Team Ninja are infamous for the Ninja Gaiden Series, creating ultra violent adrenaline fueled hack and slash titles that have captured the imaginations of wanna be Ninjas across the world. Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge is the latest installment in the franchise promising to dive deeper into the mind of the legendary Ninja Ryu Hyabusa.
Set after the events of Ninja Gaiden II, Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge jumps straight into the action with the Japanese Self Defence Force recruiting Ryu to help them in the fight against a new terrorist threat known as The Lords of Alchemy. As the story develops Ryu is cursed by this terrorist cult, and as the curse slowly takes over his mind it gives him a contestant remainder of how many lives he has taken in the past. This gives Ryu the additional challenge of battling his inner demons whilst trying to save the world from this new threat.
With this new installment to the Ninja Gaiden franchise, Team Ninja have really developed Ryu’s character by finally bringing out his human side. In the previous games he been an emotionless killing machine who didn’t really feel any emotional consequences for the amount of lives he has taken, however in Ninja Gaiden III it feels as if he has developed a concience. It’s nice to see that Ryu’s character has evolved from the silent mass murdering ninja assassin we first met in Ninja Gaiden I, to become a more rounded character. Some fans may think that this is a step too far for the franchise as Ryu hasn’t felt any real emotion in the last two games, but for me it’s good to see that Team Ninja are trying out something new.
In classic Ninja Gaiden style, the combat in Razor’s Edge is as hard as nails. If you are not familiar with the Ninja Gaiden series, then normal mode will throw you straight into the deep end as the game has a very steep learning curve. Thankfully the Easy or Hero mode is far more accessible for first time players and for gamers who just want to enjoy the story line. The combat is your typical hack and slash affair, mixing heavy attacks with light attacks in order to unleash devastating combos. Projectile weapons and Nimpo (Ryu’s magic ability) can also be used to deal extra damage or help you out when you find yourself seriously outnumbered, however Nimpo can only be used once your Nimpo Bar is full so magic can be very limited. Nimpo can also be used to regenerate health which can also help you out when times are tough. Unfortunately the use of healing items such as herbs of Spiritual Life (which were in Ninja Gaiden II) have been totally removed in Razor’s Edge meaning that you have to rely on your Nimpo to regain health. It is worth nothing however that when you find a save point, saving the game will also fully regenerate your health which can be really useful at times.
Even though the Ninja Gaiden series is mainly combat based, there has always been a good amount of platforming involved. Unfortunately the platforming has taken a bit of a back seat in this game. More often than not you will find yourself moving around levels defeating wave after wave enemies and not doing much else. Team Ninja have tried to remedy this with new game mechanics such as the Falcon Dive which sees Ryu glide through the air into the next area, and the new climbing mechanic where you have to press L1/LB and R1/RB repeatedly to make Ryu scale walls. Both these are nice additions but to me still are not enough to being variety the game play.
Boss battles come into full force in this title with a nice mixture of creatures and vehicles to battle. Some of these boss battles were quite fun to play but the odd one or two felt more like a chore than a proper boss fight. Some of these boss battles ended up being a bit of a spam fest, as once you had found a particular attack combination that worked all you would have to do is repeat the same combination over and over again which made a couple of the boss fights feel very repetitive. At some points I found standard enemies harder to defeat than some of the bosses which strangely made some of these boss fights feel as though the game was giving you a break from the main action. Overall the boss battles feel quite inconsistent, but thankfully some of the battles made you think and were quite challenging at times.
The leveling up system in Razors Edge has changed slightly since Ninja Gaiden II. In the previous game you had to find Muramasa Stores in each mission in order to level up your magic and weapons, which would enable you to purchase upgrades and new abilities. This time around you can level up Nimpo and weapons as and when you want by bringing up the level-up menu. Each battle you complete earns you Kama points which you can spend on upgrades, so once you have enough Kama points you can level up there and then. Much like the previous games, upgrading your weapons gives you additional moves and also changes the appearance of the weapon. Leveling up your Nimpo gives your magic additional power and a damage boost. You can also unlock additional moves and new costumes in the level-up menu meaning that leveling is essential if you want the upper hand in battle. This game however doesn’t add any new weapons to Ryu’s arsenal. All weapons that are unlocked in the game are the same ones he had in Ninja Gaiden II which is unfortunate as more often than not new hack and slash games bring new weapons for you to experiment with.
Fortunately there are a good dose of collectibles and unlockables in this game. Both Crystal Skulls and Golden Scarabs have been added to Razor’s Edge, collecting scarabs will unlock weapons, Nimpo and health upgrades and collecting all ten crystal skulls will unlock a new costume for Ryu and Ayane. It’s nice to see that Team Ninja have not scrimped out on the unlockables as many games seem to do nowadays.
As Razor’s Edge is an updated version of Ninja Gaiden III all of the games previous downloadable content has been added onto the game disk. This DLC includes the new playable character Arya, and all of her story missions have been fully integrated into the story mode. You also have all of Ryu’s DLC weapons as well as the multiplayer packs that were released. It’s basically an updated version of the original Ninja Gaiden III, but with new story missions added which make the game feel more complete.
Graphically the game looks good with the ultra violent game play doused in a generous amount of blood in keeping with Ninja Gaidens staples such as Ninja Gaiden II. Every now and again the game does suffer from the occasion glitch but overall it looks up to the standard of this generation. The voice acting however can be quite cheesy at the best of times, more often than not whilst in combat I heard phrases such as “Oi! You!” and “I’m gonna kill you!” being shouted at me in a really cheesy cockney British accent which was a little off putting. Other than that the music and sound effects are used well adding to the overall experience.
+ Good amount of unloackables
+ Good Looking Graphics
+ Leveling up is a lot more accessible than previous games
- Cheesy voice acting
- Steep learning curve in harder game modes (could also be a pro for some gamers?)
- Some bosses can be tedious and levels can be repetitive
- No new weapons
Ninja Gaiden III Razor’s Edge is a much needed update to the original Ninja Gaiden III game. With a decent amount of unlockables and a new character to play as it is an enjoyable hack and slash game for the most part. It is just a shame it loses some of its charm when it comes to the tedious bosses and repetitive level design.
Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge is out now for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U