Ninja Gaiden 3 was originally released back in 2012 to much criticism by the general media and fans alike; the reason being that Tecmo Koei had tried simplifying the game in an attempt to reach out to a larger fanbase. What they did was alienate its hardcore fans whilst gaining little in support from those outside its cult following. Tecmo were not content with this and so they saw fit to re-release Ninja Gaiden 3 as Ninja Gaiden 3: Razors Edge looking to gain back the trust and loyalty of its once large hardcore fanbase.
The plot whilst insane on numerous levels you’ll find quite enjoyable. Tecmo haven’t just done a run of the mill ‘man saves world and perhaps a damsel in distress’ story, instead the game begins with you trying to sort out a hostage situation where you’ve been personally summoned by the captors. As you reach the end of the first day you find yourself facing off with the terrorist cell’s leader, after he monologues for five to ten minutes you get to cutting him to shreds. Naturally he doesn’t die, instead once you’ve thrust your Katana into his body it begins to dissolve and infects your arm with a curse that makes you feel the pain of all those that Ryu has slain. I think Ryu will need a few packs of Ibuprofen to get over this one.
Firstly there are the fixes of which there are a few. Ninja Gaiden 3 fans were a little peeved when there was no inclusion of various iconic NG weapons such as the scythe and the claws. Razor’s Edge has brought them back and whilst all of them are enjoyable in their own right the Katana always trumps them in terms of effectiveness. After a few levels with each of the re-imagined weapons you’ll more often than not crawl back to the trusty sword.
Another issue was the lack of limbless enemies; Tecmo has taken this criticism on board and as you enter your first phase of combat you’ll find yourself showered in the blood of your enemies and tripping over countless torsos, heads, arms and legs. Your finishing moves are delightfully gory thanks to intensified blood and the ability to exact all manner of pain on your foes as you quite literally tear them limb from limb.
Finally the biggest problem of all was Tecmo toning down the original game’s difficulty which many attributed to them trying to push it out to non-hardcore fans. What an epic fail that turned out to be. Rest assured the new title on hard is ridiculously challenging, though it does lack some of the enjoyment found in Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2. The way the problem was solved seems to be surrounding you with a ring of four or five enemies shooting your with rifles or launching RPGs at you (which have little effect on enemy forces I notice). This is really annoying, it was enjoyable taking on four or five really difficult enemies and failing the majority of the time. Yet you manage eventually to mesh together a perfect combination of attacks, counters and control to finally dispatch them. In Razor’s Edge you get thirty guys facing off against you in hand to hand combat in one big brawl and whilst this is going on you have to dodge four RPGs every five seconds. There’s no fun in this.
The control system is also a little flawed; gone are the days when you could put together a thirty button combo. Due to the fact that every fight has countless enemies rushing you, there is simply no time to play out an effective combination and in all honesty it turns into quite the button bashing affair.
Despite all that the game is still enjoyable, when you get past the annoying RPGers and the inability to get in a combo above ten hits the numerous finishing moves, ninpo themed deaths and multiple weapons make it quite addictive. Online is a bit quiet but you can have six-on-six clan battles and even co-op modes adding a bit of additional longevity to the title. In terms of the campaign as ever it is very linear and it would have been nice for Tecmo to perhaps start increasing the area and the routes that Ryu can use, it wasn’t to be.
There are moments in the game where it all slows down and turns into the matrix as Razor’s Edge forces you to make a pinpoint decision on what to do next. This is generally a simple tap on the X or Y button as you skydive towards an unsuspecting enemy or pressing the LT & RT whilst jumping from a stricken helicopter and you clamber to get some grip on a vertical wall. Even if you do fail at these points invariably the games checkpoint system will just respawn you five seconds before you make the jump so you never feel tense or nervous at these points in the game when you really should.
Graphically the game can look stunning in one shot and then in the next scene like something that you’d see on initial release of the Xbox 360. The fact that they can’t get a steering wheel even close to circular and the blocky shadows does take away from the general ambience that this game can create. It’s a shame as when the game gets it right then it truly drags you in and it can look stunning.
Razor’s Edge if anything is just a downloadable patch packaged in an Xbox 360 case and re-branded to sell to its fanbase. Whilst Tecmo have listened to their fans and increased the difficulty, increased the amount of blood, included limbless enemies and brought back such iconic weapons as the claws, you can’t help think that they never took any care in doing it. They seem to have simply taken the original game and thrown some more enemies into the fold and included under-powered additional weapons it doesn’t scream finesse something which the two predecessors to Ninja Gaiden 3 had in abundance.
The game is still enjoyable, taking down a metallic T-Rex and seeing those limbs fly off in all directions as your katana rips through an enemy’s body is extremely satisfying. The issue is that the game feels empty, soulless; Tecmo seem to have released it for the sole reason to generate additional revenue as they no doubt begin designing Ninja Gaiden 4. I just hope they have learnt something from 3 and will come back stronger with the next instalment.