Review: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Sony Playstation 3)

coverNinja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: Action
Release Date: 04/02/2013

Ninja Gaiden
on the NES was probably one of my favorite titles that I was never terribly good at but had a blast playing.  When they came out with new versions that eventually hit the PS3 the talk of how difficult they were kind of scared me off from them.  I’ve gotten picky in my old age and actually prefer games I can beat even if it’s on the incredibly easy difficulty. With the Sigma editions came an easier mode but I just never got around to trying them.  Ninja Gaiden 3 was released and I was too busy with my obsession with Commander Shepard to really notice.  It wasn’t wildly popular with fans and critics, but it ended up getting a port to the WiiU as a launch title for that system with the Razor’s Edge moniker including the DLC and a co-op mode.  I figured I’d give this one a go round and see what the director of the Sigma titles was bringing to the table. 

The game once again centers around Ryu Hayabusa, taking place an unspecified amount of time after Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2.  Ryu has taken to seclusion and is approached by the Japanese Defense Force about a threat impending.  He has no interest in it, wanting them to deal with their own problems, except, they tell him these people are gunning for him.  This sparks a world over romp as Ryu goes on the offensive against the people looking to use him for some darker purpose, getting cursed in the process, needing blood from fresh kills to keep himself going.  Ayane shows up to help and does her own side missions that you get access to as you play through the main story line.  It’s as good a reason as any, and while not mind-blowing, the plot is at least passable. It feels a bit generic except for the varying set pieces that make this more like a Ninja Gaiden game with boss fights and the like. 

01They do try to get you to care about what’s happening with Ryu and about his new friend with the Defense Force, but it often falls a little flat as the cutscenes involving them with the down time between days can seem a little forced or drag on for a bit.  When it’s working it does work great, but when it’s awkward and slow you find yourself debating whether to skip it or not, but then there’s that trophy to think about.  It’s not bad, but it does feel way too B-movie at times which can be ok but not when you’re looking for something more substantial from what is supposed to be the ultimate version of the game.

There is an online component and also an option to go back through the main campaign and play as other characters to try and up your score.  While I could never get enough people seemingly to play the Clan Battles which are player on player, I do play at odd times because of my work schedule, I could get into the Ninja Trials which team you up with another person to get through several waves of ever-increasingly strong enemies using your skills to break through.  You start out there with an unnamed ninja but characters like Ayane can be unlocked to play as well. The Ninja Trials were where I had my most fun with the game.

02Visually the game looks good to a point, but then you start to notice little cracks in the paint.  While animations look great and the characters look well detailed, in combat it never feels like anything you’re fighting or even your character has any weight to them.  Yes I know they’re supposed to be Ninja and move like lightning, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have weight.  It feels too clean, like there’s no meat to it even as you’re cutting off limbs with your weapons and blood is spraying everywhere.  It just feels like it doesn’t pack enough punch.  This is especially coming off from having played games like the new Tomb Raider and Darksiders where combat has a weight to it.  You can feel it as you’re going through.  This felt very clinical to me and a lot of that fits in with the visual animation of all the characters.  The other is the environments.  They’re too clean.  Even when you’re in a bombed out area, there’s not enough rubble, or the buildings feel too clean without much detail.  Even being the second revision of Ninja Gaiden 3 the game feels somewhat unpolished in this respect which is a shame because you can really see the potential.  My other complaint would be the ‘breast physics’ which seem to run on their own altered version of reality that ignores how things really move on the human body. And it’s the same complaint I’d have about Dead or Alive 5.  Real women don’t move that way.  It’s distracting and not in a good way.

The audio on one hand is pretty good and at other times, mainly during cutscenes or transitions from one area to the next, is kind of off.  My problems are from the audio itself that seems to be either too low or too loud and never quite in tune with what’s on screen.  There’s a rail sequence on a subway car where you’re getting shot at by helicopters that looks ok visually but the explosions feel anemic.  There’s no audio punch to them.  You can hear them but they’re way softer than anything else.  Then you get into combat less than a minute later and Ryu’s swords are making more noise than the explosions just did.  Troy Baker does a good job bringing Ryu to life and Ali Hillis as well as Mizuki, Ryu’s ‘handler’ from the Defense Force. The voice actors and the music are really the better points here away from the combat sections which sound very visceral.  

03Like the previous Ninja Gaiden games, your basic attack structure is formed around two buttons, one for stronger longer attacks, and one for shorter rapid fire attacks. From there you’ve got combinations and jumps and so on. It’s all pretty basic and if you mash buttons fast enough, even if you have no clue what you’re doing, at the easy setting you’ll be more than ok. There’s a climbing section and sections where you have to do a series of jumps just like in the original NES game which gave me a big nostalgia kick in the pants right there. What got me really irritated was the bow you’re forced to use on targets that are just completely out of your range. While you’re doing all this fast paced ninja attacking jumping from target to target, severing limbs, chopping heads, suddenly the game moves to a crawl as you pull this bow out and try to aim it at targets and actually hit them. Yes the game will automatically pick targets in your line of sight, but if I want the guy up top, locking onto the ground guy kicking my ass while I try to shoot the guy with the rocket launcher that hurts more, this is an issue. You can fire as much as you like with the bow, but to the guys on the ground you have to slice and dice, you may as well be firing toothpicks. It works well on the guys shooting rockets at you, including aircraft, and that’s about it.

