Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, the frenetic hack and slash ninja title, is a curious choice for a Wii U launch title, even moreso when you realize that Nintendo published this version of the game.
Presumably, this is Nintendo’s way of showing that the Wii U doesn’t need to just be home to fun, family friendly games (not that we have a problem with that!), but can also support mature titles for core gamers. Too bad Nintendo didn’t pick a better game to make that point.
On the surface, Ninja Gaiden 3 delivers for gamers looking for a mature experience, with a hefty dose of bloodshed, dismemberment, and fast-paced action. Dig below the surface though, and you see that Razor’s Edge is repetitive, uninspired, and eventually, quite possibly rather boring. And curiously, there’s very little stealthy ninja-ing.
The bulk of Ninja Gaiden 3 involves being swarmed by groups of enemies, and fighting them off with heavy button-mashing using your sword or other ninja weapons and your magic Ninpo attacks to deal damage. That can be fun at first, but after a couple of hours running the rough, highly linear levels having the same kind of button-mashing encounters, Ninja Gaiden wears out its welcome.
Things might feel better if the combat was memorable, but it’s not. If the gold standard for melee against groups of enemies is Rocksteady’s Batman games, Ninja Gaiden 3 earns, at best, a participant ribbon for fighting that doesn’t feel fluid or organic, especially when you try to move from one enemy to another. At the least, you will add new weapons and Ninpo abilities over time, as well as use experience points to unlock more powers and abilities as your progress.
One major problem is, while this may be a launch title for the Wii U, this isn’t really a game that any new Wii U owner could just pick up and play. That’s largely because the game makes zero effort to make itself accessible to new gamers, and just assumes if you are playing that you’ll know everything about the game’s backstory. For example, at one point early in the game’s second geographic location, a character pops up, gives you something, then disappears, and if you aren’t intimately familiar with the Ninja Gaiden backstory, you’ll be as lost as I was.
To be really effective as a launch title for a new system, a game really needs to be more welcoming to new players, and when we are talking about a game that has already been out for several months, it is worth asking whether there are that many Ninja Gaiden fans who didn’t already play the game on the PS3 or Xbox. There are a few new additions to a game that was critically received early in 2012, but I don’t think it’s a fundamental enough improvement to warrant playing again.
Finally, and hopefully needless to say, there is nothing about Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge that is in any way appropriate for children, so don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s safe for kids because it’s on the Wii U.
The GamerPops Recommendation
No one can ever say the Wii U can’t support bloody, mature games thanks to Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. But what still needs to be proven is that the Wii U can support great, bloody, mature games. Ninja Gaiden 3 might still appeal to fans of the series who skipped on the PS3/Xbox, and is certainly a better version than the original, but the end result doesn’t come across as all that original.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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ESRB Rating Summary
Rating: M for Mature
Content descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes
Rating summary: This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of Ryu Hayabusa, a cursed ninja battling a terrorist organization. Players use katanas, bows, shurikens, and special attacks to kill demon creatures and human enemies (e.g., evil ninjas, armored soldiers). The melee-style combat is highlighted by slow-motion effects and exaggerated blood splashes as enemies are frequently impaled, decapitated, and dismembered; some attacks end with close-up camera angles on bloodied foes. Cutscenes also portray intense acts of violence: an incapacitated villain stabbed in the chest; characters dismembered in slow motion. In one mode, players can use a knife or explosives to commit hara-kiri (i.e., ritual suicide). During the course of the game, some female characters are dressed in skin-tight outfits, accentuating their exaggerated cleavage. The word “f**k” can be heard in the dialogue.