Ryu Hayabusa has become a video game icon since he was introduced in 1988’s Ninja Gaiden on the NES. The franchise and Hayabusa himself saw a resurgence thanks to a trilogy of games developed by Team Ninja starting in the early 2000s, which will collectively be updated and re-released for modern platforms through Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection this June. However, while fans largely associate the games with its protagonist, even asking for Ryu Hayabusa to be in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, he will share the spotlight in Master Collection.
Of the features listed on Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection‘s website, as well as storefronts like the Nintendo eShop, one major selling point is that Ayane, Rachel, Momiji, and Kasumi will be playable. The eShop specifies players can pair up characters and swap between them during battles, though who is available will vary game-by-game. Team Ninja Producer Fumihiko Yasuda said it was exciting to imagine these “popular and capable characters” battling on the same field as Hayabusa, which made the studio want to see it happen. Geisha411 spoke to Yasuda about Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection‘s new and removed features compared to the original trilogy, including its playable female cast.
“Original trilogy” is somewhat of a misnomer. Master Collection is based on Ninja Gaiden Sigma (2007), Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (2009), and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (2012) with DLC included; all three being enhanced re-releases themselves. Yasuda said the code for Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden 2 was unsalvageable in a previous interview with Famitsu Weekly, and he told Geisha411 that Team Ninja had a hard time because the originals were designed “without much thought given” to being remastered. By comparison, Sigma Plus and Sigma 2 Plus on PlayStation Vita had well-organized program structures.
In the one-and-a-half years Team Ninja has been working on Master Collection, a big part of its work was remastering the games’ performance and graphics. It will run at 720p on Switch and can potentially run at 4K, 60 FPS on other platforms according to Yasuda, and while he said these may fluctuate during gameplay, the team apparently resolved the PS Vita titles’ framerate drop and input-eating concerns. However, new content like Ayane, Rachel, Momiji, and Kasumi was also important:
“I think with the addition of these playable female characters, we were able to bring in a more stylish and different kind of action to the games, which helped broaden the series.”
When asked if this addition could be testing for potential spin-offs in the Ninja Gaiden universe, Yasuda said, “Personally, I’d like to make a spin-off if we had the chance.” In fact, though Yasuda has previously said the studio is not currently working on Ninja Gaiden or Nioh 3, he told Geisha411 there’s “always a possibility” that Team Ninja could work on another Ninja Gaiden game based on fan interest—after all, one reason they were able to work on Master Collection was the encouragement and voice of fans. If the team were to work on the next game in the franchise, Yasuda feels he would retain its pure action while incorporating experience with RPGs, online elements, and new art directions fostered by Nioh as well as other games made in collaboration with different companies.
A cast of playable female characters is not the only new thing in the Master Collection. Team Ninja adjusted features like the Tag Mission mode, according to Yasuda, because players previously felt they were “unfair.” Another selling point offered by the Nintendo eShop is Sigma 2 and Razor’s Edge being available in Traditional Chinese. Yasuda said they will not be available in Simplified Chinese, but because the collection will be released on PC via Steam, Team Ninja hopes to see a lot of people in Asia play the game at launch.
Beyond that, the studio focused on replicating the original games as much as possible, so there aren’t “major” changes. However, multiplayer elements were removed, including online co-op for Sigma 2‘s Tag Missions and Razor’s Edge‘s Ninja Trials. If the studio were to replicate the original online systems, Yasuda said it would have cost more time and money, while also limiting which devices Master Collection could release for:
“Given that dilemma, we decided to increase the number of platforms we would release the collection on in order to reach as many players as possible rather than pursue the multiplayer feature.”
That being said, there will be a ranked, competitive scoring system in place so players can compare their performances in the single-player titles against one another. Even without multiplayer, Yasuda feels old and new fans alike will be able to enjoy the “signature Ninja Gaiden action” to the fullest through this upcoming release. “The high-speed action doesn’t feel dated even when played now, and the enemies are still as tough as ever,” he said. “I think returning fans and new players will find it to be a new challenge and experience.”
Collectors and video game history buffs can also expect more out of Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection thanks to its Digital Deluxe Edition, announced in March. This will include a 70-page digital art book and a soundtrack with over 180 songs, meant to provide a “deeper look into the world of Ninja Gaiden,” according to Master Collection‘s website.
This attention to expanding the series, be it through the Master Collection Digital Deluxe Edition bonuses or through brand-new content like its playable female cast, is seemingly as much for Team Ninja as it is for fans. Yasuda said Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive are the studio’s signature franchises, and it has been “on our minds” that the Ninja Gaiden trilogy is not available for the PS4/Switch/Xbox One generation. “Team Ninja will dedicate ourselves to working on new projects, so we hope you will continue to voice your support.”
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection launches June 10 for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, with backward compatibility on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.