Review: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is a sleeker, bloodier style of ninja
When Ninja Gaiden 3 came out last March, I found a lot to like about it, despite the inability to chop off limbs and a story so ridiculously hokey that Jackie Chan films looked legitimate next to it. But some people were turned off by problems with the controls, not to mention the inability to use some of Ryu's better weapons right away. Then, in November, Tecmo Koei released a "director's cut" version of the game, Razor's Edge, for Wii U, a game that improved upon the model with plenty of flying limbs and minor improvements here and there. Still, problems with the graphics and camera made it not such a hot purchase to some.
Now Razor's Edge is getting one more chance at redemption, this time on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – the native platforms where the first game arrived. Is this a better go-around? Absolutely. Far from perfect, but if you've been looking for the definitive return of Ryu Hayabusa and his bad-ass ways, this is it.
The game follows Hayabusa as he battles an evil terrorist who has somehow infected him with a strange demonic power. The master ninja finds himself struggling from time to time as a result, but manages to exude his prowess the best he can as he battles enemies ranging from biker ninjas to flying terrors to large, unstoppable beasts that will take a lot to bring down. But, hey, nothing's stopped Hayabusa yet, so what makes you think these things stand a chance?
Like prior Ninja Gaiden games, Razor's Edge is all about stylish combat. And things have improved greatly upon part three, with the inclusion of new challenge realms that keep you on your toes (rather than just stabbing enemy place to place like in the previous games) and better defensive mechanics when it comes to dodging and counter-attacking. And the fact you can now make bloody sushi out of your opponents…well, there's a certain satisfaction to it. It's not a ninja game unless you successfully have limbs flying all over the place.
That said, the story is still utterly ridiculous, with a lot of head-scratching moments and encounters you never expected to see, like a run in with a cybernetic T-Rex and a helicopter encounter that most people – hell, anyone but Hayabusa – would not survive. But at least there's some extra content to keep us entertained with the silliness, such as additional costumes and other playable characters who enter the fray, including big-boobed warrior Momiji and Dead Or Alive beauties Kasumi and Ayane, who have battle tactics all their own.
The gameplay feels great, and being able to unleash all kinds of ninja bad-assery is a lot of fun, whether it's a ninpo attack that lays waste to those in your vicinity or more powerful weapons that can really dish out some major damage, like the Wolverine-esque Falcon's Talons. We love those things. You can mix and match too, changing weapons on the fly.
The graphics in Razor's Edge are a mild improvement over the Wii U version, with a better frame rate, sharper details and only a few minor glitches to speak of. The camera is still a problem at times (sometimes enemies strike from behind you, as you're unable to see them), but not enough of a hassle to turn the game away. The sound is good too, with lots of rockin' ninja beats (similar to the first release) and humorous dialogue. The main baddie sounds like too much of a show-off, but then again, that's kind of the point.
Along with all the DLC from the prior game already released into the package, Razor's Edge also brings back eight-player versus multiplayer action, which is kind of chaotic at times, but enjoyable if you have fellow ninja fans around. You can also mess around with the Ninja Trials, featuring 100 various challenges for you to take on with various characters. These can be real maddening, so approach with caution.
One last note. As you could tell from my previous comment, Razor's Edge was really built for die-hards. However, if you want to see everything the game has to offer without dealing with, you know, death, you can turn on Hero mode and almost avoid dying each time, with defensive tactics kicking in when you're low on health. It's a cheesy way out, sure, but it's nice to see Tecmo Koei provide the option to those who are less than, well, ninja.
Ninja Gaiden 3 was good, but Razor's Edge improves upon the formula in many ways. Though the central problems still weren't fully addressed (mainly the weird-ass story and the camera), the majority of sweet ninja action remains, with additional challenges, decent online multiplayer and gameplay that truly tests your ninja id, no matter what your skill level. It took a while, but the definitive version is here. Grab a sword and hack away.