Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was a first for me in many ways. Not only was it my first time playing a game in the Ninja Gaiden franchise, but it was actually also the first 18+ rated game that I’ve ever owned. I wanted to kick it off with a bang by playing a game full of violence, gore and dismemberment. Well, I certainly got that. It also came at a very interesting time, when numerous people in the U.S. are trying to pass the buck from their poor gun control back to video games again. Would playing this violent game, like some U.S. politicians seem to believe, lead me to become a mass murderer or something? Well, I can safely say that no, I haven’t killed anyone. However, I did have some fun. So Me: 1. Anti-Gun Control People who love to scapegoat: 0.
My political commentary aside, I think this game has certainly been a second chance for Team Ninja – the original game on PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 was very poorly received. However, they have since announced that this version will be ported to those consoles in April. So the Wii U certainly gave them a second chance and they took it. Not having played the original, I can’t comment on whether that was a success or not, but I will say that Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was an enjoyable game.
I will say this though – the story isn’t very good. In the fairly short story, Dragon Ninja Ryu heads to London to try and stop a terrorist group called the “Lords of Alchemy” who demand the ninja’s appearance. During a confrontation with the LOA, he ends up falling victim to the “Grip of Murder” curse which bonds the Dragon Sword into his right arm, leaving it with a weird red appearance. The story never really goes in much depth at all, which left me feeling rather disconnected from the entire thing. One thing that particularly bugged me was that no one really ever thought or suggested how Ryu could get over the curse or anything. All it really amounts to is occasionally creating a weird kill-fest in some missions and leaving him in pain shortly thereafter (and something at the end of the game which is a spoiler). So really, Ryu could have probably saved himself a lot of trouble if he had actually looked into it, or just cut his arm off (he’s a master ninja. Pretty sure he could still kick ass with one arm). Also, I know that Ayane was only added into this latest Wii U version, but I wish she was incorporated into the story more. She literally only has two levels and only meets Ryu briefly once. She was entirely unnecessary for the story and the little appearances she had really didn’t live up to the hype she was given prior to the game’s release.
In terms of gameplay though, I have to praise this game. It’s a difficult game (I…had to turn my game to the easier “Hero Mode” 10 minutes in) however, it knows it’s difficult, so there are quite a few check points during each level. This makes for an experience that is challenging but not frustrating (although I imagine that the harder mode you unlock once clearing the story will be pretty darn difficult). The standard linear set-up of the levels, where you walk/run until you reach an open area and fight enemies until you’ve killed them, continue until the next clearing might sound repetitive, but the frantic nature and of the fights keeps them from ever being a bore. Fighting enemies tends to be case of bashing the X and Y buttons, but when you have enemies firing missiles at you, you are often left having to decide whether to finish off the enemies nearer to you, or leave them be to seek out the missile-firers (which I tend to do, as they can be annoying). There isn’t much of a variety to the different kind of enemies you can encounter though and they are all taken down in a relatively simple way (as I said earlier, button bashing tends to do the trick with pretty much all of them). So even when the larger Megaselion or Ourboros enemies appear, they are pretty much just larger, gunless foot soldiers. The swarming nature in which enemies appear makes up for their lack of variety though – often you end up being reduced to button bashing just to get the half dozen or so enemies away from you so you can move. When I’m playing a game, I actually end up forgetting how big my health bar is when full, because I’m often left with very little left. Funnily enough though, I’ve found that I tend to only really play my best when I am low health – like I’m frantic and going for the win before I die. This makes the boss battles even more intense than they usually are – and there certainly is a variety to then. You’ll face bosses ranging from a tank-like weapon, a classic sword fight and yes, even a giant dinosaur.
One feature that I think will add replay value to the game is the “Chapter Challenge”. Once a level has been completed, you can play through it again to get a better high score. It is in this game mode that you will be able to play as Ayane (on levels outside of her own) as well as the downloadable characters Kasumi and Momiji. These high scores can also be added to an online leader board (which although I don’t really bother with them, I know leader boards are a plus for a lot of people). The leader board can also receive data from every one of the game’s online and offline modes, which is really cool.
There is one thing I can’t review this game without mentioning: when a female character is on screen, if you shake the GamePad their boobs will jiggle. Oh, Team Ninja! Let’s just say that people on Miiverse seem to be enjoying this feature! I often see pictures posted up by fans of people abusing it and might have even made some of my own (I think this proves wrong one point: Nintendo isn’t just for kids – it’s for fans of boobs too). I often do it just for fun, because I feel so disconnected from the short story at times and the sight of phantom moving boobies during tense scenes is hilarious. I’m not sure if Team Ninja added it for that reason, but I’ve got some enjoyment out of it!
Challenging games like this one are truly when Nintendo’s Miiverse feature shines though – often during my playthrough I found myself stuck (which was mostly due to nothing less than the game’s reaction to some button presses being a tad slow, so I miss critical jump moments), however for others, the gaming community have been quick to come to my rescue. So while Miiverse isn’t a part of the game itself, it is worth mentioning that it really does shine in this game – whether you want boob jokes or help in the game.
One of the more important Wii U features readers will probably want to know about is how this game uses the GamePad. I think one of this game’s most useful features is the Off-TV Play. Numerous times while playing, I had my 8 year old brother coming into my room to tell me something or just hang out. When such a situation occurred, I’d quickly pause the game, set the display to the GamePad and turn off my TV. During gameplay, the GamePad screen shows a list of various combos (and no, you can’t activate them by touching them – we don’t want spammers like in the online for Dead or Alive Dimensions). You can also change your weapons and ninpo magic skills as well buy new equipment, ninpo or other level ups (such as more health) using the touch screen interface. Use of the GamePad isn’t required for playing the game though (in fact, I found pressing A and X far more convenient when activated the ninpo techniques as opposed to the button on the GamePad screen). I actually did consider buying a Wii U Pro Controller for this game (but the £40 price-tag turned me away). I wish more developers would realise that the Pro Controller exists solely for this reason – to allow a better and easier transition for multi-platform games on the Wii U. In this game, I would say that the use of the GamePad screen is more of a convenience as opposed to a gameplay necessity.
While the single player might be an enjoyable, but unremarkable experience, the online for this game is really fun. The “Ninja Trials” can be played both by yourself or co-operatively and the few that I played (with help from WiiUAndMii’s occasional writer Daniel Switzer) were fun while they lasted. I say “While they lasted” because we kept on getting connection troubles during the game. This baffled me as Id had no problems with the eShop, Miiverse or other areas of the online, so I booted up my copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition and found connection issues there too, so I’d more than likely put money on it being my connection being shaky that particular night. My favourite online play mode though is the “Clan Battle” multiplayer. In terms of gameplay, you’re in an enclosed space with up to eight players at once and you have to kill them as many times as you can within a time limit – it’s like the multiplayer of a lot of First Person Shooter games, just third person and close quarters (as obviously you have swords, claws etc instead of guns). When playing the online I didn’t notice it running any slower than the regular, offline single player, which is a huge plus.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is a personification of the phoenix metaphor for Team Ninja and is a really good game, although I wished that they had expanded more on the story (perhaps by giving Ayane her own story mode instead of two standalone missions). It has a solid online experience and is definitely a challenging experience. Definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had on Wii U so far. This game has ultra-violence, boobs and dinosaurs – the definitive man game. So now, for the all important question:
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge – Snog, Marry or Avoid? I’d give this game a 7/10 – which means Ayane’s worth a snog (well, the back of the box does call her the “Sexiest Ninja” after all).