|System: Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Team Ninja|
|Pub: Tecmo Koei, Nintendo|
|Release: November 18, 2012|
|Players: 1 (2-8 online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes|
by Josh Engen
When I heard that Team Ninja was planning to give Ninja Gaiden 3 an overhaul for its Wii U release, I immediately assumed it would end up looking like the rusted-out Ford Bronco that my neighbor put 20" gold rims on. However, the difference in quality between the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 version and the Wii U edition, Razor's Edge, is so severe that it's almost insulting to call Razor's Edge "the Wii U version of Ninja Gaiden 3." Team Ninja has done an incredible job listening to fan base concerns and churning out a game that lives up the high expectations set by Ninja Gaiden II.
If you've played a Ninja Gaiden game within the last 24 years, you're already familiar with our protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa. Hayabusa is a quintessentially histocirally inaccurate ninja, the kind that inspires little kids to carry cardboard katanas. Razor's Edge proves that Hayabusa hasn't lost his edge over the last two decades. In fact, he may have become more impressive.
Our ninja protagonist carves his way through wave after wave of enemy soldiers, taking short breaks in between battles to regenerate health, equip new weaponry, and learn new skills.
Each weapon has it's own little skill tree, which can be purchased between bloodbaths using karma points—a point system based on the flawlessness of your fighting. It's a gameplay system that will be immediately familiar for most players, especially those that have played a Gaiden title in the past.
Team Ninja has mercifully liposuctioned several of the useless and/or questionable elements from Ninja Gaiden 3. For instance, in the previous versions, players were forced to wonder about Hayabusa's strange, unethical proclivities. There was a scene early in the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 version where Ryu brutally executes a soldier who has taken off his ski mask and is pleading for his life. Thankfully, it's been removed so I don't have to wonder about Hayabusa's awesomeness.
The developer has also removed several of the between-round cutscenes that many fans complained about. Now, I know that gamers and cutscenes have an antagonistic relationship, but if any franchise has a license to overdo it with cinematics, it's Ninja Gaiden. After all, the original 1988 version of Ninja Gaiden was the first NES title to use cinematic cutscenes.
However, even with some cutscenes paired out, the storyline is still as incoherent as ever. It's something about a terrorist who wants Hayabusa dead. And it has something to do with alchemy, and there's some magic mixed in. But none of that actually matters. The story in Ninja Gaiden 3 is no worse than the previous titles. And everyone seemed to like those, so we obviously don't care.
Despite its incoherence, the campaign does move forward at a constant clip. It's action packed from beginning to end, punctuated only by cutscenes. Each wave of enemies demands your attention and forces you to consider your maneuvers more than most button-mashers. However, if you prefer to mash, that option is certainly available. Turning the difficulty level down to it's easiest doesn't decrease the actual difficulty of your enemies, but allows for a certain amount of auto-blocking once the damage starts getting severe. This is a clever tactic on Team Ninja's part. The game doesn't become easier, you just get a bit tougher.
Razor's Edge supports several different control setups, but the GamePad controller is by far the most attractive. The touchscreen acts as your interface to character customization and advanced controls. Sure, all of these options are available if you plan to rock the Pro Controller, but why would you? You shelled out a good chunk of change for that Wii U, and Razor's Edge has a very solid touch-based interface. Plus, the GamePad also allows you to play even when the television is off. This means that you could play the entire game while sneakily hiding in a closet, like a real ninja.
Those of you who mistakenly purchased the PS3 or 360 versions will be happy to know that the gameplay is a great deal more streamlined on the Wii U. Stringing together combos still helps you rack up karma points, but the fight scenes have a fluidity that the previous incarnations lacked. That being said, there's still a problem with the quick time finishing moves; yes, they add a cinematic flair to an otherwise hack-and-slash fight scene, but they often cause awkward breaks in the action.