and pumping weapons. Now improvements are issued strictly at certain times - which means that the player literally has nothing to spend money on, except for healing treatments!
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Again, what prevented the inclusion of the original Ninja Gaiden II in the Master Collection, at least as a pre-order bonus or DLC? Why was it impossible to bring it to mind, return the cut content and iron out technical flaws due to the power of modern hardware? Because Koei Tecmo was lazy. And because the mysterious loss of the source code of the game confused the developers of all the cards. This, however, did not stop Team Ninja from implementing Ninja Gaiden II backward compatibility on Xbox One, where it works great without any framerate problems.
Well, the owners of the Master Collection can only play Sigma 2 on a difficulty higher than normal, so as not to dislocate their jaw from yawning, but still, the experience will not be what it was intended. Although this is still better than what awaits in the third part.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is Schrödinger's game. It exists, but many fans of the franchise prefer to pretend it never existed, much like Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops or Deus Ex: Invisible WarAnd for good reason.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Here again, you cannot do without a small historical excursion. Ninja Gaiden 3 was the first game in the series to be developed by Team Ninja without Itagaki, and the team tried to head towards a more casual audience. The attempt was, to put it mildly, not very successful. Most critics defeated the project, and the players who smashed more than one gamepad against the wall behind the previous parts of Ninja Gaiden almost unanimously recognized the third as a failure. As a result, the studio was never able to attract a new audience, and in addition spat in the soul of the old one, since one of the main complaints about Ninja Gaiden 3 was complexity - more precisely, its complete absence. By the third part, the series, whose reputation is entirely built on hardcore gameplay, turned into a cheap parody of itself, picking up several sexually transmitted diseases from Hollywood AAA action games. Mandatory stealth sections, monotonous, drawn-out battles, the dominance of stupid QTEs, an absolutely insane, but at the same time wildly serious plot ... In general, everything is bad. Especially against the background of what Itagaki was doing - under his leadership, Ninja Gaiden had at least a clear vision.
The writers naively tried to make Ryu Hayabusa a human, not a walking stereotype.  It could have worked out well in good hands, but in Razor's Edge, every dialogue with Ryu brings to mind the main character of the b-movie Samurai Cop, who is fluent in Japanese.
The writers naively tried to make Ryu Hayabusa a human, not a walking stereotype.  It could have worked out well in good hands, but in Razor's Edge, every dialogue with Ryu brings to mind the main character of the b-movie Samurai Cop, who is fluent in Japanese.
The writers naively tried to make Ryu Hayabusa a human, not a walking stereotype. It could have worked out well in good hands, but in Razor's Edge, every dialogue with Ryu brings to mind the main character of the b-movie Samurai Cop, who is fluent in Japanese.
To somehow save face in front of the public, in the same year, Team Ninja released Razor's Edge, an augmented and corrected version of Ninja Gaiden 3, which made it into the Master Collection. However, I'm not sure if it should have been included in the reissue at all. Yes, technically, in Razor's Edge, the authors really took into account the main mistake of the third part - it has become much more complicated. But it didn't make anyone feel better, because Razor's Edge is not like a restoration of a bad game, but rather a hysterical, impulsive response to all the criticism that was made towards Team Ninja after the departure of Tomonobu Itagaki. As if the studio in full force freaked out, accepting negative reviews on a personal account, and decided to show mere mortals that she can do real hardcore.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection.  Mediocre reissue of legendary games
And she did it. I sincerely believed that video games have long lost the ability to seriously piss me off, but Razor's Edge doesn't just cause anger - it drains the player both physically and mentally. Everything that the game was scolded for before remained intact, except for the battles: their authors made it difficult, but unbearably dull. Razor's Edge presses the player without any sense of proportion, locking him in the arena and releasing the chains from the wave of enemies, one by one, until the buttons of the controller start to hurt fingers, and from the same death screams - the head. If Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 "led" the player by the hand from battle to battle, then Razor's Edge passes him through a meat grinder, in which the depth of the combat system simply dies - the screen is so chaotic that thoughtful gameplay is out of the question.
Was the third part too easy? Okay, from now on, Ryu can only be healed strictly at checkpoints, and the damage received reduces his maximum health. Now imagine that in such conditions you are offered to go through a series of difficult battles with strong opponents without a break, and in the end also to defeat the boss. Or two in a row so as not to waste time on trifles. And if you somehow defeat the first one, but break on the second, congratulations - no one compensates for the spent health, sort it out somehow yourself.
In the original version of Ninja Gaiden 3, the authors basically removed the dismemberment - people did not appreciate it.  So in the "director's version" the fake blood gushes so that it dazzles in the eyes
In the original version of Ninja Gaiden 3, the authors basically removed the dismemberment - people did not appreciate it.  So in the "director's version" the fake blood gushes so that it dazzles in the eyes
In the original version of Ninja Gaiden 3, the authors basically removed the dismemberment - people did not appreciate it. So in the "director's version" the fake blood gushes so that it dazzles in the eyes
As a result, it turns out that Razor's Edge is challenging, but you do not get pleasure from it at all - only terrible stress and frustration. In some places, there is a feeling that the developers, in no way embarrassed, are playing out on their own audience for all imaginable and inconceivable offenses, and are not trying to entertain it. There is no other way for me to explain such a stupid game design, and a banal re-release cannot fix it: Razor's Edge is broken from start to finish at all possible levels. About the plot in the spirit of Metal Gear fanfiction, where the world alchemist lodge plans to print God on a metaphysical 3D printer, and Ryu is trying to shame for all the murders he committed (did he have a choice?), I will not even say anything.
Surprisingly, this time Koei Tecmo is innocent. Unless she tried once again to collect tribute from the fans for a completely disorderly, reactionary product, without even trying to ennoble it.
Do you know that nagging feeling of melancholy when you find a cool TV show or music artist, and then you find out that the show has been closed for a long time / the group has disbanded due to the death of the frontman? It's the same story with Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. This is a smash-knit compilation of the greatest hits that deserve so much more. She deserved respect, care, and love.
Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja had a chance to give it all, but, alas, Ninja Gaiden is no longer interesting for either the publisher or the developer. Not so interesting that they didn't even pretend. I still highly recommend checking out the series, but if you happen to have an Xbox One (or One X) lying around, it's better to get the original Ninja Gaiden discs from the flea market (or in extreme cases, take them in digital form) than pay for the Master Collection. At least, in this case, you will not approve of such a disregard for the franchise with the ruble.

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