When Ninja Gaiden 3 hit shelves last spring, I was one of the very few who really enjoyed the game. I appreciated the throwback to the first games in the series — and I mean the true first games, from the NES era. In those games, Ryu had one weapon, one ninpo spell, and one mission: to kill everything in his way.
But I was in the minority with my assessment of the game. Even though fans of the series agreed with me, both publicly and in private, Ninja Gaiden 3 was the game that critics loved to dump on and Team Ninja was listening.
When the Wii U was announced, Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja took the opportunity to create a new version of Ninja Gaiden 3, which they called Razor’s Edge. They took all of the post-launch DLC and integrated it into the game from the very start. They added new weapons, ninpo spells, and even purchasable skills and costumes. To top it off, Team Ninja added new playable characters with Dead or Alive’s Ayane (who gets her own chapters in the campaign), and Momiji, Ryu Hayabusa’s long-time clan mate, friend, and childhood love* (*though never revealed, their relationship has been heavily hinted at during the course of the series).
Team Ninja also adjusted the narrative, taking out some of the controversial elements, such as the “shoved-down-your-throat” morality play of Ryu as a cold-blooded murderer as opposed to a hero, and most of the blood curse elements were transformed into a more palatable plot point.
Lastly, the developers tweaked the gameplay difficulty after complaints that the bosses in the first version were too easy (something I did not agree with, for what it’s worth).
Now, Ninja Gaiden: Razor’s Edge has made its way to the Xbox 360 and PS3 and fans can finally play they game that they themselves clamored for when Ninja Gaiden 3 was first released.
All of the aforementioned changes align the title closer to the two previous games in the series, and that “throwback” that I mentioned in the opening is now completely gone. Everything that made the original Ninja Gaiden 3 great in my opinion has been changed to accommodate critics who probably don’t even care that Team Ninja knocked this version out of the park. And that they did.
Razor’s Edge is still an amazing game. The dismemberment of enemies is back, so Ryu can easily make a gory, horrific coleslaw out of most adversaries, and the AI is a little better, with the enemies now attacking in groups and even changing attacks after they lose body parts to Ryu’s blade. The action if fierce and brutal and a great way to get out some frustrations and stress, whether by killing waves of enemies, or by throwing your controller at the nearest wall, as both will likely occur.
The additions to the game give it a better all around gaming experience, with a level-up-like progression, giving the player some say in how Ryu advances in skills.
The levels and story are the same (levels are well constructed, story is ludicrous), and the biggest change is in the difficulty of the bosses. It’s almost as if Team Ninja took the complaints of easy boss fights to heart, and then decided to punish us for our transgressions. The boss fights are not only hard, they are ridiculously hard. Again, they weren’t easy the first time, so ramping up the difficulty now is masochism.
Most of the game’s eight chapters can be finished in 30-40 minutes…but then you have to add another 40 minutes in the boss battles alone as you will die. A lot. More than you should. The first major boss, a spider/crab mech thing has three attacks. In the first game, Ryu needed to dodge until there was an opening and then he could attack. In Razor’s Edge, there is no opening. Each of the three attacks is happening at all times, one after another, and without a way to heal (no Herbs or Grains of Spiritual Life to administer mid-battle), the battles are maddening. Luckily, after falling a set number of times, the game will ask if you want to change/lower the difficulty.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge also retains the online multiplayer mode from the first game. Unlike a tacked on feature, the Clan Battles are incredibly fun and addictive. As your ninja gains levels, the skills that he learns are awesome, including a stealth/ghost move that allows the player to kill and enemy without even being seen.
Ninja Trials and chapter challenge rounds out the features. Ninja Trials allows for players to gain levels for their created ninjas, as well as set time, kill, and karma records that can be shared on worldwide leaderboards. There are now 100 Ninja Trial Missions, up from 33 in the original game.
The Chapter Challenge gives the option for levels to be replayed with any of the characters (Ryu, Ayane, Momiji, Kasumi, or the created Nameless Ninja) and levels can even be played co-op.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is an incredible, feature-filled version of a game that I thought was great to begin with. By taking all of the good elements and adding so many new features, Team Ninja has finally created a game that can be played and enjoyed by a larger community of Ninja Gaiden fans. It is more difficult where it needs to be, and too difficult in some places, but no matter how you look at it, this is true Ninja Gaiden game and one not to be missed.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was reviewed for Playstation 3 using a game code provided by Tecmo Koei. It is also available for Xbox 360.
Shop for Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for a discounted price at Amazon.com (April 2, 2013 release date).