Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 // Genre: Hack ‘ N’ Slash
Platform Played: Xbox 360
Developer: Team Ninja // Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is an unusual beast, with Ninja Gaiden 3 originally releasing in 2012 to generally negative reviews. When Wii U launched late last year, Nintendo fans were greeted to this “Definitive version” of Ninja Gaiden 3 which hoped to aid the many issues that plagued the original release. Bring us to April 2013 and this updated version of the original game is now making its way back to current generation consoles, you still with me?
Needless to say Ryu Hayabusa’s latest adventure has had somewhat of a shaky history. Having missed the original Ninja Gaiden 3 release and being someone fresh to the franchise is general, I was genuinely interested to see how Team Ninja had improved on the terrible first display it showcased. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge isn’t the be-all end-all of hack and slash gaming, far from it. If anything it still carries many of the same issues the original game was apparently suffering from. To try and give you a better understanding of Razor’s Edge, it feels like someone has made a mess but instead of cleaning it up, has done their best to make their mistakes un-noticeable. Though Razor’s Edge is far from terrible, it suffers from many problems that hold the overall experience back.
Razor’s Edge follows the latest story of Ryu Hayabusa, an extremely skilled ninja of the Dragon clan. Somehow a group of terrorists who want to take over the world, find it important to single out Ryu for their plans. After Ryu’s first encounter with one of the terrorists executing the plot, he is cursed with the Grip of Murder. In-which the Dragon Sword he wields becomes infused with his right arm, the curse makes Ryu feel the soul of every individual the blade has murdered in its lifetime. This becomes an integral plot point throughout the games narrative, which will roughly take you 8-10 hours depending on your difficulty of choice.
Though the story at work is fairly confusing, riddled with plot-holes and fails to hit the mark on emotional moments, it is quite entertaining. It starts to pick up the pace during the second half of the game and that was when the narrative really intrigued me, it is definitely not a game where the narrative is a must-play, but it is serviceable and enjoyable nonetheless. The Ninja Gaiden series is known for its unforgiving combat, but Razor’s Edge looks to make the barrier for entry lower with Easy difficulty. This mode allows you to hone your combat skills and enjoy the narrative on offer, when your health hits a certain stage Ryu will auto-guard allowing players to avoid certain death. Though purists will most likely avoid this option, it was a nice touch and allows players to increase their skills without punishment.
In the original Ninja Gaiden 3, slicing and dicing enemies into limbless torsos wasn’t included. However in Razor’s Edge it’s in abundance, it provides a satisfying brutality to combat which always seemed to make battle enjoyable. The combat on offer here is satisfying for players looking to pull of vicious manoeuvres or the player simply looking to button mash his way through the game, it’s the best part of Razor’s Edge. The combat finds a way to stay fresh with the inclusion of new enemies sprinkled throughout the campaign, you will always be facing a variety of different enemy types. The enemies on offer put up an extremely mighty challenge – if you are not on your game you will be taken down without hesitation.
Some of the most memorable moment during Razor’s Edge are boss fights. When you are one single ninja facing a robotically engineered dinosaur, it not only astounds but also has you questioning how it works into the games narrative? But if you look past that, these boss fights produce an amazing challenge. Some battles however feel cheap, this doesn’t only coincide with boss fights but enemies in general. Foes will be shooting missiles from a large distance, dropping grenades, vanishing and fighting cloaked. Most of the time trying to find Ryu within the smoke cloud of exploding missiles and grenades is challenge enough, let alone tackling the ever spawning enemies surrounding you. It felt unnecessary when the challenging AI was already substantial. The lack of vision leads to frustration when you feel unfairly killed.
