Originally announced as a Wii U exclusive, Razor’s Edge is a revised version of last year’s underwhelming Ninja Gaiden 3 that has since found its way to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It may promise a shopping list of changes and improvements but, when all is said and done, Razor’s Edge fails to rectify the core game’s most egregious trespasses.
Set after the events of Ninja Gaiden 2, players are once again cast as the enigmatic Ryu Hayabusa. In an attempt to “humanise” the oft-silent shinobi, this time around Team Ninja has a tried its hand at a more personal, involving storyline with mixed results.
Drawn out from the tranquility of Hayabusa village, Ryu is thrust into the heart of yet another shady conflict that will take him to all four corners of the globe in pursuit of a cult known as The Lord of Alchemy. Ryu’s personal tangent comes into play when he is inflicted with an ancient curse sourced from his iconic blade, the Dragon Sword. Instead of killing him outright, the “Grip of Murder” takes a vampiric hold over the ninja, forcing him to spill blood in order to preserve his own life.
Despite adding an interesting dynamic to the game, this subplot fails to find its footing amongst the dozen other elements feeding into the game’s convoluted narrative. As the credits began to roll I felt no closer to Ryu than I did in previous instalments.
The developers’ botched attempt to capitalise on recent trends in emotive story-telling is easy to overlook, however. He may be the frontman for Tecmo’s flagship, but to most Ryu has always been an avatar, an amalgam of polygons used by players as an instrument of death. No, what Ninja Gaiden fans have always cared about is gameplay, and, unfortunately, that’s where Razor’s Edge disappoints the most.
Adhering to series conventions, combat is fast-paced, bloody, and confined to closed-off areas. Though structurally identical to its predecessors, there’s something about the actual fighting in Ninja Gaiden 3 that feels slightly off and ultimately weighs down the entire experience.
When limited to a handful of combatants, battles are fun and allow players to exercise flare. However, when you filter in a mix of overpowered adversaries and pad each combat scenario out with trigger happy gunmen, the melee becomes too hard to manage and loses any degree of enjoyment or satisfaction. Even with the difficulty dialled down to its most generous settings, Ninja Gaiden 3’s lack of balance and finesse continues to shine through, especially during boss battles.
In between combat scenarios Team Ninja have clearly picked up a number of influences from its contemporaries. Platforming and navigation have been padded out with set piece moments and quick-time sequences, mimicking games such as God of War. They still serve as stopgaps between the game’s unrelenting waves of combat, but add some much needed cinematic flare and moments of engagement. Other diversions include chase sequences, on-rails shooting, and diving, which allows players to leap from one environment to the next in style.
One of the only areas that isn’t in desperate need of improvement is Ninja Gaiden’s presentation. Character models are mostly vibrant and rich in detail, as is the game’s diverse gallery of settings.
Though not particularly memorable, the soundtrack also does well to galvanise set pieces. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the game’s voice acting; even with talent like Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite) and Ali Hilis (Mass Effect) on board, the script constantly switches between monotone and melodrama.
- Environments and enemies become increasingly diverse in appearance.
- Platforming sequences have been given attention.
- Easily the best looking game in the series.
- Solid framerate with fairly few bugs.
- Core gameplay just isn’t fun.
- Storyline is needlessly complicated.
- PlayStation Move support has been withdrawn.
- Difficulty becomes a barrier.
- Ranged weapons are borderline useless.
Unless you’re a fan of the series, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is just as hard to recommend as the core game itself. Though Team Ninja has certainly spruced up a number of elements, they seem to have avoided the game’s most fundamental issues. The series’ trademark gameplay has always been challenging but never quite so obstructive and un-rewarding. With the action adventure genre reaching new heights in the past few years, it’s gutting to see one of its modern pioneers floundering even after Team Ninja’s second attempt to do the franchise justice in the space of a year.
Reviewed from the PS3 version of the game.