I’ll be honest, when I think of Tecmo Koei’s Ninja Gaiden series, the first three words that comes to my mind are: blood, flying limbs and ninja boobs, aside from dying repeatedly. So when Team Ninja initially tried to experiment with the magic formula that made Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 such a success, by removing the obscene, over-the-top violence and dismembered limbs, my interest in the game plummeted lower than Ayane’s low-cut armor. Knowing full well that a director’s cut version, would eventually be released, I waited until Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge’s inevitable announcement. Then the Wii U version of the game was released as part of the system’s launch lineup and my hype meter went over 9000.
Would the inclusion of what I (along with thousands of other gamers out there) see as the game’s primary features, make up for the departure of the series’ former iconic producer Tomonobu Itagaki? Well, it really depends on what you’re looking for.
Just like any other modern-day ninja story, the first things you can expect in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge are: over-the-top boss battles and a pretentious, cheesy plot that would have Akira Kurosawa rolling in his grave. The game starts off in France where Ryu Hayabusa (Troy Baker) is preparing to fight off a terrorist threat known as the “Lord of Alchemy” who is hellbent on world domination. Joint by British Japanese JSDF agent Mizuki McCloud, the two have seven days to fight against the terrorist threat before they destroy the world. All the while, poor Ryu Hayabusa’s right arm gets cursed, à laPrincess Mononoke-style, by all of souls he killed in the two previous games.
Despite the B-film inspired plot, the game is more story-centric than its predecessors, and easily has the best written Ninja Gaiden characters to date. Unlike a lot of the series’ other femme fatale leads, Mizuki McCloud is a breath of fresh air that seems to be much more along the lines of a realistic video game character. Unlike her other female counterparts, she is able to retain her femininity without having a hyper-sexualized attire, a breath of fresh air amidst Team Ninja’s heavy-set roster. Aside from Ayane, she’s become my favorite female from the series and I really hope that this represents a new, more subdued direction for Team Ninja. I would be doing a disservice to male gamers everywhere if I didn’t state that my wrists have strengthened substantially thanks to the game’s sixaxis “feature,” which is usable with nearly every female character you come across in the game.
For those who managed to play through Ninja Gaiden 2, the game’s difficulty factor seems about the same, which is either a good thing or bad thing depending on how you feel about dying. More than once, I found myself dying over the most ridiculous methodologies, wanting to throw my controller into my television during boss battles. One specific example where the game’s design becomes excruciatingly painful was against a particular cybernetic t-rex [you read that right]. Most of its hits are one-hit kills despite the fact that its attacks are fairly simple to dodge. After dying about forty-five times in the span of half an hour, I admit I set the game to the lower “hero” difficulty to send Cyber-Barney back to PBS. While the auto-dodge and auto-block features did help me blaze through the rest of the ten hour game, it did bring upon a nearly non-existent challenge to the game. So it’s really only meant for casual gamers or people who want to blaze through the game for the story only.
Whether or not it was intentional, the game’s environment also often gets in the way of the action, leaving gamers frustrated as they slice their way against enemies such as fiends and super-soldiers throughout the game’s eight levels. Often, I found myself frantically searching the screen for enemies firing projectiles at me only before it was too late.
The game’s newest features are the “blood on steel” feature that lets players cut through bodies during a slow-motion sequence. In addition, the new wall climbing that makes the game’s levels slightly more vertical than its predecessors. The most interesting use of the feature were done during the game’s QTE (quick time event) sequences where you have to time your presses accurately, similar to the God of War series.
For anyone who missed the series’ famous flying limbs and decapitated heads, fear not as Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge returns the over-the-top features that makes Ninja Gaiden what it is: the ultimate guilty pleasure. Being able to successfully unleash an obliteration technique and then watching guts splatter all over the screen is a satisfying beautiful chaotic poem in motion.
Although the player controls Ryu for most of the game, there are a few brief levels with Ayane that helps to break up some of the monotony in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Both Ryu and Ayane have their own respective skill trees that the player can level up to learn more moves, acquire stronger weapons and learn new skills giving the game more depth and replay value than the original, as it takes at least two to three playthroughs of either the story mode or Ninja Trials to unlock everything.
Similar to the other director’s cut versions of Ninja Gaiden, there are new characters to play as, in addition to Ayane. Momiji from Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and Dead or Alive kunoichiKasumi are now playable and represent different fighting styles from Hayabusa in addition to their curiously designed attire.
Despite Razor’s Edge’s enhancements though, the core gameplay of Ninja Gaiden 3 remains the same. Meaning that it’s still a much more streamlined when compared to previous games in the series. Both projectile weapons have infinite ammo, while Ninpo can only be activated when you defeat enough enemies. So depending on how you felt about the changes in the original, you may still want to skip the director’s cut version if you found it off-putting.
While Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge may not live up to the series’ near flawless game design when it was under Itagaki, the new additions definitely enhance the game’s experience making it the definitive version of Ninja Gaiden 3 to own. It’s a solid recommendation for anyone looking to pick up a relatively inexpensive action game, particularly for people who have yet to play the game’s original.
What I Loved:
-New enhancements makes Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge the definitive version of Ninja Gaiden 3.
-It's bloody, it's over-the-top, it's Ninja Gaiden.
-Interesting narrative for a Ninja Gaiden game.
-Best use of the PlayStation 3's sixaxis feature since Metal Gear Solid 4.
What I Hated:
-The PlayStation 3 version no longer supports the PlayStation Move.
-Gameplay has been streamlined.
-Not enough chapters in story mode featuring Ayane, Kasumi or Momiji.
Disclosure: A review copy for the PlayStation 3 was provided by the publisher.
When he is not moonlighting as a polyextremophile, swimming amidst mossy green rocks, Jason is the current reviews editor for The-O Network Online. He has written over five hundred articles for a number of media outlets covering everything from anime/video games to women's racquetball shoes.