Ninja Gaiden 3 was, on all accounts, a failed game. It abandoned almost everything that made the series what it was in favor of a focus on the violence. No one will argue that the extreme violence was one of the things that Ninja Gaiden was known for, but it was hardly ever in the forefront. Looking to capitalize on the idea, Nintendo gave Team Ninja a second chance on the Wii U exclusive re-release: Razor’s Edge.
Although the game still doesn’t fit the bill perfectly, it’s still much better than the horrible release we got earlier this year.
As with all the other Wii U releases that were previously released on other consoles, I invite you all to take a quick glance at my original review of Ninja Gaiden 3. This review will focus on the differences between that release and the new one.
The changes are immediately noticeable upon starting up the game. Beginning combat brings about the old familiar karma counter, the way in which abilities and weapons are upgraded from previous games. The lack of any sort of character progression was one of the biggest complaints of the previous game.
In fact, the game will constantly remind you to look down at the GamePad screen in your hands. There you’ll find a combo reference list that’s largely useless, but also buttons allowing you to activate Ninpo magic, switch weapons and Ninpo on the fly and use the earned karma during battles in order to upgrade your abilities. Structurally, this seems like the Ninja Gaiden game that everyone has been dying for.
On the front end, combat has been smoothed out a bit. It no longer feels like the game essentially plays itself with the mashing of a single button over and over. Although some things are still annoying quick-time events, including the infamous QTE that doesn’t show you what prompt to push, things are much closer to what the other games in the series were like.
It’s still sort of hard to tell what’s going on behind all the blood splatter. It would have been better had they cut down on that. Thankfully Ryu is usually pretty good at helping you find the enemy behind that crimson screen. It doesn’t help that the game looks noticeably worse than the other console counterparts. Backgrounds look sort of washed out and suffer from that weird sort of color-blending effect you get when a computer monitor’s resolution isn’t high enough. There are also a ton of jaggies everywhere. Parts of the game look good; some textures are probably the best I’ve seen on the console so far, but it’s hardly anything to make 360 and PS3 owners jealous.
Razor’s Edge also sees the addition of exclusive weapons and levels featuring the purple-haired ninja Ayane as a playable character. These aren’t necessarily crucial to the story or anything, but it’s nice to see a bit of extra content in addition to the enhancing of the game. Players can also play co-op over Nintendo Network where one player plays as Ryu and the other as Ayane. It works well, except for the fact that the community for the game is barren right now.
This doesn’t help the competitive multiplayer mode either. The multiplayer wasn’t really worth anything the first time around either, but it doesn’t even have a stable community on Wii U. No one plays a Ninja Gaiden game for multiplayer anyway.
If the insane story was something that turned you off of the original game, you won’t find much difference here. You’re still a badass ninja being tortured by a curse and some guy in a mask and being told you need to atone for your sins. There’s still cheesy interactions, there’s still incredibly outlandish twists and there’s still robot dinosaurs that chase you through an army base. There have been a few things changed or removed that felt uncomfortable; the first thing that comes to mind is the awkward scene towards the beginning in which you’re forced to brutally murder a soldier pleading for his life while thinking of his children. But there’s still some great action sequences to be had here, even if it doesn’t quite feel like they meld perfectly with the rest of the game.
Razor’s Edge is a significantly better take on Ninja Gaiden 3 than Ninja Gaiden 3 proper was. The game still isn’t perfect, and there’s a fair share of things to make the average gamer roll their eyes at, but the fact that a hardcore game like this is appearing on a Nintendo console for the first time is a greater thing for the history of the console than most of us probably realize. The fact that it was requested specifically by Nintendo in order to make the Wii U launch speaks volumes for how mature Nintendo is trying to be, and many of the problems here I’m willing to overlook if it means Nintendo finally wants to grow up and be taken seriously.
That being said, this is the best version of Ninja Gaiden 3 available, although that wouldn’t be saying much considering how laughably bad the first version was. Most of the problems here are aesthetic, and can easily be looked past. But for anyone wanting to play a modern Ninja Gaiden game on a console you probably weren’t expecting it on, Razor’s Edge will fit the bill quite nicely.
This review is based on a Wii U copy of the game provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.
It's still not perfect, but Razor's Edge is more of a Ninja Gaiden game than Ninja Gaiden 3 was.