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Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge Review

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David Lynch

Ninja Gaiden 3 gets an outing on Wii U, but can Team Ninja's disappointing sequel deliver a game worthy of Nintendo's new console?

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Published on Dec 18, 2012

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge isn’t the same disappointing game you remember – thank goodness.

There would be little point in Team Ninja porting across such a neutered and lacklustre entry in the popular series, but for Nintendo’s Wii U, Team Ninja has returned to Ninja Gaiden 3 and given the proper care and attention that only hindsight could ever deliver. 

The Wii U’s been inundated with PS3 and Xbox 360 conversions during its first few months on sale and with Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 and Darksiders 2 all arriving on Nintendo’s platform with relatively minor changes.

Ninja Gaiden 3 is the only game that looks like it’s delivering a substantially different experience.

And it really needed to be, too. Ninja Gaiden 3 was the first game in the revamped series without controversial designer Tomonobu Itagaki, and it shows.

It had an increased focus on enticing a broader audience and with a cinematic edge, easier gameplay and basic combat, many longstanding fans were left scratching their heads.

The absence of decapitation, as gruesome as it sounds, neatly encapsulated everything that was wrong in Ninja Gaiden 3.

What had happened to Ryu Hayabusa? A super-hard Ninja the star of an even harder series that prided itself on skill-based combat, beautiful visuals and a learning curve that stumped everyone but the most dedicated of gamers.

Suddenly, Ninja Gaiden saw Ryu walking slowly with his hand pressed to his ear like Markus Fenix, he slaughtered men begging for their lives and worst of all, you could get through the early levels without even breaking a sweat.

On the Wii U, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a different game bringing new characters, weapons and encounters with it.

In NowGamer’s original 4.9 review we highlighted just where Ninja Gaiden 3 went wrong. Specifically the accessibility for newcomers taking the bite out of the combat and a storyline that actively went against series tenets creating an experience that was laughably at odds with the previous games.

Just what could Team Ninja do to bring Razor’s Edge to Wii U and make it worthwhile? Well, quite a lot as it happens. Ninja Gaiden for Wii U has undergone some transformative changes and though the game’s story remains intact (and yes, Ryu still takes his mask off to smile at little girls) the changes here make for a far better game.

Firstly, and giving Razor’s Edge a cursory glance, the Wii U version reinstates Ryu’s ability to dismember his foes making Ninja Gaiden the bloodiest game on the Wii U. The framerate’s been given a bit of work producing much smoother action, too.

We'd be hard pressed to say this looks any better than the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, but what's really more important is that Team Ninja has gone back, listened to the irate fans, and given Razor's Edge a difficulty level appropriate to the series' past.

Enemies no longer rush you in the same way and with the delicate balance of kills, Ryu’s health and magic attacks combined with the player’s ability to dispatch foes reinstated, Razor’s Edge finally begins to feel like its predecessors.

It’s not quite as well balanced as it should be but compared to the easy hack n’ slash idiocy of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, Razor’s Edge on Wii U is leaps and bounds ahead.

Almost everything that fans complained about has been re-examined. Those horribly awkward moments where Ryu’s movements were restricted and a cinematic story scene punctuated the action (for no good reason) are gone. In their place Team Ninja has simply inserted more combat.

Not only that, but Razor’s Edge includes two extra chapters, two free DLC characters and the chance to experience combat as the buxom Ayane as she chops her way through Paris.

Wii U owners can also take advantage of the GamePad in the heat of battle. Instead of worrying about button combinations, Ryu’s Ninpo and magic attacks can be triggered by mashing the appropriate icon on the screen.

It makes for a simple use of the GamePad's second screen but really, playing Ninja Gaiden with the Pro Controller is the better choice despite these insteresting additions. 

There are many little tweaks that have gone into Razor’s Edge that make it worth playing. Players are finally given the choice of which weapons to use and this is also one of the first Ninja Gaiden games to include multiplayer.

Up to eight players can fight it out in Clan Battle mode, Ninja Trials gives two players the chance to work together in a co-op mode and Ninja Record rates you ability so you can really find out how good you are.

Not only is the blood and decapitations back, but Razor's Edge actually requires skill to play like, you know, ever other Ninja Gaiden game.

Even without the fundamental changes to the structure of Ninja Gaiden 3, Razor’s Edge’s many little changes combine to make a much more enjoyable experience.

Though Team Ninja has attempted to address much of the damage done to Ninja Gaiden’s gameplay – going as far to include an XP Karma system and unlockable abilities – there’s still a lot of the original game that means Razor’s Edge won't ever live up to the series’ heritage, but this is still a much better game.

Having said that, for the Wii U, to have a version of Ninja Gaiden that’s quite clearly a cut above the competition is a real coup. Razor’s Edge isn’t quite the return to form series fans wanted, but compared to the original disappointment this is a huge, huge improvement.

Now, if only Tecmo Koei would release it on the PS3 and Xbox 360…

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
7.8 / 10
Sound
6.5 / 10
Gameplay
7.3 / 10
Longevity
6.4 / 10
Multiplayer
N/A / 10
Overall
7.5 / 10
Final Verdict
Though Ninja Gaiden: Razor's Edge can't totally shake off all of the original game's issues, through intelligent additions and some much-needed love it is much closer to the Ninja Gaiden games that we remember.
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Game Details
Format:
Wii U
Release Date:
11/1/2013
Price:
TBA
Publisher:
Tecmo Koei
Developer:
Team Ninja
Genre:
Action
No. of players:
1-8
Verdict
7.5 /10
Ninja Gaiden: Razor's Edge makes many little changes to Team Ninja's disappointing game to create something much more like its predecessors and, for the Wii U, it makes for one hardcore fighting experience.
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