Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge - Review

When Ninja Gaiden 3 hit the shelves in early 2012, a lot of fans were hesitant to buy it. It was the first game in the series to not be directed by Tomonobu Itagaki, who is a fan of challenging games, and because of that most people felt it would be terrible; well, they were half right. Ninja Gaiden 3 was NOT a true Ninja Gaiden game. The game was a lot easier, the alternate weapons were taken away to focus on the Dragon Sword, there was no upgrade or progression system, the game's core mechanics were completely revamped, and they even removed the collectible items and hidden challenges that used to be hidden throughout the stages.

Although Ninja Gaiden 3 wasn't a bad action game on its own, the fact that it was a NINJA GAIDEN game is what really hurt it. If it were a stand alone game not related to any other series, it could have done fine; however when you make a sequel to a game, fans are going to expect it to be a true sequel. So, in short, Ninja Gaiden 3 is not a true Ninja Gaiden game, and it is not the sequel fans have been waiting for since Ninja Gaiden 2.

After seeing how bad Ninja Gaiden 3 was received, the team at Team Ninja decided to do whatever they could to fix it. They saw their mistake, and they decided to use the upcoming Wii U version of the game to make things right. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is the newest version of Ninja Gaiden 3, and it IS a true Ninja Gaiden game. Team Ninja has done everything they could to transform their old game into a game worthy of being called a Ninja Gaiden game, and they have also included a few unexpected extras as well. Still, does all of this mean Razor's Edge is a good game? Will Ninja Gaiden 2 Master Ninja Mode vets approve of it? Well, how about we find out?

It's time to relive Ryu's Story:

The story in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is still in fact the same story we saw with the original game, but with a few twists here and there. The game opens up with Ryu being contacted by two people from the Japanese government. Apparently London is under attack by some unknown terrorists, and it seems that their target is actually none other than Ryu Hayabusa. Although it really isn't clear why these people are after Hayabusa, they are holding hostages, and their only demand was in fact "bring us Ryu Hayabusa."

Not wanting to risk anything, Ryu decides to head to London himself to join the fight; however once he arrives things don't go quite the way he planned. I turns out the hostages are dead, and the only person left standing in the room alive was a strange man in a red coat. After challenging Ryu to a fight, the strange man then allows Ryu to stab him, and then uses Ryu's Dragon Sword to put a curse on him. All of the pain and suffering from all the people Ryu's Dragon Sword has slain gathers in Ryu's arm, and slowly begins eating him from the inside out. Soon after the city is bombed, and Ryu barely makes it out alive.

The very next day Ryu is at it again, and doing everything he can to stop the terrorists. Although he doesn't know who they are, it is very clear that they are very powerful people, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal; whatever that goal might be. In the end, Ryu once again finds himself fighting to save the world, but this time he's also fighting to save himself.

Although this story does in fact remain mostly unchanged, there are a few minor differences as well. Some scenes, such as Ryu's pointless murder in level 1, have been removed, and we also get to see some behind the scenes story points while playing as the new character Ayane. These minor changes are pretty minor, but they do help flesh out the story and clear up some unexplained plot holes in the original.

Picking up the Dragon Sword for a second try:

Just like the rest of the Ninja Gaiden series, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is an action adventure game, with an extremely deep combat system, and very challenging enemies to fight. Although the game has a wide verity of game modes you can play on (with Hero being the easiest and Ultimate Ninja being the hardest), Ninja Gaiden is just a flat out challenging game whatever way you look at it. Unlike most action games now days, this isn't a game you can button mash on and expect to win, and it may take you months of actual training before you can take on Ultimate Ninja. Still these things are what make Ninja Gaiden games Ninja Gaiden, and why they are loved by so many fans.

The Combat and Weapon Systems -

The biggest part of the modern Ninja Gaiden games is the combat system. Like with Team Ninja's fighting series Dead or Alive, the modern games feature a very deep combat system with hundreds of moves and combos for you to learn. While at the start of the game Ryu only has access to a very large handful of moves he can preform, as the game goes on (and you upgrade weapons) more become unlocked.