Most of the game is you fighting people on foot, many-on-one as you carve your way through levels with the weapons and other attacks at your disposal. There are a few climbing sessions and the boss battles are interesting ranging from other high powered individuals like Ryu to giant spider-tanks and even monstrous flying missile carrying jets you leap from buildings to carve up. Ayane’s sections break things up as you’re moving through the game, but her gameplay is relatively identical to Ryu’s on foot time, even sharing levels with different bad guys, there’s just less of it for her. After you beat it you can go back in and play with other characters through any of the chapters.

04The Ninja Trials you can play on your own, but it’s far more fun and a bit easier to do with an actual other person, friend or random pugger, to take them on with. You can chose between unlocked characters which you really can’t modify all that much or your unnamed ninja who you can pretty much customize as much as you can Ryu and the others in the main campaign. There is a bit of an experience system in place and you spend it to unlock bigger and better weapons, abilities, and you can also collect hidden items to gain more weapons as well. There really isn’t much difference between the weapons other than style as I could work with the sword, hand blades or stick pretty well either way.

With four difficulty settings, the ability to go back and replay chapters as different characters, several online modes, and the usual trophy system, there are a number of reasons to keep playing or at least coming back.  This is especially true if you want to play on the harder difficulty level, Master Ninja, as it’s locked until you finish the game on Hard.  While certainly not my favorite story in the world, going back to replay with other characters and especially the trials mode both online and off has its appeal.  Despite my misgivings about repetition and not feeling the impact and the lackluster bow, the game is fun to play when you’re just going to town with your regular weapons.

05One of the better questions I think owners of the previous version of Ninja Gaiden 3 should be asking, is do I really want to drop another $40 down on this game?  Not having owned the previous version, I do think that the price is actually pretty decent for this version of the game if you’re a new owner, but you’d really have to want to play through the campaign again to get the most out of it and just two new areas with Ayane loaded in and the co-op and pvp multiplayer would have to be really worth it to pick it up again if I’d already bought it.  If I was a WiiU owner I’d be a little miffed right now as that version is still going for $60 while this brand new version for the other consoles is re-launching twenty dollars cheaper.  So to sum up, balance wise you do get a decent amount of content for the price, unless you’d already bought the game first time around, then I’d seriously think about it.  The difficulty modes are nice and for someone who just wants to get through Hero mode is about pitch perfect if a tad on the too easy side, even for my tastes.

At this point in the series we’re starting to see revisits of ideas from the NES era of things instead of going wholly original.  While the DLC additions here are nice as well as revamping combat and the trials portions, you’re not looking at anything ground-breaking.  While I do enjoy playing it, it’s not necessarily for the campaign mode.  I found myself enjoying the Trials sections much more as I can pop on and knock out a number of those with a stranger or friend in a half hour and feel accomplished as opposed to slugging through the campaign where I’m forced to use the bow.  It has its ups and downs as far as being addicting. 

06This version more than likely is only going to be appealing to people who never played or owned the first version of Ninja Gaiden 3 or fans who want to give Team Ninja another shot.  If you want a good quality game with all the trimmings, in this case the DLC from first release, the price gets better.  If you were hoping they’d fix some of the issues the original release had then this helps too.  While I like they’re not afraid to revisit the game from first launch and tweak it, I do think this model might be getting a little old with all the Sigma releases and this one on top of it. 

While my first foray into the Ninja Gaiden series in almost twenty years hasn’t been without its flaws, and I may have skipped over the other two games, it has been an interesting look at Ryu and where they’re taking things.  While I think it needed a little more work visually and in the audio department, it’s not a terrible game by any stretch, just feels a little flat compared to other recent action titles that really held my interest.  When your Trials mode holds more interest to me than the campaign, and this coming from someone who loves story modes on action games and usually shuns the multiplayer, then something needs to be tweaked. 

Short Attention Span Summary
While lagging a little bit behind visually and audibly, Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge does manage to make an experience easily accessible to someone who’s never picked up a recent Ninja Gaiden game and is at the same time difficult enough for the fan who likes to be abused by their game.  The extra levels with Ayane in the Campaign are a nice break from the bleak Ryu storyline and the Ninja Trials and other multiplayer sections as well as replaying Campaign chapters with new characters from the series give the game some decent replay value as well.  Being priced lower than the WiiU version this is based on doesn’t hurt, but if you already bought the first version for the PS3 and don’t want to play the campaign again, there isn’t much to bring you back. 


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