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Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge review

Not just your gaiden variety Wii U port

It was around the time we hopped along a line of missiles to deliver a deathblow to a helicopter that we realised Ninja Gaiden 3:Razor's Edge was a pretty silly game. Half an hour later, as we chopped up Alsatians decked in Kevlar body warmers, we realised it was a really silly game. When, just 20 minutes after that, we drove a katana into a cyborg T-Rex's skull, we decided this was the silliest game we'd played for a year.

It wasn't always this way. The Ninja Gaiden 3 that hit PS360 last year was a more earnest affair, as Team Ninja attempted to take players behind the mask and reveal the inner turmoil of legendary limb-severer, Ryu Hayabusa. Yes, it introduced the aforementioned Alsatians and cyborg dinosaurs, but it also gave him a cursed arm that pulsed with past sins and awkward interactive cutscenes where he had to kill men as they pleaded for their lives. It was jarring and tonally unpleasant.

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Suddenly discovering Ryu's conscience made for a conflicted action game that questioned its hero's murderous career as it skewered thousands of meat puppets onto his blade. Turns out you can't philosophise about moral responsibility and let people garrotte dogs. It reminded us, tellingly, of Team Ninja's other action game-turned-human drama: Metroid: Other M. That game also struggled to marry blistering action with a heroine who just wanted to have a good cry.

Bad To The Bone

Razor Edge's greatest innovation, then, is its renewed commitment to dumb action. The story still bears the scars of the earlier game - Ryu's cursed arm is a key plot point - but it keeps the moralising off the battlefield and in the overwrought cutscenes where it belongs. You're no longer asked to slaughter unarmed men (the game isn't so picky with goons you've de-armed) and segments where his sinful arm takes a toll on his body are radically overhauled.

Originally, the cursed limb forced Ryu to stumble along, hacking up enemies in blur-o-vision. On Wii U, the arm whisks him to an alternate dimension in which his health continuously falls unless he kills waves of demons. It's so much more hands-on (and arms-off) than the original, though we do question the logic of punishing a killer with, er, extra killing. It's like sending a Lion bar fiend to a dimension made of Lion bars (if some god of chocolate happens to be reading, I am totally cool with this idea).

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With Ryu's health bar turned into a ticking time bomb, you're forced to engage with Razor's Edge's 'Steel On Bone' attacks. Countering a grab with a strong attack - by performing an evasive dodge and striking before the enemy regains composure - results in a violent instant kill. The attack can be chained to nearby foes, enabling one strike to remove three or four opponents. Waiting for a grab to counter makes the draining health tense, but the payoff is worth it.

For all the shattered femurs it brings about, Steel On Bone provides a robust skeleton for an altogether tighter combat system. The same moves in the original were almost randomly triggered (they worked on weakened enemies); having a concrete rule set reintroduces the clinical precision the series is famed for. It's a good thing, too: for all the pain that can be woven from weak/strong combos, enemies are real damage sponges. You'll want to master Steel On Bone just to rest your mashed-out thumbs.

That said, could the moves prove too reliable? Learn to anticipate the telltale signs of a grab - certain sound effects and a glowing red aura - and there's little enemies can do to touch you. Confusing monster designs in the second half of the game hide their weaknesses better, but, bosses aside, Steel On Bone carves through most with little resistance. Don't get us wrong, it'll take genuine mastery to break the game's steep difficulty curve, but it can feel like an instant-win button.

Instant wince, too, as the zoomed-in camera gives us front row seats for some of the ickiest scenes since Inside Nature's Giants. Vast geysers of blood are harmlessly silly, but scenes of sawing through bone and muscle come with a tangible sense of gristly resistance.

Blood and dismemberment were absent from earlier versions, putting us in a bizarro universe in which a Nintendo platform has the most vicious version of a game. Liberal squirts of jam-like plasma aren't big or clever, but they do lend a violent sting to your actions. It also impacts enemy tactics. Goons will pull out machine guns with their one remaining arm or crawl - legless - along the floor with a grenade in their grip. It's like fighting an army of Monty Python's Black Knight.

