In the beginning of Ninja Gaiden 3, the Regent of the Mask curses Ryu Hayabusa with the Grip of Murder so Ryu feels the pain of all of those he killed. The story’s theme is about the consequences of violence, but the game forces players cut through a soldier begging for his life. It’s a conundrum just like designing an action game where quick time events do all of the dirty work. Team Ninja heard the complaints and attempted to fix the problems with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
You won’t see terrorists pleading for their lives in the Wii U version. Enemies are vicious in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and you’ll probably die even if the difficulty is set to normal. Part of the reason why is Team Ninja nerfed Ryu. Players don’t start out with head stomp jump or a ninpo dragon that eats all of the enemies on the screen. You have to purchase those abilities using karma, which you can earn faster by finishing foes off with finesse. Ryu can learn a few abilities that weren’t in the original Ninja Gaiden 3 like the Guillotine Throw and a new move where you can spin around a throw shuriken. The best thing about Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is combat feels fluid since you aren’t interrupted by dizzying Steel on Bone kills 30 seconds. Ryu can can start a combo and cancel into a slide to avoid a rocket. Ninja Gaiden 3 gets flack for not being difficult enough and to be fair hard mode in the original is tough, but that’s mostly because enemies soak up so much damage. I was relieved that Team Ninja adapted the AI and made enemies reactive rather than increasing their life bar. The Spider Tank fight, for example, has been changed significantly.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge gives players more weapons to use. You start with a sword and the Falcon Talons, which were a DLC weapon. Ryu can also get a pair of swords, the Lunar Staff, and Eclipse Scythe. More weapons theoretically means more variety, but I found myself sticking to two weapons (talon and sword) since you have to pour karma into each weapon to level it up. Ryu can get bonus karma by collecting Golden Scarabs and or finding Crystal Skulls that transport him to boss battles from previous Ninja Gaiden games.
Ayane shows up as a playable character in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Compared to Ryu, Ayane is more agile and has explosive kunai which are more useful than Ryu’s shuriken. Team Ninja made new missions for Ayane, but they take place in the same locales. Her first mission is in London and it’s essentially a walk from one horde of machinegun dudes to the next. At the end of the level, you’ll see some Black Spider Ninjas, which was a welcome change. The problem is Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge like Ninja Gaiden 3 before still feels repetitive since you’re fighting the same enemies over and over again in boxy rooms. There are points in Razor’s Edge that have the intensity of the other two Ninja Gaiden games, but other times I wondered if Team Ninja has been spending too much time with Omega Force.
Dismemberment is back in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and limbs fly everywhere. Sometimes you’ll see a torso or arm get stuck in an object, too. A more serious glitch is Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge froze twice when I was playing it. Both occurrences happened in the middle of a level when the game was loading a new area. I think Razor’s Edge got in some kind of loading loop when I went backwards to search for Golden Scarabs. I wasn’t able to test out the online features since the Wii U Nintendo Network has not been enabled yet. That should change by the time Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and the Wii U come out on Sunday.
You can use the Wii U GamePad or the Pro Controller to play Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. The Wii U GamePad has a touch screen buttons for things like Ninja Sense and ninpo plus a combo list. While the second screen may add convenience, I prefer the Pro Controller. Switching between blocking and using the bow is more comfortable with a smaller controller. Unfortunately, you can’t use a Classic Controller, the DualShock-like controller that plugs into a remote, with this game. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge can also be played completely on the Wii U GamePad. You lose the touch screen buttons in this mode, but the upside is you don’t need a TV. If you walk too far from the Wii U console the action gets choppy and then cuts off altogether. I was able to play Ninja Gaiden 3 in my kitchen, dining room, and hallway before I lost the signal. The signal can travel at least 20 feet, if there aren’t any walls in the way.
Team Ninja listened to feedback and sharpened Ninja Gaiden 3 for Wii U, but Razor’s Edge still has some of the same issues as the original game. That’s inevitable because Razor’s Edge isn’t a remake, it’s a tweaked port.