A collection of last-gen games gussied up to be re-released on a new console is nothing new. This particular Nioh collection is perhaps a bit more unique in that it includes a supposed remaster for a game that was released a mere ten months prior, but that’s not even the strangest thing about this Nioh bundle. The Nioh Collection is a curious case of the awkward situation that PlayStation 5’s backwards compatibility can cause. These two games are certainly worth experiencing, but not necessarily as part of this full-priced package.
Before diving into the technical details of these PS5 ports, you should note that The Nioh Collection really is the complete Nioh package. Both great games and their six story DLCs are here and accounted for. Taken together, this collection offers a ridiculous amount of content for those looking to scratch a Souls-inspired samurai itch.
All that content is of a suitable quality, too. The fact that both Nioh and Nioh 2 are great games in their own right further enhances the desirability of this complete collection. While their Dark Souls inspiration is clear, the uniquely quick combat and mythological Japanese setting set these games apart from the Souls-imitating pack. Having all the DLC included out of the box lets you hit the ground running with the new weapons that were added post-launch, and they also provide some suitably challenging endgame content to test your mettle.
Having both Nioh and Nioh 2 in one place highlights how different Nioh 2 is from the first despite its innumerable surface-level similarities. While both games are almost indistinguishable at a glance, the sequel’s small additions help to keep the experience fresh, especially once you begin delving into the game’s additional systemic and mechanical complexities. The enhanced enemy variety and bustling level design are both marked improvements over the first entry.
But that first game is still absolutely worth experiencing, even if you’ve got the slightly superior sequel sitting right there. It’s an excellent introduction to this franchise’s unique Sengoku setting that beautifully blends history with mythology, and it’ll help you get a grasp on the exceedingly deep action RPG mechanics at play. There’s tons of randomly generated loot to find, several expansive skill trees to progress through, and a wealth of weapon types to try out while pitting yourself against plenty of punishing foes and brutal bosses. It can be a lot to take in, especially for newcomers.
If you are new to the Nioh franchise and looking to try it on for size, this collection is actually hard to recommend – largely due to its awkward positioning on a console that’s backwards compatible. To begin with, by buying this collection you’re immediately all in. There’s several hundreds of hours of content here, only a small fraction of which will actually be useful if you’re looking to find out if Nioh’s inaccessibly deep RPG systems and punishing difficulty are for you.
This collection isn't done any favors by its lack of significant enhancements or additional content. The DLC is included, sure, but you’re paying a next-gen premium for the privilege of playing two PS4 games that haven’t had much work done to them in the move to PS5. The DualSense features are par for the course with the resistive triggers only being active when using a ranged weapon, and the controller’s new rumble capabilities are almost only utilized when running through destructible rubble.
The improvements to load times and performance are far more noticeable and welcome, but – bafflingly enough – most of those same improvements are present when playing the PS4 originals in backwards compatibility. If you install an old PlayStation 4 copy onto the SSD, load times are significantly reduced and only end up being a few seconds slower than that of these remasters.
The performance and visuals of these remastered editions are also on nearly equal footing with that of the backwards compatible originals as long as you’re playing them with the impressively scalable 'Movie Mode (Variable Frame Rate)' option selected from the main menu. This mode employs an unlocked frame rate and variable resolution that the PS5 works wonders with – things are at a consistent 60 frames-per-second and the dynamic resolution appears to rarely waver from its near-4K targets. If backwards compatibility is the path you’re planning to take, we highly recommend selecting that variable frame rate mode.
Unfortunately, things get a bit more complicated when it comes to the graphics modes for the remasters in this collection. Both have three options: a 4K mode, something called 'PlayStation 5 standard mode', and a high frame rate 120 frames-per-second option. The latter is only selectable if the game recognizes that you’ve got a compatible screen connected, but know that you’re not missing out on too much if the option isn’t there for you. The improved responsiveness and smoothness that comes alongside the 120 FPS mode are excellent, but it’s also the least consistent of the graphical options on offer. Despite ratcheting back the resolution to compensate, neither game can reliably maintain steady performance in excess of 60 FPS, and the 120 FPS mode is the only one that caused the occasional stutter when quickly traversing through larger levels.
The 4K mode fares much better by capping things at 60 FPS while focusing on maintaining a higher resolution. Thankfully, this mode is extremely stable despite the high resolution target, and it looks sharp even when the action begins ramping up. That being the case, the “PlayStation 5 standard mode” ends up being the awkward third wheel of the bunch. There’s no in-game details as to what this mode does, but it appears to make slight improvements to shadows, reflections, and other small details while bringing the resolution all the way down to 1080p to do it. To our eyes, that resolution sacrifice isn’t worth it for small visual improvements that are difficult to recognize while participating in the frequently frenetic combat. The 4K mode will likely be the ideal option for most folks.
The real kicker to all this is that The Nioh Collection’s remasters don’t look all that different from the PS4 originals when they’re played on a PS5 with the variable frame rate movie mode selected. That simple fact should give prospective buyers of this entire collection some pause. Newcomers would be just as well served by snagging a copy of the original Nioh on the cheap or they might even already have it in their library from its free PS Plus run in November 2019.
On the plus side, if you've already got a PS4 copy of Nioh 2, you're entitled to a free upgrade to the remastered edition on PS5 which is the whole better half of this collection. Team Ninja deserves massive credit for such a consumer-facing step, and it's a major boon to those who might've picked up a copy in the past but haven't gotten around to it yet.
All that being the case, The Nioh Collection still sits in an incredibly awkward and potentially unprecedented position. It’s awesome that the original Nioh games are so scalable that the PS5 can work its magic with them despite the fact that they were initially built for the PS4, but backwards compatibility also works against the usefulness of this collection that’s launching at full price and doesn’t add anything of notable significance to the package. Maybe it’ll finally help Nioh 2 get some more well-deserved time in the spotlight as the free upgrade to the Remaster is an immensely generous move, but the entirety of this remastered collection is surprisingly hard to recommend as a whole given the surrounding circumstances. Both of the games on this collection are absolutely recommended, but this specific collection is only really applicable to an extraordinarily small segment of potential players.
The Nioh Collection crams two great games and six story expansions into one complete, content-stuffed package. Despite its extensiveness, the lack of exclusive content or noteworthy new features make it a hard sell in its entirety. It gives Team Ninja a good excuse to try and grab some more attention for some legitimately great games, but calling these remasters is perhaps a bit of an embellishment.