Longtime Ninja Gaiden series fans did not keep quiet about their disappointment with Ninja Gaiden 3. Although many purists would attribute the game’s lack of quality to the absence of credited series creator Tomonobu Itagaki, there’s really no way to say exactly why the game turned out the way it did. What we can say is that it sucks in comparison to past series entries and that we definitely can explain.
I go into much greater detail about the game’s shortcomings here, but in summary, Ninja Gaiden 3 lacked the multiple weapons, multiple playable characters, excessive gore and devilishly challenging and clever AI that made Ninja Gaiden 2 and its slightly altered subsequent re-release Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 the amazing action titles they are. As the most diluted and stripped down Ninja Gaiden title yet, NG3 wound up being painfully average. Depending on who you ask, it may have even been far below average.
The overwhelmingly negative response to the game from fans and critics alike has amounted to a figurative spanking, which has been delivered firmly to the developer’s backside. From their statements regarding the game’s reception, it would appear that Team Ninja has learned a valuable lesson about practically completely disregarding longtime series fans. However, instead of devising some way to alleviate the disappointment of the thousands of players who invested in the Xbox 360 and or PS3 versions of the game, the devs have decided to reserve many vital additions and adjustments for the Wii U exclusive version of the game, known as Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
Some people may feel that neither I nor anyone else who obtained Ninja Gaiden 3 has any right to be upset about the multiple Wii U exclusive features. They may feel that we got our money’s worth and that our $60 entitled us to what was on the game’s launch disk and not a speck more. This would be true if only Ninja Gaiden 3 wasn’t so obviously flawed and gimped from the outset.
It seemed that Team Ninja was making some sort of stand against longtime Ninja Gaiden fans from the earliest development details they shared. In August of last year, Team Ninja lead Yosuke Hayashi confirmed that NG3’s game-play would revolve almost exclusively around swords. This turned out to be exactly the case in the final game. At launch, the only weapon in Ryu’s arsenal was a katana. This unfortunately summarily resulted in looking at slight variations of the same combos throughout the entire game. Team Ninja went on to release two DLC weapons that were free for use in single player but needed to be purchased for use in multiplayer. This makes for a total of three weapons, DLC included, and that is a tiny arsenal compared to past games.
Razor’s Edge on the other hand will contain at least three additional weapons compared to NG3. So far Team Ninja has revealed the Tiger’s Claw and Dragons Fang (twin katanas), Kusari-Gama (sickle and chain) and the Lunar Staff exclusively for the Wii U. These weapons are fan favorites and have been usable in past Ninja Gaiden games. The twin katanas and Lunar Staff have even been usable since Ninja Gaiden hit the original Xbox. Yet, oddly, they are surely absent from NG3. They would’ve even been acceptable as paid DLC, but they are nowhere to be found.
The additional weapons are just one point where Razor’s Edge completely trounces Ninja Gaiden 3. Razor’s Edge will also contain the decapitations and other dismemberments missing from Ninja Gaiden 3. Late last year Team Ninja claimed that fans no longer cared to see such gore because we’d “seen it already”. They realized how mistaken they were when the lack of gore became one of the biggest complaints about Ninja Gaiden 3. It makes no sense that a blade appears to be cutting through an enemy (in a violent rain of blood, I might add) but the enemy isn’t visually being cut apart.
If it’s alright to show gallons of blood spraying everywhere, then it is certainly also alright to show heads and limbs being lopped off. The developers clearly realize this now, as Razor’s Edge will in fact feature the dismemberment and gore that Ninja Gaiden 3 omitted. The very same gore that we apparently no longer cared to see.
But wait, there’s more. Ninja Gaiden Sigma introduced multiple playable characters. After hours of hacking down ninjas using Ryu, it was refreshing and fun to hack down ninjas using a different warrior that controlled differently and was much easier on the eyes. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 let players control Rachel, Momiji and Ayane at different points throughout the game and in the online multi-player. I personally greatly preferred playing with Ayane compared to Ryu simply because she seemed much faster and her attacks looked way cooler to me, though her damage output was much lower. In Ninja Gaiden 3 Team Ninja snatched away all additional playable characters, leaving players with only Ryu (and his one weapon).
Of course, after receiving a nice rough thrashing from fans for the omission, they’ve decided to add multiple playable warriors to Razor’s Edge. Ayane, my favorite, has already been confirmed for the game. Nintendo recently confirmed that she wouldn’t be the only new Wii U exclusive playable character, either. This means that while those who bought Ninja Gaiden 3 only ever got to use Ryu, those who purchase Razor’s Edge will get to use Ryu, Ayane and whichever other playable fighters that have yet to be revealed (my money is on Rachel and or Momiji, of course).
Many fans also found Ninja Gaiden 3 too easy compared to past games, so Team Ninja is refining the enemy AI to make enemies more clever and aggressive. Ninja Gaiden 3’s AI will remain tame and ignorant, while Razor’s Edge will feature the trickier, angrier AI from past games. All of these additions combine to make Razor’s Edge look far superior to Ninja Gaiden 3, which is completely unfair to any fan who plopped down the money for the latter title.
It’s especially important to note that anyone who fancies themself a big fan of the series has most likely already purchased Ninja Gaiden 3. This means that the series’ biggest, most passionate fans have been left out in the cold with a mediocre game and a considerable waste of money, while the all new Wii U players will get to play the game it was meant to be – the game it should have been.
In conclusion, any longtime series fan can immediately identify several features missing from Ninja Gaiden 3. It was readily obvious that a great deal of content had been held back or omitted for some mysterious reason. That reason is clear now. I wouldn’t have a problem with any of this if PS3 and Xbox 360 owners could somehow have their copies of Ninja Gaiden 3 ‘fixed’ or updated to Razor’s Edge’s standards. That way Wii U gamers would never have to endure the mediocrity that is vanilla NG3 and, more importantly, PS360 players wouldn’t have to buy another console and another game to finally have a legitimate NG3 experience.
It is unacceptable, however, to leave the flawed, bare bones and downright inferior version of Ninja Gaiden 3 as is while making such dramatic improvements in the Wii U version. Don’t early adopters deserve a more complete, more fully realized Ninja Gaiden 3 experience, too? How can the new Wii U purchasers be more deserving than the thousands of devout series fans who’ve most likely already purchased the game? These are questions that only Team Ninja can answer, and considering that they’ve already made money off the inferior Ninja Gaiden 3, they probably never will.