During games like DmC we are given rooms to clear of enemies before moving on, however we still are given room to explore between battles. Razor’s Edge puts us on such an extremely linear path, that all thought of doing something different from the usual entering an open area, fight baddies and repeat is all but demised. Combat might be enjoyable but when that is the one thing you seem to repeat, too much of good thing can ultimately take away the enjoyment. The games camera also struggles to deal with battles within tight areas, it will get stuck behind obstructions, lose control of the action and in-turn cost you your life. Since battles frequently take place within hallways or enclosed areas, it becomes quite bothersome
These linear sequences meant Ryu was restricted. Watching a ninja struggle to vault something waist height, proceeds to take away the badass attitude combat provides. The game tries so hard to keep you within the linear path the game has set, that Ryu’s abilities are taken out of play entirely. It’s here that linearity holds Razor’s Edge back.
After each battle players will be awarded with Karma, which is given on how well you tackle the battle. Producing combos, minimizing how much health you lose and how quickly you defeat your foes will provide more Karma. Which can be used to unlock new moves, upgrade your weapons, unlock costumes and even increase your health. It gives players a reason to improve their skill, fighting better will produce greater results and allow for more upgrades, it is a balanced system. Many upgrades are clearly out of reach to try and instigate multiple playthroughs, but I cannot see many players desperate enough for a secondary attire.
Razor’s Edge also decides to re-use the same scenes repeatedly, which wouldn’t be an issue if these scenes were produced well. You will find Ryu on the wings of planes cutting down their turret fire more times than you should, you will also have to deal with the awkwardly controlled climbing mechanics more than you should. I don’t mind repeating gaming mechanics, but when they don’t improve the game in the slightest, it’s hard to figure out why they were used so often.
Graphically Razor’s Edge once again feels outdated, environmental objects have poor textures and remind me of PlayStation 2 quality. Enemies and Ryu himself won’t blow anyone away, but the art style at work gives them a unique style during gameplay. Though visually subdued, the style works well with the fantastical elements on display. Visual problems did arise however, with Ryu’s outfit not loading his suits colour for an entire mission. Though this didn’t affect gameplay, when coupled with poor screen tearing during chaotic battles and multiple game freezes, it made these issues hard to ignore.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is packing many features over the original game, with added cooperative and competitive multiplayer. With the ability to replay chapters from the games story, you are able to join a friend and lay waste to enemies. Players are also able to venture online for some simple deathmatch style gameplay. The maps feel quite small and the same camera issues apply because of it, maps reuse locales from the games story and don’t feel made for competitive gameplay in mind. If you’re looking to hone your skills and upgrade your online character with new weapons and abilities, this will definitely add to the time Razor’s Edge spends in your disc tray. The only issue would be the small community and how long it will take before they move on.
Razor’s Edge also adds a handful of new missions featuring the pink haired companion of Ryu, named Ayane. These missions were a nice change of pace during the story, as she offers a faster avenue to combat with new moves to master and upgrade. Though her narrative feels forced into the overall story, I appreciated these sequences and wish she was given some more time to flesh out her motivations.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge makes me wonder how worse off the original Ninja Gaiden 3 iteration was? Sure this is coined as the ‘Definitive version’, but when a game is realised in such poor condition to start off with, there doesn’t seem like much can be down to make that product a masterpiece.
Razor’s Edge offers glimpses of brilliance, with some excellent combat coupled with some challenging enemies and memorable boss encounters. But amongst the shining lights, there are too many lights that are poorly designed or flat out unnecessary. When you provide a linear experience you need to provide either an engaging story, or gameplay that is entertaining and fresh enough to keep the player interested. Sadly, the repetitive nature of linearity alongside some poor design choices take away the pleasure combat instilled to the player.
Ryu Hayabusa’s latest title might be the best version available, but it begs the question. Was a ‘Definitive version’ of an originally poorly made title, really worth the trouble?
+ Enjoyable combat
+ Karma system makes players want to improve their skills
+ Ayane missions
– Extremely linear
– Enemies feel cheap
– Camera shows weakness in tight spaces
– Environments look outdated
– Multiplayer seems like an after-thought