Although the combat system only uses a few buttons (Y for fast attack, X for strong attack, A for throwing sherkins, B for jumping, LZ for blocking, and RZ for shooting your bow), you can pull off a lot of different moves and combos based on what movements Ryu is actually doing. For example, while some basic combos will require you to be standing still, you can pull off other combos by moving forward, sliding, jumping, or even by running or jumping off of walls. Every single action has a completely move list to go along with it, and it's up to you to decide just how you are going to use these moves.

Every single enemy in the game also has their own fighting style, and they will also all fight you to the death. In Ninja Gaiden even the weakest enemy in the game can kill you in no time, and because of that you have to fight them with EVERYTHING you've got! Enemies will block, dodge, and counter your attacks, and you will have to do the very same thing as you also try to hit them with your combos and kill them. Basically the combat system is a lot like a combat system you will see in a fighter, and because of that you will have to FIGHT as if it were a fighter. Although you really won't have to worry about memorizing combos in easy mode, if you go onto the harder settings mastering your weapons will become key to surviving.

Unlike the original, Razor's Edge also has a wide verity of weapons for you to pick from, and every single one of them has their own fighting style. Just like in a fighter, everyone who plays Ninja Gaiden will most likely find a fighting style that suits them, and then stick with it and slowly master it. For example, the Dragon Sword's fighting style is a well balanced style with fast movements and a pretty strong attack, but then you've got weapons like the scythe that has a wider hitting range and high attack power, but is also slower. Not everyone will actually like every weapon this game has to offer, but that's to be expected.

Projectiles also play a major part in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and because of that some bosses HAVE to be fought using them. While in past games weapons such as your bow were mostly used for ranged enemies, and because of that you actually had to find arrows; however that's not the case here. In Razor's Edge you have unlimited ammo, and your bow will auto lock onto the nearest enemy. Although this may seem like it will take the challenge out of the game, it really doesn't. Most enemies block arrows no problem, and even then the shots really don't do as much damage as your standard weapons do; however it still has its uses against normal enemies. Just like with the shurikens, the bow can be used to help slow down enemy movements, which will then allow you to reach them for some combos. By mixing up your attacks between projectiles and melee attacks, you can actually create quite large combos, control the crowd around you, and score a high score!

The final major combat feature in Razor's Edge is another system that the original changed; the Ultimate Technique system. In the first two modern games you could hold your strong attack button, charge up a powerful Ultimate Technique, and then watch Ryu slaughter just about everything around him. The system made some fights a bit easier, but it did take awhile to charge it; however 3 changed that. In the original NG3 you actually had to HOPE that Ryu's arm would start glowing red, and THEN you could use it! The system was pretty random, and you really didn't have much control over it! The good news is though, they did in fact fix it for Razor's Edge.

Just like in the first two modern games, in Razor's Edge you can hold down the strong attack button, charge up your Ultimate Technique, and then unleash it on the enemies around you; however there are two major differences this time around. While in the first two killing enemies dropped yellow spheres which would charge your UT to max, Razor's Edge has nothing like that. Enemies no longer drop items, or healing items, and because of that you are actually forced to wait and charge the UT yourself. Sure the random glowing arm is still in there as well, but it's actually more useful as a score multiplier than anything else (when your arm glows red, you gain a score bonus).

The Moves of a Ninja -

As I mentioned above, Hayabusa has a wide verity of moves to preform outside of his standard combat moves. By holding LZ Ryu will pull off his most important move of the entire game; his blocking move! While in this state Ryu will deflect most attacks that come his way, but not all of them can actually be blocked. Just like in fighters, blocks can be broken with grab moves and heavy hitting attacks, so that's when it's better to use two of Ryu's other very important moves. His slide, his parry, and his jump.

While blocking Ryu cannot move like normal, but instead he can preform a slide to dash out of danger's way, he can jump out of the way, or he can pull off his parry move. By hitting an attack button the moment an enemy's attack hits your sword, Ryu will preform a counter that will deal massive damage! All three of these moves are a very important aspect of blocking, and all three will actually take quite a lot of time to master. Simply dashing and jumping around will most likely get you killed, while being off with your parry timing will do the very same.

