When Ninja Gaiden 3 was released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 this past spring it definitely received some backlash from longtime fans of the series. A lot of the backlash was because it was the first in the series to be directed by Yosuke Hayashi, who directed the Sigma ports; not long time franchise director Tomonobu Itagaki. Needless to say, many fans were not happy with that Ryu’s newest adventure had taken and the game was not as popular as many hoped. It seems that Team Ninja took all the criticisms to heart as they cleaned up many of the problems and complaints fans had with Ninja Gaiden 3 and have released an improved version of the game just in time for the Wii U launch. This game is titled Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. With assurances to improve the enemy A.I., to have a more natural flow for story sequences, and to include a slew of new features and exclusives to the Wii U version, one wonders if Team Ninja has lived up to their promises and made a once severely lacking game into a great launch title for a new system.
Master ninja Ryu Hayabusa returns for another adventure. It is something completely different than what you may be used to if you have played the first two games. If you have previously played Ninja Gaiden 3 on the Xbox 360 or PS3, the main plot remains the same, but for those of you new to the game here is a quick breakdown. The Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) visits Ryu and asks for help with an unknown terrorist in London. It is eventually revealed that the Lords of Alchemy (LOA) are behind the attacks and when Ryu arrives he finds himself face to face with their leader. After a quick battle an ancient Slavic curse is placed on Ryu’s right arm called the “Grip of Murder”. This curse causes Ryu to lose his Dragon Sword and causes his arm to glow red with monstrous veins, slowly killing him from the inside. The LOA threatens complete annihilation of the planet unless every nation surrenders within a week. It is still a silly plot that was in the original Ninja Gaiden 3 and has not been improved on. All the game’s improvements come in the form of gameplay fixes and additions which does not do much for the story.
As you start on your adventure you are offered a choice of what difficulty to play on, but be warned; even the easiest setting can be quite harsh at times. Team Ninja actually decided to make the game harder than it was before. Let that sink in for a second. Remember how difficult the original Ninja Gaiden games were? Yep, it is more brutal now and the Hard difficulty should not be attempted by many. For those that want to give it is a go, you better be sure in yourself that you will not throw or break your GamePad controller in anger.
The campaign is broken up into eight different days and as you progress through the story you come across glowing Falcons that serve as save points throughout the map. Why Falcons? I have no idea. Regardless, these Falcons will completely restore your health, so you know something bad is right around the corner. At set points in the game you participate in some Quick Time Events (QTE) that serve as an interactive cutscene, but oddly enough not all of these QTE’s give you the proper prompts that you need to press so there are a few times where you will fail because you are not told to jump or dodge. I am not sure why it is inconsistent, regardless is can be quite annoying. During combat you will also notice Ryu’s arm glow red from time to time. If you hold the strong attack down to charge up energy and then release it near an enemy, Ryu will go into a mad barrage killing anyone nearby.
For those that have already played Ninja Gaiden 3 on Xbox 360 or PS3 I am sure you are wondering what is new to warrant a purchase of the game for you shiny new Wii U? Surprisingly quite a bit. New weapons, new Ninpo skills, a new playable character, a skill upgrade system, a harder difficulty, and much more gore. Ryu now has access to six weapons, as opposed to the two or three in the first Ninja Gaiden 3. He also has access to three Ninpo skills. As Ryu gains more kills in battle while defeating his enemies he also earns Karma points which can be used to upgrade weapons, skills, Ninpo, increase stats, unlock outfits, and more. This may be a little bit of a shock if you played Ninja Gaiden 3 already because the original essentially gave you all the tools from the beginning, but now you have to earn and unlock the ones that suit you as you progress and earn enough Karma points.
The best addition to Razor’s Edge has to be the inclusion of the new playable character Ayane. If you are a Dead or Alive fan you already know who this is, but if not she is one who has always had a small spot in Ryu’s previous outings but never really took the spotlight. She now has her own special levels and she is not just a good-looking re-skinned Ryu either as she has her own weapons and Ninpo making for a completely different experience. It was refreshing to play as Ayane to break up the levels a bit as you are given a different viewpoint for specific events that happen in the campaign.
If you manage to find any of the hidden Crystal Skulls during your adventure and you will be able to attempt a Test of Valor. Upon finding one of these skulls you are transported to a different area where you need to survive and defeat waves of enemies who attack you. If you manage to survive the waves of enemies you then face off against a boss. What is cool about this is that these bosses are from previous Ninja Gaiden games, but with new moves and patterns; so if you are an old Ninja Gaiden master there is something new for you learn and experience.
While the A.I. has been improved and the game’s difficulty has been turned up a notch you will find that the in-game camera still manages to find the worst angles when playing. This affects gameplay as it is hard to see what is about to hit you given that there is still an emphasis on projectile type enemies in addition to the hordes of melee enemies making things that much more difficult. Another thing that has not changed is the gore that the series is known for. Actually, it seems that it may have even been turned up a notch or two. You are able to fully decapitate heads while also being able to lop of arms, legs, and torsos; all of this results in a sea of red blood. This game is definitely is not for the squeamish.
For those playing with the Wii U’s GamePad, the touchscreen does not offer much aside from quick access to your weapons, using Ninpo, and seeing some additional game info like the collectables you have found. The best option for the tablet though is the choice of being able to play completely on the GamePad screen, allowing someone else to use the TV freely. Sure it is not the same as a big TV, but it is great to have the option and I truly hope more games offer this awesome feature. That being said, I found the control of the onscreen action using the GamePad is extremely difficult with all the combinations you need to press. Although it is cool to play the game on the GamePad’s screen, if you are a hardcore gamer who wants ‘tight control’ I highly suggest you play this game with the new Wii U Pro Controller.
Multiplayer returns to Ninja Gaiden with two separate offerings. There is an online battle mode where up to eight ninjas can participate in a team battle to see who can get the most kills in the time limit provided. There is also a Ninja Trials mode that allows you to join up with another player in a co-op based mode against waves of enemies. When playing online you will earn Karma points that can be used to upgrade your online ninja persona across all the online modes. There are also leaderboards for those looking to show off their online dominance. As I headed online I found it difficult to find a full match without a lot of waiting. I hope the community becomes bigger as more people pick up a Wii U.
Visually speaking, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is comparable to its older brothers on the other consoles, but it doesn’t seem to be quite on the same level. There are some blurry and low resolution textures and it seems the antialiasing has been omitted at times as everything seems much jaggier when looking at the finer details of each environment. Aside from a few spots of minor slowdown the framerate kept up surprisingly well, even when playing on the GamePad screen. The game really does deserve the M rating on the box, so any parents should take heed as there is buckets of blood, swearing galore, dismemberment, and more blood.
At the end of the day if you are a fan of the Ninja Gaiden franchise and were let down with Ninja Gaiden 3 on Xbox 360 or PS3, give Team Ninja another chance especially if you are looking for a fairly enjoyable action oriented launch title for your new Wii U. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is a pretty good title and you’d be hard pressed to find anything else like it on the Wii U at this time.