It’s easy to lose track of the Ninja Gaiden series, with all of its ports and re-mastered versions. Ignoring the original NES and Sega titles, Ryu Hyabusa got his original rebirth on the Xbox, and Ninja Gaiden was of the most critically acclaimed games on that system, despite its almost insane difficulty level. This was followed again on Xbox by an upgraded and reworked version called Ninja Gaiden Black, which was then revitalized and painted with the HD brush for Ninja Gaiden Sigma, released for the PlayStation 3 shortly after that system’s launch. Confused yet? Well, add into the mix Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, released for Vita last year, and we may just have a winner in the contest for the most versions of the same game.
Whilst all these remakes were going on, Team Ninja were working on the first proper follow-up, with Ninja Gaiden II hitting the Xbox 360 back in 2008. This was followed up by – you guessed it – Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus for the PS3 and Vita respectively. This then brings us more or less up to date (phew!) with Ninja Gaiden 3 being released for both Xbox 360 and PS3 this time last year. Critical opinion was a little unkind to the game however, criticized its lack of trademark gore, and overly streamlined gameplay. Team Ninja responded with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge which hit Wii U late last year, and has now finally been ported to the PS3 and Xbox 360.
After that lengthy history lesson, its time to look at exactly what has changed between the bare bones release of last year, and the more complete package that is Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. The plot of Ryu Hyabusa being summoned to London by a shadowy terrorist organization still remains more or less intact, but this time around there is also a separate storyline featuring everyone’s favorite female ninja with pink hair, Ayane.
The main storyline sees Ryu infected with a mark on his hand which causes him to suffer a curse meaning he has to sacrifice bad guys in battle to feed it, or else suffer death himself. If Ryu was an accountant that might prove problematic, but as he is trained as a kick-ass ninja it isn’t too much of an inconvenience. Like previous entries in the series, the plot takes in a wide range of locations like a James Bond movie with added Shurikens.
One big change apart from the inclusion of the new Ayane missions is the copious amounts of blood and gore that make a triumphant return to the series. At times you might almost think you are playing Mortal Kombat, such is the level of claret flying around the screen. There are also more character upgrade options, several new challenge maps and a fairly entertaining multiplayer mode that sees you working together with a group of clan-members to take down opposing players in various arenas. Yes, its pretty standard stuff, with your usual character personalization options and progression unlocks, but it’s certainly fun for a couple of hours at least and adds depth to the main game.
Depth is one thing that Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge suffers from. Of course this is a hack and slash game, so anyone expecting tactical planning or engrossing RPG elements is barking up the wrong tree, but still there remains a limit to the amount of time most people are willing to hack down wave upon wave of attackers before they begin to get a little bored. This is the nature of the game though, and if you have played any of the other games in the series you will know what to expect. I was a little disappointed in the variety on offer in terms of baddies to slash however. The first Ninja Gaiden in particular was open in its bad-guy policy; Japanese ninjas, zombies and dinosaurs were all pretty much welcome, however the cast of Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge is slightly more restricted to be honest.
One more thing to mention that fans of the series will be expecting is of course the difficulty level. I won’t lie to you – this game is tough. Nail-biting, controller-throwing, dog-kickingly frustrating in fact. Expect to struggle through the main levels with frequent game over screens, only to hit a brick wall every time you get to a major boss, which may take up to an hour of sheer hell before you beat it. There is a ‘hero’ difficulty option available which makes things easier, but if anything the game then feels TOO easy, almost like a normal games ‘Very Easy’ and ‘Insane’ difficulty modes, with nothing in-between. Of course you might like difficult games, and in that case you have my respect. Just don’t come looking for me when Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge kicks your ass and takes your name.
Graphically the game is nothing special, looking like an early PS3/Xbox 360 game with a lack of detail on textures and some fairly boxy backgrounds. It doesn’t look shockingly bad or anything, however the beautiful cherry blossom bedecked backgrounds of the original game seem a long way away. At least the London level features the London Eye and a fairly accurate representation of the exterior of 10 Downing Street however which is one definite plus point in my opinion.
Overall, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is a fairly predictable release. Whilst certainly an improvement on last year’s game in terms of its extra content, series trademark gore and upgrade options, it is still difficult to love. Yes, it’s a fairly basic hack and slash game and so set your expectations accordingly, but even within that genre this is fairly repetitive stuff. Workaday visuals and an unbalanced difficulty system also make it hard to recommend to anyone but real fans of the series. If you liked the older games and you come prepared for a challenge then by all means if you pick Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge you will get some enjoyment out of it, but for the rest of us there are plenty more forgiving and entertaining games out there. 6/10 then, and let’s hope that the forthcoming Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z goes some way towards revitalizing the series.