Review: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is essentially Team Ninja’s attempt at reconciling with longtime Ninja Gaiden series fans for the much less-than-stellar Ninja Gaiden 3. It makes a lot of corrections to the flawed Ninja Gaiden 3 formula and adds a wealth of new content, including new weapons and playable characters. Launching with all of these new goodies and at a reduced price point, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge seems like a legitimate re-release. Is it worth a repurchase for those scorned by the original game or is this all too little too late?
Although much of it remains unchanged from the initial release, much is different about Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. It may not be easy to tell at a glance, but after spending just a short while with the game, you’ll notice that it progresses and generally plays rather differently compared to Ninja Gaiden 3. This difference is thanks to the removal of several issues many fans had with Ninja Gaiden 3, as well as the addition of some of the most missed features from past games.
Graphically, the game is about identical to the original.
The music also remains unchanged, but there have been some slight tweaks to the story. The game no longer tries too hard to humanize Ryu – players are no longer compelled to feel bad for killing enemies. To this end, some scenes have been changed in the game and others removed altogether. There are some new areas and the game has overall been changed to be a little more…I suppose challenging is the word I’m looking for. In the main campaign you’re hit with bigger waves of enemies and hit with them a lot more often.
You’ll notice that dismemberment is back in all of its bloody glory. You can now chop off an enemy’s arm, leg or head like you could in Ninja Gaiden 2. Also like Ninja Gaiden 2, you can perform a gruesome obliteration technique on any enemy that has lost a limb (decapitating them kills them outright). Furthermore, enemies who’ve lost a limb become desperate to defeat Ryu and they gain access to devastating kamikaze attacks. This means it’s best to immediately kill any enemy who you succeed as dismembering.
Longtime series fans are already familiar with these mechanics, but they might be new to you if Ninja Gaiden 3 marked your first outing with the series. Another immediate change I noticed was the toning down of QTEs. You’re still forced to use them in certain boss fights or in some of the flashy action sequences, but they’re not simply forced down your throat at every turn like they were in the original game.
Multiple weapons and ninpo make a triumphant return here. The game comes loaded with multiple new weapons for Ryu to use, where NG3 only launched with the katana. Ryu has access to his twin swords, his scythe and his lunar staff all right out of the gate. You still have to play the game a tad bit to unlock these (which is preferred and expected), but they’re there – you won’t have to wait to get them as DLC or buy them for use in the online mode.
Although none of these weapons are truly new (they’ve all appeared in past series installments), they are new to NG3 and much more fun to experiment and play around with than just the katana. Classic ninpo spells are back as well, such as the inferno. Expanding on this is a new skill system, which allows you to use karma earned from fighting enemies to upgrade your weapons and ninpo. For example, you won’t have access to the famous Izuna drop or any of various other techniques for any weapons until you upgrade them. Upgrading the ninpo increases their effectiveness as well and you can also unlock skills such as the throw and the reversal.
The platforming in the game has also been improved. Of special note, the kunai climbing works a lot better than it did before, even if it still feels a bit sloppy at times. The structure of each stage has been slightly changed thanks to a new scoring system. Each stage is now split up into different sections, similar to Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. At the end of each section you are scored on how quickly you finished and on how much damage you took. There is no score for “style” or execution. The better you perform, the more karma you earn and the more stuff you can unlock.
Ninja Gaiden 3’s single player lacked a form of true, constant progression – this was perhaps my single biggest issue with the game – and Razor’s Edge alleviates this with lots of new weapons, ninpo, skills and upgrades. Earning points and using them to buy upgrades is honest, familiar fun that Ninja Gaiden 3 simply didn’t have, so I must accentuate some praise here.
Several more cursed arm battles have been added into the campaign. Now, every time Ryu’s arm starts to bother him, you are swept off to the curse world for a brief, survival style challenge where tons of enemies attack you while Ryu’s health slowly depletes. In these instances, killing an enemy restores a pinch of Ryu’s health, but the main objective is to finish the challenge before Ryu dies.
The original Ninja Gaiden games never had multiple playable characters – those were additions to the Sigma re-releases. Razor’s Edge takes a cue from Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and adds new playable characters. Ayane returns and has a couple of missions integrated into the main campaign. Using her is a blast; she’s fast, flashy and stars in some of the only truly new content in the game. Her missions feel a little more survival challenge oriented than Ryu’s and feature tiny, cramped areas filled with wave after wave of enemies. Like Ryu, you can also upgrade Ayane’s weapons with karma points, making her feel more fleshed out and legitimate than she did in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2.
Also joining the playable roster is Momiji, although she is only usable in the ninja trials and doesn’t have her own campaign missions like Ayane. Completing the campaign unlocks Kasumi of Dead or Alive fame to use in the ninja trials. Her inclusion here marks her first playable appearance in a Ninja Gaiden game, so she’s perhaps the most exciting new warrior. Returning to compliment the female fighters are motion controls for their breast. This feature (if I can call it that) first appeared in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2.
You can use the motion sensing functions of your PS3 controller to move the ladies’ boobs in ridiculous ways. This function is especially funny to play around with during cutscenes when everyone is being serious. I probably shouldn’t have had as much fun with this as I did, but it’s there for you to enjoy. The ninja trials mode has been expanded and there are many, many trials. It would take dozens of hours to complete them all, and you feel more compelled to this time around since you can use any of the new characters or weapons.
The new chapter challenge mode allows you to use any of the characters to tackle missions from the main campaign. This is a nice feature to have, though not one that I’d spend much time with. The online mode has been expanded with the new challenges and characters (the new girls can only be used in co-op). Furthermore, you can now use all of the new weapons in the clan battle mode. Tecmo sold these weapons as DLC for NG3, but thankfully they’re all intact here. I think the additional item DLC is present, so if you passed on any of NG3’s premium DLC, Razor’s Edge offers a decent value for $40. You can also equip and upgrade different skills and weapons in clan battle and customize your ninja’s appearance.
Although the experience as a whole is much better this time around, I still have some gripes about Razor’s Edge. The effort to make the game harder has only resulted in an increase in damage some enemies deal. For example, the dinosaur boss could outright kill Ryu with just two attacks. It also takes a huge amount of strikes to kill some enemies. This felt somewhat cheap, but I can’t really complain since I called out NG3 for being too easy.
Some sections in the game could have been paced better. For example, on the journey to his village (I think it’s chapter 5), you are tasked with felling dozens and dozens of spider ninja in a field and your only reprieve after this is a 10 second run to the next field, where you’ll fight dozens more ninja, topped off with one of the cursed arm portals (filled with dozens more ninja). It gives the game a kind of survival feeling and it doesn’t always feel properly rewarding, but you’ll need points for the unlocks so this isn’t too bad. Also, some of the platforming sections are still pretty funky.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge aims to make amends for Ninja Gaiden 3 by returning the gore, playable characters, weapons, ninpo spells, progression and difficulty series fans expected. Despite the many similarities between them, NG3 and Razor’s Edge almost feel like different games altogether. There have been numerous tweaks and refinements to the combat and overall game, all the DLC is here, there’s a new stage in the main campaign, there are tons of new ninja trials and much more new content.
Razor’s Edge is easiest to recommend to those who skipped NG3 and it’s loaded with high octane, bloody delight. If you did buy NG3, there just might be enough new content here to make you double dip (and it is just $40), although after all this time nobody can blame you if you simply don’t care anymore.