There's no beating around the bush; Ninja Gaiden 3's first debut was messy. When it arrived on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it was savagely ripped apart from both fans and critics alike. Gone were the aspects that made the series what it was, and why so many consider it the grandfather of modern hack-and-slash games. The combat was shallow and Ryu was largely unresponsive. The AI also was far too easy and very formulaic and the weapon variety severed to one single weapon for the entire game. To make matters worse it was riddled with quick-time events. This certainly wasn't the Ninja Gaiden game people were expecting, but that however, did not crush Team Ninja's ambition.
Taking all the feedback on board, their next task was to fix their errors, to right their wrongs. And what better place to do so than as one of a new console's launch title's under the guise of Ninja Gaiden: Razor's Edge. The question is, does this second bout deliver? Or is it simply just wasted effort in polishing a rusty sword?
This will be more of an unorthodox review. We've played the story in our original review and know what the game is about. This review seeks to answer the question of whether or not Team Ninja succeeded in recreating Ninja Gaiden 3 and ultimately, whether or not it's worth your time to play, or in some cases, return to.
Team Ninja certainly addressed many, but not all of the criticisms the first iteration received. One of the most significant changes made was the fact that Ryu was actually responsive; his recovery has been shortened allowing players to cancel into a dodge or block as the situation demands.
The AI has received a significant overhaul, making them more aggressive. They will also now perform new moves, which makes the whole game much more difficult. Now, normal seems like a challenge. For the masochists, it's good when a game tells them they aren't good enough yet.
Combat has been redesigned to have a more technical feel. Enemies now have more stagger animations and charge attacks have increased in speed, reducing the time for a charge. Ninpo is still earned throughout the game, however you can conserve your charge between encounters now. There are six weapons available to Ryu right from the get go. They've added a new ability called "Four Rings", which is a shuriken attack that has a 360 degree area of effect.Karma has been redesigned so it is used now as both currency and as a point system. Karma can be used to purchase upgrades and Ninpo, as well as unique combat abilities and in-game costumes. Bosses now have life gauges and you can see their health on the bottom of the screen.
Golden Scarabs "“ a favourite collectible of the older games "“ has returned, and Crystal Skulls from Ninja Gaiden 2 are scattered about each stage offering an instant karma bonus. To continue with this theme, they've finally added Ayame as a playable character, complete with her own unique missions. On top of all this, it appears to have a slight visual upgrade in terms of lighting and not much else:
Even more unique to the Wii U version is its Gamepad integration. While some games include a mini-map displayed on the Gamepad's screen, a game as linear as Ninja Gaiden 3 wouldn't really have much use for it. Instead, it offers a complete move set available to see.
For a combo-driven game, it's a great touch to be able to readily see what combos you want to pull off. On top of that, there are touch inputs that get you into the upgrade menu, use your Ninpo, or even change your weapons all through the use of the screen. These aren't mandatory changes, nor are they something that was needed, but it certainly is a clever implementation of Nintendo's new controller, and it works well. Of course of the Gamepad itself is a turn-off for players, the game supports the use of the Pro Controller.
Unfortunately, this is not a perfect port, nor is it a without its set of problems. One of the most persistent issues in a Ninja Gaiden game is its camera, and its tendency to have a mind of its own. That problem still exists in Razor's Edge. Fighting enemies at certain angles may result in the camera swiveling around to your disadvantage, as an enemy out of sight will still attack. Luckily there is a button to center your camera behind Ryu, so you can technically correct it, it's just still a nuisance.
Despite the Wii U having a very impressive graphics processing unit, it still seems that developers were relying too heavily on the CPU, which has been reported as running very slow. Because of this, we see frame rate slow down whenever there are too many enemies on the screen. It's a real disappointment, considering that this is a next-generation system.
It's not much, and it doesn't deter you from the experience, nevertheless it's noticeable and worth noting. Once developers start to understand the architecture, we'll be able to see the full potential of the Wii U. As it stands, Razor's Edge won't wow audiences with its visual difference, but as a game, based on the merits of how the game performs; it is by and large superior to its former self in nearly every way.
Overall, if you have a Wii U and are looking for titles to show off, this may not be a title to show off the potential of what the Wii U can do. If you're looking for the best version of Ninja Gaiden 3, this is absolutely your answer. The changes made to the game's mechanics make it clear that Team Ninja saw the flaws present in the original version, and did just about everything they could to make Razor's Edge stand out as the best form of Ninja Gaiden 3.
|Completely redesigned combat system|
|AI that's reminiscent of the older games|
|Ayame as a playable character|
|Wonky camera at times|
|Frame rate issues|
|Not the visual upgrade many people would have been expecting.|