Sometimes I keep playing a game I know is not a great game because I need to finish reviewing it. The embargo date is up soon and I want to make sure my review is timed to everyone else’s.
Other times, I may hate the gameplay, but I’ve got to know how the story ends.
And then there’s Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge on Wii U. I didn’t need to rush my review and I thought the story was pretty terrible. Yet… I kept playing. Part of it may be that there’s no first or third party games coming out for the Wii U any time soon.
And part of it was I just needed to see what happened next. Not in terms of the story, but in terms of the overall insanity of it all.
I’ve never played the Ninja Gaiden franchise before and I missed Ninja Gaiden 3 when it first came out for other consoles in the first quarter of last year. When it came out for Wii U, branded as Razor’s Edge, I decided to give it a try.
In Ninja Gaiden 3, players star as ninja Ryu Hayabusa who needs to lift a deadly curse on his right arm that is slowly killing him. The gameplay is basic hack and slash, though I was surprised at how incredibly important blocking is in this game. In games like DmC Devil May Cry, I could get away with almost never blocking as long as I landed my hits.
As you land attacks on your enemies, you’ll collect karma that you can use to upgrade your skills. You’ll also level up the energy needed to activate Ninpo, a magical attack that also heals you based on how many times you hit your enemies while using it. (The only other time your health will heal is after you killed all enemies on the screen. There is no regenerative health, nor health packs in the game.)
There’s six weapons to choose from, as well as a bow you’ll get later in the game that has infinite ammo. You’ll need it to for enemies perched up high or are on jetpacks that are firing about a bajillion rockets at you at a time—rockets that never, ever hurt their compatriots in arms. I found, however, that you’re best dealing with the guys on the ground first while dodging those rockets, before pulling out your bow because while you’re aiming, someone is likely to slash you.
You’ll do things as a ninja that you wouldn’t think possible. Put aside the fact I killed hundreds and hundreds of bad guys, and focus on how many helicopters I wound up taking down with my sword or bow. Helicopters, apparently, are the natural enemy of ninjas. (Something that was also true for 50 Cent in 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.)
I probably shouldn’t have played Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge so soon after the incredible DmC reboot because I went into it thinking I’d be overwhelmed (in a positive way) with the different weapons and skills I could activate. Instead, I found the weapons to be lacking originality in Ninja Gaiden 3 and the fighting wasn’t as fluid or as seamless as it was in DmC. Both games also have an insane, over-the-top plot, but DmC smartly winked at it and didn’t take it serious, whereas Ninja Gaiden 3 is like, super serious you guys.
In the Wii U edition of Ninja Gaiden 3, known as Razor’s Edge, players also get access to the female ninja, Ayane, who is playable in two exclusive chapters within the story mode. (If you’re expecting her story to overlap with that of Ryu’s… you’ll going to be disappointed.) You can, however, play online co-op with both characters or do an up to eight-player multiplayer battle.
Players experiencing the game on Wii U can also expect more weapons (up to six now from the original three), a new progression system, a redesigned battle system and more. Don’t expect to play the game entirely on your GamePad like you do with other games, but instead, you can use the screen to activate your Ninpo powers, change weapons or upgrade your skills with the karma you earned. I never really found the progression system and the skills I earned didn’t actually impact my gameplay, nor did I find that much difference with my fighting ability when I chose different weapons.
I’ve said a lot of negative things about Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge so far, but I still kept playing. Part of it was I figured it was worth reviewing, but also part of it was… I wanted to see what insane thing would get thrown at me next. Unfortunately, sometimes that insanity repeated itself. The first time I fought a stealth fighter was awesome—the second and third time was boring and repetitive.
The over-the-top violence also never bothered me like I thought it would. And the attempt at humanizing Ryu by focusing on his relationship with a young child fell flat, but at least developers were trying for a genuine human connection. Instead, the overall mechanics and the over reliance on quick time events is what makes me stop short of recommending the game.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is competent enough—and for all I know, fans of the series will love or have loved this game. But for me, it’s a disappointing game due to a lake of seamless, intuitive fighting that often times amounted to no more than button mashing.
* Disclosure: A copy of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review. *