The precision and intensity you expect from a master ninja... mostly.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
is the game that fans of the series wanted and finally (most likely) on the systems they wanted it. I enjoyed Razor's Edge
when I played it back in November on Wii U
, and now playing it on the PS3 is no less enjoyable. (As a matter of fact, I'm a much better player now, owing to having had hands on the controls before.)
The story of Ninja Gaiden 3
has to do with a terrorist cult that curses Ninja Master Ryu Hayabusa with a really veiny, slightly poorly rendered arm. In fact, the game looks very arcade-oriented, with super-flat surfaces and bland models that allow for a lot of enemies on screen but without a terrible amount of detail. The super veiny-ness sometimes makes you go into a fiery rage of death-dealing called "The Grip of Murder" while your health winds down and can only be restored by killing enemies. This is apparently supposed to make the player contemplate how Ryu is basically a walking human Cuisinart and how bad that is. Read: This Is Not Important. Really, the story makes about as much sense as a Resident Evil
game with characters who have the depth of cardboard cut-outs.
But that's not why you play a Ninja Gaiden
game; no, you play it for the ability to dismember people, the punishing difficulty, and the experience of playing a technical fighter in a brawler-style game. Kratos, for one, would not survive here. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
delivers on these promises. The difficulty is intense, though it features a no-fail "Hero" mode that will auto-block or slide when your health reaches critical lows.
Did I mention sliding? It's your best friend, and the way out of being surrounded by a screen full of enemies. Blocking is a-thing-that-you-can-do that the game will tell you to do every time you take a hit, but the sliding dash is the key here (as if the designers played Vanquish
and decided that those rocket knee pads were the bee's knees). You dash in and dismember some guys with some quick attacks followed by strong ones to combo, then dash out before the next seven guys fill a vacuum around you.
on X360 and PS3 shares the same primary issues that it had on the Wii U: a bad camera in tight corridors and when too many enemies are on the screen. When I played the game on the Wii-U I had a particularly difficult time with a the boss fight at the end of the first Ayane level. Here that problem is no less diminished (I just sucked less as a player and was better able to compensate) and it can be easy to find oneself accidentally attacking an enemy you didn't intend (perhaps just offscreen) who the auto-targeting system locked onto.
One place where Razor's Edge
on current-gen consoles is worse than the Wii U version is the annoyance of the L3 button being mapped to weapon selection. This is both redundant and frustrating, because weapon selection is already mapped to the D-pad. While trying particularly hard to dash away from a ferocious attack if you accidentally press too hard, you end up instead selecting between your different Ninpo abilities or weapons. Then as you exit the selection screen, you either need to try to dash again, block, or (more likely) take a hit from a lowly grunt.
The most important moves in Ryu's repertoire are the Steel-on-Bone attacks. These instant kill attacks have been redesigned from the original game so that when an enemy attempts a grab attack (in which they appear to glow red), if Ryu slides out the way and then attacks, before the glow fades, he'll cleave them in two and anyone else in the direct vicinity. This is particularly useful in later sections where you fight transforming enemies like the Chimera and larger demons or "gods."
As in the original game, Ninpo is now a special attack that can be used after a mana bar fills from striking down enemies, and refills life. Repeated use of combos and multiple strikes in quick succession will activate Ryu's bloodlust, which will allow you to do an ultimate attack that usually dispatches two standard enemies in a blood-red rage fueled attack. However, if you decide not to use the ultimate attack, a combo multiplier will appear that increases the amount of karma (experience points used to buy upgrades) Ryu receives during a combat set piece. As you level Ryu up, former bosses become mini-bosses or even members of the regular enemy set, which gives a feeling of accomplishment.
One thing I noticed this time around is the importance of collecting Golden Scarabs and doing crystal skull challenges. I skipped a fair number of these the first time I played on the Wii U and now regret it, not because they particularly enhance gameplay, but the number of Golden Scarabs you find increases the number of optional weapons and upgrades available (especially increasing the amount of health Hayabusa has available). Similarly, the crystal skull challenges give you the opportunity to fight in more sustained battles in virtual reality environments with multiple enemies to receive more karma, making it easier to level Ryu up, which helps with the difficulty.
Outside of the main campaign are challenge modes including co-op run-throughs of individual levels, co-op challenge maps with specific enemies, and competitive multiplayer. The multiplayer gives you Ryu's basic moveset with the ability to level it up as you progress and a limited number of flaming arrows for your bow (with more placed around the multiplayer maps, usually). The competitive multiplayer tends to be fast and brutal, but with quick respawns and fairly small maps for a lot of ridiculous bloodletting and splashy violence.
Ninja Gaiden: Razor's Edge
is now available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and the Wii U. If you're hankering for some highly difficult, ninja-dismemberment action that prizes precision play, it's a pretty good buy. If high difficulty annoys you or you prefer to play as a damage-tank who can soak a lot of hits, avoid at all costs. Even then, where else are you going to get to fight a Tyrannosaurus Rex whose body turns to liquid metal halfway through the fight?
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PS3 version. Also available on Xbox 360.