Like in past games, Ryu can also run up walls and jump off of them to reach higher areas. Although the wall running moves actually aren't used as much in this game as they were in the older ones, there are still quite a few hidden areas that can only be accessed by pulling off some specific jumps in the right place. These sections of the game do add a bit to the platforming aspect of Ninja Gaiden, but they really aren't anything major. To go along with the wall running feature, there are also sections where Hayabusa will have to wall jump between two walls to climb a building or cliff, and there are also sections where he will use his knives to scale walls. Although the latter was one of the features many people disliked in the original, Team Ninja decided to go ahead and leave them in, but they did cut back on them drastically.

The Falcon Dive is another new feature which was added into the original game, but it's also something we've been seeing Hayabusa do for quite some time. The Falcon Dive is when Ryu jumps off of a high point, glides through the air, and then normally stabs someone on his way down. This is one of his moves he has been pulling off in cutscenes for years, but Ninja Gaiden 3 is actually the first game to allow us to use it! Although the sections of the game where you can use this are scripted in story mode, it can be freely used in the online modes by simply jumping off of a higher area. Although it really doesn't add too much to the game-play, it is a pretty cool feature, and one of Ryu's signature moves.

Dismemberment and Steel on Bone -

One of the biggest complaints about Ninja Gaiden 3 was the removal of dismemberment, which was basically replaced with the Steel on Bone mechanic. In Ninja Gaiden 2, whenever you did enough damage to enemies you could actually cut off parts of their bodies. Once this happened you could then press your strong attack button to pull off an obliteration technique which would finish them off in a single hit. Although it may not seem like it, enemies who are missing parts of their body were actually stronger, and they would often use suicide attacks to finish you off; so it was always better to finish them off the moment you could.
When fans found out this system was removed from Ninja Gaiden 3, they were pretty angry. The dismemberment system was a deep part of the combat system in Ninja Gaiden 2, and by removing it in 3 the combat became so much simpler; however that's not an issue anymore! Razor's Edge features the return of the dismemberment system, just how it was in Ninja Gaiden 2! You can cut off parts of enemies' bodies, and they will try and grab you to finish you off with a suicide attack. It's a system that really works well, and there really was no reason for Team Ninja to change it in the first place.

Although Steel on Bone was the replacement for it in Ninja Gaiden 3, the Steel on Bone mechanic still remains in Razor's Edge as well! Whenever an enemy is about to pull off a strong charged attack, which is a lot like Ryu's Ultimate Technique, they will begin to glow red and charge at you. When this happens, you have a split second to act, or you will most likely be killed! By hitting your strong attack (X) you can stop them in their tracks, cut through their body, and then one hit kill any near by enemy just the same. This move is what they call the "Steel on Bone Technique" and it actually becomes a very important system to use when you're shooting for a high Karma Score.

Ninpo Magic -

Unlike in the original, which only had a screen clearing fire dragon, brings back the different Ninpo magic most fans have come to know and love from Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2; however there's still only three types to pick from. By landing combos and killing enemies you can build up a magic bar below your health bar, and then unleash a Ninpo attack once it's maxed out. These moves range from throwing fire balls at the enemies around you, sending shock waves of wind that cut up everything they hit, to shooting a charged plasma ball across the screen. Each one of these Ninpo attacks has their own uses, but one of the biggest use isn't an attack at all! They can be used to heal!

Since Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge doesn't feature any items, the only way to heal in this game is either by reaching a save point, using a healing skill (which I'll cover a little bit later in this review), or by hitting enemies with your magic. This actually makes the game a little bit more challenging than past Ninja Gaiden games where you could simply stock up on your health items, and it requires you to really think about how you want to use your magic. Sure you could use it to kill the strong enemies by you, but what if you're at full health? Do you really want to use your magic when you're at full health? These are the types of questions you will be asking yourself, and it's up to you to decide what is best.

The magic bar also has a few other uses, but, once again, I'll be talking about them below.

Karma and the Upgrade Shop:

The Karma Scoring system has returned once again, but this time things are a little bit different. Just like in past games you have a Karma Score which goes up based on how well you play through the level, but unlike in past games it also has an actual use! Karma Points earned in game can actually be used in an in game shop (which can be accessed by hitting the select button) where you can buy a wide verity of powers and upgrades. Some of these upgrades are actually completely new moves to the series, which use magic to be preformed. An example of such moves would be the self healing skill, as well as the skill that allows you to warp out of harm's way.

