Title: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
System(s): PS3 (Also available on Xbox 360 and WiiU)
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Koei Tecmo (Team Ninja)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes
The time I spent with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. With the departure of Tomonobu Itagaki, I was a little leery of how Team Ninja was going to handle the fan favorite series. Their effort isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t enough as it turns out. Ninja Gaiden has a certain pedigree behind it, one that appeals to someone dedicated to mastering mechanics, doesn’t mind an incredible amount of difficulty, and even can get past the rather imaginative, if not childish, portrayal of brawn and beauty. However when playing Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, you wouldn’t get a sense this game was made by the same Team Ninja.
Development for Razor’s Edge began on the Wii U which may explain why the game is trying to appeal to a wider audience. As previously mentioned, the gameplay of previous Ninja Gaiden games was all about mastering the system, a player could only button mash for so long even under the “Ninja Dog” difficultly (easy mode). In fact, Ninja Dog has been replaced with “Hero Mode”, it’s a title not as demeaning for struggling players and represents the new Team Ninja’s desire to get people wanting to play.
A Ninja Confused
The bulk of the game is played as the classic hero Ryu; as he takes on an organization of crazed alchemists bent on destroying the world. Along the way he teams up a scientist and a special agent as they try to prevent the alchemists from resurrecting a goddess. Meanwhile, Ayane is helping Ryu without directly getting involved in his mission. It’s nothing exciting, and the story is written with as much cheese as a B action movie. That’s okay though, the story of Ninja Gaiden was never serious and the sub-par acting and over-the-top action scenes lend well to the fact that this game is in no way meant to be serious. If don’t believe me, move the controller up and down during the cutscenes. It also doesn’t help that a ninja who is conflicted with being a murderer goes out and dissects people at will.
This is perhaps the weakest part of the game. There’s nothing gripping players to continue the story and honestly, my motivation to continue playing wasn’t to find out whether or not Ryu was going to have a guilty conscience about his mission or whether a character was going to betray me. I just wanted to keep unlocking things. Players are going to find very little substance, but it’s okay because you shouldn’t expect it from this series. What most players are looking for is a solid challenge and some over the top violence at times. This game has that, but it may have too much of it.
Ninjas do the Monster Mash too
There’s a huge drawback in this new desire for a wider audience. Players can now button mash combos at will, evade with ease and experience all of the over-the-top ninja violence they want. That’s all great in theory, but it actually hurts the gameplay by making it far too quick to master and soon becomes repetitive. This is exacerbated by level progression that is just a sequence of arena battles with the same predictable enemies over and over.
This game is more God of War than Ninja Gaiden, but the puzzle solving. You press Square and Triangle to do combos, and then either Triangle or Square rapidly to stab before ripping your weapon through an enemy. Instead of puzzles, you get quick-time events such as pressing L1 and Square to dodge a missile, or rapidly pressing R1 and L1 to climb a wall. Add that to the Square and Triangle button presses for combat and you have the main controls for the game. Press and repeat until soaked in blood.
They try to solve the repetition problem by offering up a wide array of different weapons. Through the story you unlock various weapons that are given to you (such as the bow and the claw) or by unlocking them through level scavenging to collect golden scarabs. It’s a quick fix that doesn’t last long despite the ability to unlock more moves through the gathering of “karma” (obtained by performing combos and brutal attacks) and unlocking skills. You can also unlock costumes for Ryu and Ayane for the two missions you get to play as her with said karma.
With a story that only lasts five to eight hours; the only thing left to keep you coming back to the game is the multiplayer and challenge levels. Unfortunately, none of these will keep you coming back for long. The multiplayer is made up of deathmatch or co-op trial challenges and some limited character customizing (colors, kanji, faces, etc.). At the end of the trials or deathmatch, you get karma which unlocks more skills. The other set of trials are based on the story mode levels and can be played as Ryu, Ayane, Momiji, or Kasumi. Each character has their own set of unlockable abilities and costumes.
When the Razor’s Edge is returned to its sheath you realize that the game isn’t terrible, it’s just not that good. It’s average at best and is worth a play if you can find it for cheap and want to just experience some bloody ninja action and don’t mind repetition or cheesy over the top storylines with confused characters. Hopefully, Team Ninja will learn from the shortcomings of this entry and come back with some better ninjitsu in the future.