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Comments

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  1. 5OUNDWAVE Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 12:17

    tried to pre-order this today at hmv (belfast city centre) but they did'nt know if they where getting it in , no wonder there struggling !

  2. toffeeman30 Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 13:08

    even with the flashy graphics and violence this cant beat the original nes ninja gaiden.

  3. Kesskuron Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 13:27

    tried to pre-order this today at hmv (belfast city centre) but they did'nt know if they where getting it in , no wonder there struggling !

    They probably aren't getting it in because it isn't likely to sell a lot so it'd just take up space and money that could be spent on things that will sell; it's nothing to do with them struggling.

  4. DFawkes Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 13:32

    That was probably my favourite Matthew Castle review I've read :) Not that there's anything wrong with the rest, I just enjoyed reading it a lot.

    Looks like a fantastic game, and I was never really good enough at previous versions of the game to want to play that long, so this grab-dodge button sounds ideal for someone like me. That, as well as all the positive changes to the core game, certainly make the Wii U version seem like the one to go for (for now at least).

  5. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 13:55

    Looks like a really good game,I wouldn't mind getting it.

  6. ryane694 Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 14:19

    Looks like a really good game,I wouldn't mind getting it.


    It is a good game i had it for the xbox 360 and i didnt have any problems with it. The story is a bit random though. Thinking of picking it up at some point but i think i will wait until it goes under 30

  7. MartinIsAwesome Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 15:54

    I haven't played any of the modern Ninja Gaiden games (I've only dabbled in the first NES and Game Gear games), so hopefully I won't experience the same disappointment from comparison to previous games.
    The great thing about a review like this is that now I know what to expect and I can appreciate it's merits more when I eventially get to play it.

    One thing that isn't mentioned here is the additional playable characters that I've heard about. How do they feature and what do they add to the game?

  8. MatthewONM Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 16:14

    One thing that isn't mentioned here is the additional playable characters that I've heard about. How do they feature and what do they add to the game?


    Ayane aside, the other characters will be added as free DLC and weren't available in my review copy. We'll be covering them in a separate DLC review in the next issue. Basically, the DLC adds new characters for the replay mode, so you can try any story level with a character of your choice. You should be able to use them in the online mission mode, too, but I'm not 100% on that.

  9. JaySuthEFC Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 16:27

    Probably a game I'd look into if it was on the cheap and struggling for wii u games to play

  10. MartinIsAwesome Thursday 10th Jan 2013 at 16:45

    Ayane aside, the other characters will be added as free DLC and weren't available in my review copy. We'll be covering them in a separate DLC review in the next issue. Basically, the DLC adds new characters for the replay mode, so you can try any story level with a character of your choice. You should be able to use them in the online mission mode, too, but I'm not 100% on that.


    Thanks for the update. I look forward to reading it!

  11. KH81314 Friday 11th Jan 2013 at 14:57

    Still not quite sold on this game yet. Still might pick it up if I find it cheap.

  12. starmie68 Saturday 12th Jan 2013 at 20:13

    Took me six vists to different shops to pick this up alot of shops said that it wasnt released this week very strange.

    Got my copy and i have to say its better than the ps3 verison i played a few months back but the graphics dont look as good :cry:

  13. PeterR Sunday 13th Jan 2013 at 13:06

    I'd consider getting this but I'm not sure if I could stomach it, especially slicing up GSD's.

  14. LewiiG Sunday 13th Jan 2013 at 23:48

    Playing Ninja Gaiden Black in order to reach this game. It is a series I wanted to get into for a while. It's like Devil May Cry, but ninja. Difficulty and all. Good.

  15. dave666 Wednesday 16th Jan 2013 at 00:08

    OH NO YOU DIDN'T !!!

    75% ??? are you serious

    90% in my opinion because this game kicks a$$.

    There are so many reasons why this is a great game

    gameplay
    graphics
    content
    controls
    replay value

    and that feeling of being a total bad a$$,if leatherface was a ninja his name would be ryu hyabusa.

  16. singlesaviour Saturday 16th Feb 2013 at 23:03

    Considering buying this, after all, if ONM has restructured its rating system, then 75% isn't a bad score...

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