While in the original game Ryu's equipment basically stayed the same from start to finish, this time around you actually have to upgrade your equipment to unlock more moves, weapons, magic, and to even gain more health! Although some upgrades are already unlocked in the shop and ready to buy once you gain enough points, this isn't the case for all of them. For example if you want to gain more health, you'll actually have to find the hidden golden scarabs that are hidden throughout the game. Every so often a golden scarab will unlock a new upgrade for you to buy, and if you want to even stand a chance on the harder modes, finding scarabs to increase your health will become key.

Although scarabs do unlock some upgrades, other upgrades are actually unlocked in the shop as the story progresses. These upgrades include weapons, and even extra costumes (which was another extra feature missing from the original game).

Extra Challenges:

In past Ninja Gaiden games, you could access extra challenges which would be hidden in each stage, and Razor's Edge is no different! Besides hidden golden scarabs, crystal skulls can be found as well, and each one of these will provide you with challenging waves of enemies, as well as an extra boss from the past. These challenges are actually CHALLENGES, and they really help add to the difficulty of the game! Although you really don't lose anything from failing a challenge, by clearing them you will gain massive Karma bonuses, which will be well worth it if you want to unlock everything in the shop; such as them costumes.

New Characters and the New Chapter Challenge Mode:

One of the biggest reasons people bought Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was for it's Chapter Challenge mode. In Chapter Challenge you could replay any level from the main story mode with any weapon you wanted, with the goal of trying to clear each level with the highest score possible. It was a really nice extra, and it also allowed you to replay your favorite levels without having to restart the story mode. Well, guess what? They brought it back, and they improved it!

This time around Chapter Challenge mode is HUGE, and almost a game of its own! Besides being able to play as Ryu Hayabusa, Ayane from Dead or Alive can be used in Chapter Challenge as well, and not just in her story missions either! Yep, that's right! Once you unlock Ayane from playing her first story mission early on in the game, she becomes unlocked as a playable character in EVERY mission in chapter challenge mode! And wait, that isn't all! Not only has Ayane been added into the game, but Momiji from Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has been added in as a playable character, and so has Kasumi from Dead or Alive!

This marks the first time ever that players are able to use Ayane and Momiji outside of their levels, and the very first time Kasumi has been playable outside of the Dead or Alive series! Each of these characters have their very own fighting style, and they also all have their own Karma shop and unlockables as well! This really helps add a LOT of replay value to this game, and will give you a reason to come back for more. With five different difficulty settings, four different characters (one of which has many different weapons to pick from), and a Karma shop for each character on each difficulty, you could easily spend hundreds of hours trying to clear them all, and to unlock everything for everyone on each setting.

Although the biggest feature for the extra characters is in fact their Chapter Challenge mode, that isn't their only use! The extra characters, including Ryu, can also be used in Shadow of the World's Ninja Trials.

Shadow of the World:

Shadow of the World was an extra game mode which was a lot like a game of its own in the original. In this mode you could create your own custom ninja, level them up, and then take them either online for the death match modes or you could head into the Ninja Trials. The good news is, Razor's Edge still includes this mode, and it is better than ever!

Custom Ninja -

The Custom Ninja is actually the biggest feature of Shadow of the World, and it allows you to customize your character to your liking. When you first start Shadow of the World your ninja has nothing. They have a basic sword with a few basic combos, they can only hold so many arrows and shurikens, their health is very low, and they basically have no skills. By using your ninja however, you earn Karma points which can then be spent in the shop just like in the real game. As you play in clan battles and fight your way through trials, your ninja will level up, more skills and abilities will become unlocked in the shop, and you can then buy said abilities to customize your ninja. The shop has a wide verity of weapons, abilities, and even costumes for you to buy, and it really helps you personalize your character.

Clan Battles -

Clan Battles are just what you might expect them to be; they are death match modes where you go up against other players! Ninja Gaiden is a combat based game which plays a lot like a fighter, so it's only natural for there to be a death match mode! Basically, that's all this is. You enter a map, you fight the other players, and sometimes the game will even give you a goal to completely to earn some extra points (such as to preform the Izuna Drop to finish someone off). It's a really nice extra, and it really helps add to the game's replayability.

