I will preface this review by saying I have never played a Ninja Gaiden game before this. I don’t know if there is continuity to be kept up with, previous storylines that are tying in, or what changes there are between the original NG3 and Razor’s Edge. This is me reviewing the game as a standalone title.
And really, there’s not a whole lot of bad to be said about it. Then again, there’s not a whole lot of good either.
Right off the bat I cringe, hearing the all-too-familiar voice of Troy Baker coming from Ryu. The man does a good enough job with voice acting, but with other high-end rolls recently happening in Bioshock Infinite and the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy), he’s wearing thin. I’m sure there are other gravelly, brooding voices that could have been used to personify our protagonist. That said, Baker does a fine job of delivering his lines properly – I just grow tired of him.
Moving along to the actual game, I find myself torn. There’s no denying how fun it is to slice and dice your way through the waves of increasingly powerful adversaries. The combos are simple to execute and difficult to master – a great way to grab casual fans while giving those more dedicated the pleasure of stringing together more complicated and wonderfully bloody hit combos.
I’ve never been a fan of dodging and guarding in hack ‘n slash titles, preferring more to run straight in hacking and slashing like my life depends on it. That is possibly the worst tactic you could ever use in Ninja Gaiden, as I found out in the first ten minutes of gameplay. Boss battles are especially frustrating, actually presenting a challenge. Whether you love or hate the series, you’ve got to hand it to them – in a world full of laughably easy games and boss battles, Ninja Gaiden is constantly raising the bar, making you think carefully about the battles and use clever maneuvers to dodge the wide blast radiuses and ever-attacking enemy swarms.
There is a fine line between a fun challenge and rage-inducing frustration, however. For almost every single boss I found myself dying and dying and dying, frantically trying new strategies and combos to outwit the normal-difficulty enemies. I would end up incapacitated time after time until the game gave me the option to switch to its version of beginner difficulty, which I begrudgingly had to do nearly every time. My gamer ego had never taken so many blows before Ninja Gaiden.
Perhaps it is because of the aforementioned strong difficulty curve, or perhaps it’s attributed to the lackluster story (Ryu takes on an assassination job and his slicin’ arm gets cursed and veiny – he spends the game tracking down the curser to defeat him and get his infected arm back to normal before it spreads… or something), but I just couldn’t immerse myself into Razor’s Edge like I was hoping I would. Never did I find myself plopped in front of the television for hours on end without being able to peel myself away. I would generally play one 30 to 40-minute chapter per session, get bored, then put the controller down.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game – the graphics are top-notch, with flawless transitions between gameplay and cutscenes. There are casual quicktime events, but they don’t blatantly tell you to PRESS B NOW. You just have to watch and pay attention during the cinematics and take the appropriate actions when Ryu starts running, jumping, slashing, et cetera. In those aspects the game is high quality.
But without the ability to grab me and make me WANT to keep playing, none of the good points matter. If I don’t want to play it, that’s all there is. It’s just not interesting enough for me to press onward willingly. Admittedly I became more interested later on and would sometimes play multiple chapters at once, but one of the worst things you can put in your game is a weak prologue. Most people playing Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge are going to be previous fans of the Ninja Gaiden franchise. If you want to grab the attention of randoms who are sampling new games to see what they might like, you need a great opening act. You want to entice them into playing more and seeing what’s going to happen, but that just isn’t the case this time.
Even the robot dinosaurs – awesome though they may be – couldn’t save this game. And please, Team Ninja. I know Ayane is one of your beloved characters through the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive games, but for goodness sake, can we leave the unrealistic boob-jiggling with the latter? She’s actually a neat character, and fun to play as in NG3:RE, but I cannot take her seriously with her rack just bouncing along WHILE SHE STANDS STILL.
So while it had a few bright moments, and I don’t feel like my time playing was time wasted, this game is best suited for those who actively want to follow the life and times of Ryu Hayabusa, and will likely be greatly enjoyed by those folk. But if you haven’t been interested in Ninja Gaiden before now, you’d be hard-pressed to change your mind after this.
A PS3 digital download copy of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was provided to Save/Continue for review purposes. The game is currently available for $39.99.