The original release of Ninja Gaiden 3 was not a smooth one for Tecmo Koei. Ryu Hayabusa’s newest adventure was met with a dichotomy of opinions that clashed between Ninja Gaiden purist and newcomers to the series. Critically the game was panned heavily by many who felt that the newest entry in the series lacked the spark and failed to reach the standard set by the series’ past entries. So in order to bring things up to snuff, Tecmo Koei has decided to re-release Ninja Gaiden 3 and remedy many of the issues gamers had with the original game. The end result is Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge, a much harder and fleshed out game that fans of the series will appreciate a lot more this time around.
Right from the beginning players will feel a sense of difference in Razor’s Edge. A lot of technical and aesthetic changes have been made to not only have the game play and feel similar to previous entries in the series, but also appear fresh to those who played the original Ninja Gaiden 3. New characters Kasumi, Ayane, and Momiji are now playable for Ninja Trials and Chapter Challenge mode, with each sporting new costumes to use as well. Ryu himself retains all of his abilities and moves from the first game, including everything included in all the DLC for the first game, he also gets a bunch of new Ninpo magic, weapons, and moves to take down enemies. Everything Ryu obtains during the course of the game can be upgraded and enhanced by spending Karma points. While playing through the game there are also hint messages that pop up throughout the levels that give players some insight on actions and objectives in different scenarios.
The most definite and clear difference in this version of Ninja Gaiden 3 is the level of challenge in all of the game’s aspects. Unlike before, enemies this time around will not be as generous or forgiving as before, much to the liking of many gamers who crave a good challenge. Not only will all of the enemies throughout the game be aggressive and fast in their attacks, but will also frequently gang up on Ryu whenever there is an opportunity, making for some crazy 10-on-1 situations that can get very messy. Each enemy does have an attack pattern and a weakness to exploit, but at times it can be a real task in order to discover what works best in which situations. Even though Ryu has many new weapons and moves at his disposal, they can be rendered useless if he is unable to get a clear chance to use them. This is especially true is situations where the aggressive nature of the enemies becomes overbearing and kills you many times over, resulting in a lot of trial and error like past Ninja Gaiden games.
In addition to the many baddies being given a boost, the bosses of the game get even tougher than in the first release of Ninja Gaiden 3. In Razor’s Edge boss battles require much more strategy as they do reaction time and patience. Not only are bosses much more aggressive in their attack patterns, but also have more health and deal more damage to Ryu, making the straight forward mash button approach a real bad idea in most fights. In every fight however, quick reaction time is key to avoiding attacks and taking advantage of opportunities to deal damage, because one false move can result in a quick death and restart of the entire fight. While being vastly harder than the original release of the game, all of the boss fights still do provide some fun and great cinematic moments that series fans will love.
Outside of story mode, the online features of the game still retain most of what was established in the original Ninja Gaiden 3. Razor’s Edge provides all of the DLC that was available before, along with five new stages for Clan Battles. Co-Op missions for online have now been increased to 100 and now allow Ryu, Ayane, Momiji, and Kasumi to be used in Co-Op mode. While all the new content is fresh and a great addition to Razor’s Edge, the core gameplay of the online modes is still the same. Those looking for a solid online experience may be a bit disappointed, as matchmaking can sometimes have some issues. When in a game however, matches online can get a little hectic and out of control and quickly forgettable, but do provide a small degree of fun for a short time.
As a total package, Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge is exactly what the original Ninja Gaiden 3 should have been in the first place. A lot of the major issues that detracted many fans of the series from enjoying the original game have been addressed, making for a game more in line with its predecessors. Newcomers will find a challenging game that may frustrate at first glance, but will become an action packed experienced they give a little time and a little patience when tackling a lot of what Razor’s Edge brings to the table. The online modes do provide some extra fun outside of the main story that is expanded upon in Razor’s Edge, but does become forgettable after a brief time. Razor’s Edge is a game that Ninja Gaiden fans will appreciate as a second chance for Tecmo Koei to get it right, a second chance that definitely wasn’t wasted.
This review was based on a review copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Tecmo Koei.