Ninja Trials -

Ninja Trials also make their return, and once again THEY ARE CHALLENGING! Ninja Trials are basically waves of enemies you must defeat, and they tend to be much harder than they are during the main game. There are many different trials with many different difficulty settings to go through, and they can either be played solo or on co-op with either the game's main characters, or with your own custom ninja. This feature was actually the best part of the original game, and it is still an amazing feature in this improved version as well.

The Game Pad:

Although it's a major feature for the Wii U, the Game Pad is actually the last thing I wanted to talk about. The thing is, the Game Pad in this game really doesn't add too much, and is more along the lines of just an optional feature. Since Ninja Gaiden 3 can actually be played with the Pro Controller, which I would recommend, you don't even have to use the Game Pad if you don't want to; however it IS an option.
Basically, as you play with the Game Pad, a list of Ryu's combos and moves will show up, and that's about it. By default it's just used for your move list, and it can also be used to buy things from the shop; however it does have a much more useful second use. Ninja Gaiden 3 can actually be played COMPLETELY on the Game Pad, and that actually has it's uses.

Now it should go without saying but this game is a bloody game, there's strong language, and it just isn't something kids should be playing; however a lot of players might actually HAVE that issue. Some may be parents with kids of their own, some might have younger family members, or maybe there's just company over. Either way, NG3 might not be a game you want everybody seeing/hearing, and that's where the Game Pad comes in. By using the Game Pad, and head phones, you'll have a personal screen, and you won't have to worry about anyone else in the house (and you can even then watch TV)! Although this feature may not be useful for everyone, I'm sure there will be people out there who will use it for this very reason. Heck, I have.

The Good and the Bad:

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is the game we should have got back in early 2012. It plays a lot like Ninja Gaiden 2, it is challenging, it has an amazing Chapter Challenge mode, the extra characters are something a lot of fans have been wishing for for years, it has a pretty good story, just about all of the fan favorite weapons are back, the upgrade system came back, they added the different types of magic back in, the online modes and Ninja Trials are great, the dismemberment system was added back in, the Ultimate Technique system was fixed, the new voice cast really fits the characters, and the graphics look amazing! This game is just about everything fans hoped for, and it really doesn't have many flaws; however that doesn't mean there aren't any.

The thing is, this game is NOT Ninja Gaiden 2, and some people may have a hard time accepting that. Some features which were present in the past versions of the games, such as the item system, are still missing, and the combat system in general will still feel a little bit different. Although these changes are pretty minor, vet Ninja Gaiden 2 players are sure to notice it's differences, and they may even have a hard time accepting them (as for myself, I adjusted just fine, since it really wasn't much different from the jump from Ninja Gaiden/Black/Sigma to 2). The other thing that I felt kind of held the game back was the lack of verity in some of the levels. Ninja Gaiden 3 features NO water levels, and I always thought that was one of the unique parts of the other two games.

The final issue I had with this game is an issue that new comers to the series will not realize, while long time fans will complain about as well, and that's the lack of different enemy types. Now don't get me wrong! This game is actually filled with a lot of different enemies, and they are challenging! However, it is no where near as big of a verity as the past games had. While in Ninja Gaiden 2 every single level featured a new set of enemies to fight, Razor's Edge is a bit slower with this progression, with newer enemy types showing up just about every other level. It really isn't too big of a deal, but I know some people will have problems with it. (At least there's a lot more types than the original Ninja Gaiden 3 had!) Also, once again it really isn't that big of a deal, but the incendiary shurikens units from Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, now throw bombs instead of incendiary shurikens.

So in the end, despite its few flaws, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is an AMAZING game, and one that is sure to make a lot of people happy! It is a worthy sequel to Ninja Gaiden 2, and it's Chapter Challenge mode (with the new characters) is sure to make you keep coming back for more!

Personally this game is one of my favorite releases on the Wii U which I WOULD rate 10/10, but it does have it's flaws. Besides a few glitches which may be patched in a future update, this game doesn't have any real game breaking issues, but at the same time it isn't perfect. In the end I give Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge a 9/10!

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