Can I get extra blood with that?
→ November 13, 2012 Much has changed since you may have read some unkind things about Ninja Gaiden 3 earlier this year. In fact, it's not even fair to call the refurbished Razor's Edge a "director's cut." Rather, it's more like a film that's been screen-tested, made changes based on lots of negative feedback, and then released in a significantly different form than it was originally shown. Of course, that makes Xbox and PS3 owners akin to screen-testers who paid $60 for the privilege, but that's another matter. Regardless of whether you're coming to Razor's Edge as a Ninja Gaiden neophyte or a series veteran looking for this franchise to redeem itself, you've come to the right place.
Ninja badass Ryu Hyabusa has slain countless rivals and demons in his day, and that is the foundation of NG3's gameplay. Lightning-quick moves define Ryu, be it with his trusty Dragon Sword or one of the other equally brutal weapons, such as the slicing, dicing Wolverine-esque claws or the slow-but-punishing Scythe, that you unlock over the course of the campaign. Each weapon has its own unique moves purchased with Karma points, which adds a lot of welcome variety to a game that was originally about cutting millions of guys over and over with the same single weapon and the same batch of moves. Doing well in each battle -stringing together combos without being hit, quickly finishing off batches of bad guys - earns you the Karma cash, which is tracked in real-time on the left side of the screen during each fight. It's a bold move for an action game to say to the player, "Hey, I'm watching you. Impress me."
Razor's Edge's pure-action gameplay will certainly impress you. The long odds stacked against Ryu in nearly every situation only serve to make you feel unstoppable as you tear through the opposition, while the scores of gore effects - be it arterial sprays or severed limbs - make each encounter all the more theatrically impressive to your eye. Though the pace of combat is much smoother and faster than the first NG3 release, some moves are still glorified Quick-Time Events, and frustration abounds when Ryu doesn't snap out of an action as fast as it seems like he should.
The addition of Ayane certainly doesn't hurt the game. The crossover cameo from developer Team Ninja's Dead or Alive brawler series lets you lace up the leather bustier of Ryu's equally skilled colleague. She gets her own missions in Razor's Edge, and her faster, nimbler play style serves as both a complement and a refreshing break from Ryu's mainline quest.
No matter who you're in control of, however, Razor's Edge is going to hurt you, badly and often. The Ninja Gaiden series has never been for the faint of heart, and players familiar with the original NG3 release will find that the game's sadistic sense has been restored on the Wii U. Bosses have had their cajones digitally restored, to the point that you should expect to get stuck on some of them for extended amounts of time (between 30 and 60 minutes at the worst, in my experience). Heck, even the regular minions start to get soul-crushingly challenging when the zombies and demons show up about halfway through the campaign. I can almost guarantee you're going to want to hurl your controller across the room at times; a masochistic tilt has always been an unstated requirement to enjoy this series.
Speaking of controllers, Razor's Edge might seem like a $60 game, but you should really budget another $50 on top of that, as a Pro Controller is practically (but not technically) required here. While the system's signature Wii U GamePad is plenty ergonomic, it's simply not a good fit, literally, for the kind of action Ninja Gaiden 3 throws at you. And as far as the GamePad's screen goes, it's not put to much use, with a moves list for the equipped weapon on display before you rather than tucked away in a menu.
Visually, Ninja Gaiden 3 is hardly going to make your PS3 and Xbox-owning friends envious. In fact, Razor's Edge is arguably uglier than its cousins, with bland textures and a bad case of the "jaggies" combining to create a muddy look that would've been called out seven years ago during the Xbox 360's launch. Still, the framerate stays (mostly) smooth, which is crucial for a game like this. Plus, at this stage it's nice - if admittedly a novelty - to be playing a Nintendo game in high-definition.
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Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge might be the polar opposite of the usual Nintendo fare. The `M' rating on the box is not a joke, what with the hyper-fast ninja action title's unending display of severed limbs and decapitated heads. It's fantastic to see this kind of hardcore gamer's game on a Nintendo console - and at the Wii U's launch, no less - and you can forget much of what you may have heard about the original release of this game earlier this year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It's far from perfect and best viewed with "launch goggles" on, but Razor's Edge's unflinching action and unabashed violence is a great sign for the Wii U as a core gamer's platform.
7.6 - Good