I have been busy with games that have been released during this year, and catching up on games that were released last year. One of these games that is most of the focus for this review is Ninja Gaiden 3. The Ninja Gaiden series has always been about over-the-top fast-paced action, huge bosses, and a high difficulty level, and are usually liked among gamers due to the games giving you a challenge, even if it isn’t handled well. When Ninja Gaiden 3 came out in 2012, well, let us be nice and say it flopped. The developers wanted to do something different, and evolve the Ninja Gaiden formula from not just being a sometimes cheaply difficult fast-paced action game. The results were fan and critic backlash, and it is considered to be one of the worst or most disappointing games of 2012. Luckily, the Wii U was coming out, and Team Ninja wanted to fix this situation. They took all the criticisms that the fans and critics gave, and put them into an updated version of the game called Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for the Wii U, and recently released for the PS3 and 360. So, let us get started down the ninja road!
The story begins with Ryu Hayabusa, voiced by Troy Baker, this time in his ninja village. He is talking to two agents from the government to take on a mission for them. The mission takes place in London, where the Prime Minister and his family are being taken hostage and held by a group of terrorists led by The Regent of the Mask, voiced by James Brinkley. This talkative masked fellow is part of an evil organization known as the Lords of Alchemy, who plan on taking over the world. I mean, they could do something else with their powers of alchemy, but whatever floats their boat. After Ryu fights the Regent at the mansion of the Prime Minister, the Regent puts a curse on Ryu’s arm that will slowly eat away at Ryu’s body unless it’s taken care of. It is up to Ryu to stop the Lords of Alchemy from taking over the world, and to get the curse off his arm. Besides the curse subplot reminding me of Princess Mononoke, the entire story to Ninja Gaiden 3 is just boring. It isn’t very interesting, and I blame Ryu and the villains. I give Team Ninja credit for trying to make him a more 3-dimensional awesome action hero, BUT he comes off as a bit bland. I would also say it’s because of Troy Baker’s performance, since Ninja Gaiden 2 had Josh Keaton, and I think that would have been a better choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love Troy Baker in games like Tales of Vesperia, God of War Ascension, and he looks like he will be doing an amazing job on The Last of Us, but I think he wasn’t given much to work with in this game. The villains are also boring and not that interesting. There are some solid moments in the story, but overall, you can basically not pay attention and still get through the game just fine.
The gameplay is, of course, Ninja Gaiden’s cup of tea. It is a fast-paced action game where you control Ryu through most of the game, while getting to use Ayane (from Dead or Alive) in two levels. Your main weapon is, as usual, your dragon sword, until level 2 comes around where the sword is fused into your arm, and you have to use a different sword. You gain different weapons as the game goes on from a bow, a staff, a scythe, claws, and another sword so you can duel wield. You get two different ninja spells that you can use after filling a bar below your health bar. The main combat appeal is how Ryu will slice and dice his enemies into itty bitty bits. You can say it’s overkill, but that is basically this game’s stamp on the action game genre. Each of the weapons you use has different abilities to them so each weapon is unique enough to fit whatever play style you want. There are also quick-time events thrown in throughout the game, where you can counter an attack or climb walls using your kunai knives. A lot of changes went into the game that makes it more like Ninja Gaiden 2 than its original release, months before the Wii U launched with this game. Oh, and that cursed arm thing is a game mechanic, and at certain points in the game, you will get sent to a demon realm and have to fight a horde of enemies. Or it will just make you move slowly, and almost kill you by draining your life until you reach a certain distance by slowly dragging your feet. The single player campaign will take you about 5 hours or so to beat. After that, you can take on the different challenges as other female ninja characters from the franchise, and there is even a multiplayer mode where you can customize your own ninja and take on a version of horde mode and team battles. The overall package is good. There is enough here to keep players interested, since who doesn’t want to make their own ninja? And playing on the Wii U game pad works well, and I didn’t notice anything different playing on the game pad as opposed to playing the game on the TV.
The graphical presentation is good. Its graphics are not pushing the Wii U or its PS3 and 360 brothers to their limits, but the character models look good and despite some slowdown at times, the action is nonstop, with great animation to the characters on screen. The music is also done well, but I think it could have been better. For what is it though, it gets the job done. The voice work is decent. I like some of the actors in the game, but the guy who plays the Regent of the Mask does get a bit goofy at times.
So, what is wrong with this game? At first, I was really enjoying it, and I was agreeing with what a lot of other critics were saying. One critic even called it the best Wii U launch game due to how it turned one of the worst games of last year to one of the better games. Well, over time, I found little flaws that built up VERY quickly. The first thing I think is wrong is the pacing. Most of the time, you are hacking enemies into bits, and separating those battles are just very minor platforming segments that are fun, but it isn’t enough to where it breaks up the repetition of killing enemies. I honestly got bored when all I did was walk 4 feet and fight a horde of guard-happy enemies, and then walk 4 feet again and repeat the same process. The boss battles are also nothing to brag about, to be honest. I remember Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 had a huge horde of unique bosses, but the bosses in this game, for the most part, are just okay. I remember a few cool ones, but I got bored with some of the bosses you had to fight. The enemies are a chore. They are aggressive and know how to block, which is nice. That is, until you have to face 20 enemies at once, and for getting their limbs cut off and blood flying everywhere, they sure do pack a fighting spirit. They are not as guard-happy as, say, Alter Echo, but they do make the fights go on longer than they should. I also find the use of quick-time events to be more tedious than interesting. Oh, let me get into the stealth kills. This mechanic is BARELY USED! I mean, for a ninja game, it’s surprising to finally have a stealth kill move, but you only use it in set places, and only at the beginning. What the heck?! Why introduce the player to a game mechanic that he or she is barely going to use for the rest of the game?! There are some other minor criticisms, but they aren’t worth bringing up.
Overall, Razor’s Edge is a solid action game. I’d say Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is a better game, even though there are some things I don’t like about that game. I will also disagree with this game being in the top 5 best Wii U launch games. If you haven’t played the third game, I’d recommend getting it when the price drops. While this updated version might have fixed the issues that plagued the original, I would still pick Darksiders 2 or Batman Arkham City Armored Edition over this game if you want a good third-party action game on the Wii U. I do hope for the next Ninja Gaiden, we see them go above and beyond the Ninja code.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.