Published on April 14th, 2014 | by admin
Ninja Gaiden 3
Summary: Tough but highly addictive
The words ‘dismemberment’ and ‘graceful’ are two words that you rarely see used in conjunction with one another. Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge produces one notable exception to that rule. The term ‘graceful dismemberment’ is a graphic and accurate description of the core of gameplay in this ultra-violent tale of revenge and redemption.
You nimbly dodge between enemies, juggling several foes at a time as you slice your way through skin and bone with the grace and prowess one would associate with a skilled dancer. But unlike a dancer, you are not surrounded by flowing garments or ribbons but by flying limbs and fountains of blood. The accompanying ‘music’ of this violent ballet is the screams and grunts of hundreds of dying mercenaries.
But as a dancer performing a segment in a well-choreographed ballet would be expected to have extreme skill, self-control and concentration, so it is in Ninja Gaiden 3. The skill required in order to keep the bloody ballet flowing is immense; you have to ensure you land every blow and you find yourself in a constant struggle to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by the relentless enemies.
The level of difficulty in this game will probably be the biggest barrier for many gamers. When I talk of a ‘constant struggle to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed’ this statement doesn’t relate to boss battles or late game challenges – it relates to every battle you undertake. Every single group of mercenaries you encounter presents a challenge.
If you get sloppy, if you miss-time an attack or if you spend too long on one soldier before dodging to the next you will be punished. Your foes don’t stand around watching you slaughter their compatriots, nor do they believe in fighting you one at a time. You are under constant and relentless pressure to perform at the highest level. In most games you will often find yourself breezing through large sections of the game only to be presented with a real challenge come a boss fight. Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge isn’t one of those games and you will often find yourself being taken down by regular grunts.
The grunts also come equipped differently; some have shields, some have rocket launchers, some throw grenades and others uses magical attacks and teleportation. All of the different enemies require a slightly different approach and combinations of different types lead to the need to constantly change your tactics. Later in the game these human enemies are bolstered by a range of mutants and demons which further add to the challenge.
When you finally do reach a boss the game manages to ramp up the difficulty a step further, sometimes two steps. Sometimes you will find yourself squaring off against a single skilled swordsman, but other times you will have to take down a helicopter gunship or even a cybernetically enhanced T-Rex with just your sword.
But despite the immense challenge and the concentration and dexterity that challenge requires, you rarely feel the game is being unfair. The sense of fairness is aided in part by regular checkpoints which mean you never get bumped back and have to replay huge portions of the game again if you do succumb to your enemies. In modern games the multiple checkpoints often feel insulting and take away any shred of challenge that the game presents, but here the difficulty makes them a necessity!
Team Ninja clearly knew that the game was difficult and far too difficult for some. In response to this you can lower the difficulty at any time and enter ‘hero mode’ where you will find proceedings to be a lot easier. This is actually a welcome option as it opens up the experience to those who would be put off by such a steep challenge.
The beauty of Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge can be seen as you run effortlessly up a wall, jump from ledge to ledge before diving off a tower dodging missiles on your descent to the ground before eviscerating the mercenaries waiting below. But whereas many games that present such flashy scenes feel as if they are playing themselves, in Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge you always know that you’re in full control. That level of control leaves you with a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement knowing that it was your skill that pulled off those incredible scenes.
That is the joy of Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge, it is hard and unforgiving but success is down to you. You’re never in a situation where you are simply grinding through mindless cannon fodder waiting for the next boss or cut scene. Every enemy presents a challenge and watching Ryu Hyabusa gracefully cut through hordes of enemies leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction.
As the game progresses and you cut down ever more enemies you will notice that you are acquiring Karma Points. These Karma Points can be used to upgrade your current weapon, buy new weapons and do the same with the Ninpo Magic that Ryu Hyabusa uses. This light RPG system gives a further incentive to perform better as the better your performance the more you earn.
Each of the different weapons has a unique ebb and flow. Your trusty sword offers a middle of the road experience that is a balance between speed and power; however other weapons, like the talons, are made for greater speed and agility, whilst the mighty scythes are slower but killer with fewer hits and can strike multiple enemies at a time. What’s more, these weapons are exclusive to Razor’s Edge and were not on the disc in the original Ninja Gaiden 3, instead being offered as DLC.
The other large addition to this director’s cut of sorts is the Ayane missions. These were also DLC in the original game but they now come packaged on the disk. These missions put you in the shoes of Ayane from Dead or Alive as she carries out side missions in order to assist Ryu. These offer a nice change of pace and flesh out the game further. Once you’ve completed the game you can go back and play any mission as either Ryu or Ayane to improve your ratings and find all the collectibles.
Whilst the game pushes you and your skills to the limit, it certainly doesn’t do the same to the Wii U. It isn’t a bad looking game at all, but it never pushes the envelope on either detail or art direction. The graphics are functional and workman like, I was never left thinking anything was ugly but nor was I ever astounded. Thankfully the game runs smoothly and the character animations are excellent; a must for this type of game as frame rate drops and choppy animations would totally break the experience.
Whilst the game isn’t the best looking game available, it does showcase a range of locales and you will find yourself fighting in Arabian cities in the desert, technically advanced facilities nestled in the lush jungle and ancient temples buried in the ice and snow of the arctic. So despite the lack of a visual ‘wow factor’, you never find yourself getting bored as the environments are not overused or repetitive.
The last time I played a Ninja Gaiden game was back on the Nintendo Entertainment System. That’s a long time ago and in the twenty odd years since I played the NES classic a lot has changed in the world of gaming. One of the biggest changes we have seen is a dumbing down of the skill levels required and a huge increase in hand holding. Many games now play themselves and as a gamer I sometimes feel as if I’m becoming more of a spectator.
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge thankfully feels like a refreshing change of pace that bucks many of the modern trends in game design. But at the same time the developers have picked the correct design advancement, such as regular save points, to increase your enjoyment and so you never feel crushed or demoralised when failing.
This is not a game filled with hand holding. It is a game where you live and die by your skills alone. When you successfully despatch a large group of enemies it feels exhilarating. You flit between foes taking each one out with a flurry of attacks and the camera switches angles and zooms and pans to make you feel as if you’re playing through a super violent Far Eastern martial arts film. But the real sense of triumph is in knowing that the scenes you witnessed were all down to you.
The amazing battles and visceral combat aren’t simply pre-recorded clips played out with button prompts and quick time events where you rise or fall by hitting a single button at the correct time. Everything you do is pulled off in real time using the kind of manual dexterity that has been lost in mists of time and largely confined to classic games on the consoles of yesteryear.
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge isn’t a game for everyone and will be too difficult for some. But I found it to be a highly enjoyable game that stands out amongst the Wii U’s library as something a little different that requires the kind of old school skill that I was brought up on when I first started playing computer games.