Reviews// Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge

Posted 11 Jan 2013 17:12 by
There’s no two ways about it: Ninja Gaiden 3 was a bit of a stinker. But, Team Ninja is willing to change. It has listened to some of the biggest complaints from fans and, as a result, has gone to town on the Wii U version in an attempt to make it feel less like a mindless hack-and-slash show.

While the alterations are welcome, it doesn’t really make Razor’s Edge any more enjoyable.

The story remains largely the same. Ryu Hayabusa is apparently a ninja-for-hire, tasked to fight against a band of terrorists led by a gentleman known as the Regent of the Mask. It is during an early battle with this new nemesis that a curse is laid upon Ryu that melts his trusty Dragon Sword into his arm. As a result, he not only has to stop the destruction of the world, but also the slow destruction of his body and soul.

It’s pap, to be honest, with cheesy dialogue and incredibly bad lip syncing to complement the story. Team Ninja have used the plot as an opportunity to alter some of the action in game, however. At the points where Ryu becomes paralysed due to his curse, Razor’s Edge now sends you into an underworld-style challenge stage, which tasks you with defeating a large number of enemies to ‘feed’ the Dragon Sword before your health depletes.

Gameplay is still a carousel of blood, severed limbs and explosive carnage, but to add a new level of depth to the battle scenes, the difficulty has been ramped up significantly. Enemies deal more damage, and moves that were previously certain to work have now been nobbled - partly thanks to added enemy armour and defences, and partly to the slight tweaking of the combo list.

It’s a quick-fix, for sure, but one that aims to force you into learning a broad range of attacks, rather than button-bashing. Your reward for taking out enemies with flair is Karma - a new points system that is necessary to purchase new combos, weapons and armour for Ryu. It’s a nice addition as it means you don’t automatically become the world’s most kickass ninja. You have to work for it.

Sadly, ‘work’ is the operative word when talking about Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. While the game is now more hardcore, Team Ninja didn’t tighten the controls at all in order to balance things out. Controlling Ryu is still awkward to the point of frustration, and doesn’t feel fluid in combat at all.

Worse is that Ryu doesn’t always respond to your button input, even after he finishes an animation cycle. The move list is also unnecessarily difficult to get the hang of. For instance, there are two different timings for basic attack combos when using the Y Button - one for when you’re standing still, and another for when you’re moving.

Because the game demands that you always keep moving (or you end up dying very quickly), annoyingly you’re having to put up with using the less flexible ‘running’ combo. Add the fact that the Wii U version’s framerate regularly drops when faced with more than a few enemies, and it becomes even harder to avoid being put off during battle.

It doesn’t help that the set of enemies on offer largely range from the bland to borderline cheap. Battlegrounds are usually filled with offensively-bad cockney SAS samurai (complete with repetitive sound clips - prepare to hear the words “FACK YOOOU!” a lot), dagger-wielding ninjas or variants of the two, along with annoyingly-positioned rocket launcher enemies which break your flow and distract you further.

The boss battles - which were the visual highlight of Ninja Gaiden 3 (besides the overdose of gory finishers, which to be fair are still as gruesome and entertaining as ever) - have been overhauled too, although some of them have ended up being much easier than others in the transition.

Favourites like the metallic dinosaur are peppered with bland offerings such as the level 2 helicopter, but all have been given a fair amount of added interactivity - even if there is still a good dollop of quick time events to fight through. Nintendo’s GamePad hasn’t been put to good use here - it’s worth pointing out that anything that can be achieved on the tablet controller can theoretically be done using the Wii U Pro controller. The touchscreen itself is mostly used as a cheat sheet for Ryu’s moves, but also has shortcut buttons to help perform Ninpo, Ninja Sense and swap weapons.

Team Ninja have clearly focused on trying to fix what was broken, while adding new content along the way. To this end, Razor’s Edge offers a slight breath of fresh air in the single-player story mode, with the inclusion of new stages featuring Dead or Alive regular Ayane.

She’s lighter on her feet, and her shuriken can cause explosive damage, but by and large you’re in for roughly the same experience. Online co-op and battle modes have been improved too, and result in a slightly better network experience on Wii U too.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, loosely described, is a constant string of repetitive action sequences full of uninspiring enemies, with a story that is equal parts cliche and uninteresting. And at times, cheap and needlessly frustrating. In spite of the noble attempt by Team Ninja to fix all that was wrong with the original Ninja Gaiden 3 release, this is still a rather mediocre game.


Pros:
+ New content adds marked improvement over original
+ Karma system adds depth
+ Lovely, gory finishers brighten up drab environments

Cons:
- Repetitive action, frustrating at times
- Dull scenarios and set-pieces
- Framerate issues and sloppy combat mechanics

SPOnG Score: 5/10

Read our interview with Team Ninja here.

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