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5/28/2013

REVIEW: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Xbox 360)


The original Ninja Gaiden 3 was such a terrible game that it literally crushed the hopes of the vast majority of fans in the franchise worldwide. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did went wrong. So when Team NINJA (also makers of Dead or Alive) decided to remake another version originally for Wii U, I didn’t really expect much and even though I’m a huge fan of the original Ninja Gaiden Black (one of the best games ever for me), Razor’s Edge didn’t get me excited at all. But given Team NINJA’s positive history with remakes, I ultimately decided to give a try to the Xbox 360 version given that it was fairly cheap.

In the vanilla version, pretty much everything is really bad. The technical aspects like the graphics, sound and overall performance of the game. The plot is also terrible, being a shame to everything Ryu Hayabusa represented in the Original Xbox game and the gameplay felt more like a mediocre Dynasty Warriors than a Ninja Gaiden game. There were way too many things to change, things to improve and completely scrap from the first version. So I just didn’t think Razor’s Edge would be much of an improvement. Fortunately, I was very wrong.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is quite possibly one of the most impressive remakes I’ve played in my history as a hardcore gamer. The graphics have been completely improved just like the overall sound performance. In gameplay, Team NINJA made the correct decision of destroying unnecessary parts and add a lot of new content like three extra characters, new weapons, ninpo spells, boss fights, enemy models and many more and though it still doesn’t reach the level of brilliance of Ninja Gaiden Black, I can tell you for sure that Razor’s Edge is truly a fantastic game.

Before jumping to the good stuff, I’ll mention the only bad thing about the game, which is ironically the only thing it still shares with vanilla: The storyline. NG3 starts with a terrorist attack in London where the bad guys, led by a boring villain that calls himself an alchemist are demanding the presence of super ninja Ryu Hayabusa to use him to create a Goddess. After battling him, Ryu’s arm is cursed because of the thousands of people he’s killed with his Dragon Sword and so begins a quest to both heal himself and stop this ridiculous group of alchemists from remaking the world or whatever it is they wanted.

The plot is laughable at best and no matter how I try to explain it, it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not interesting at all, it’s much worse that I can put into words and I see it as a disrespect to the badass personality the same developers gave to Ryu in the first game. There, Ryu almost didn’t talk; he didn’t care for anything (even an incredibly hot busty blonde that followed him around), only his revenge and kill demons. That’s all that was necessary, but now Team NINJA decided to make an epic quest, even making Ryu turn friendly to a little girl. They failed of course but fortunately, you’ll only have to endure this once as now, 90% of the game revolves around gameplay outside the plot.

The graphics are excellent and make most of the remade environments look beautiful. Ryu and the new playable girls look incredible and have excellent animations on them, just like the enemies that now move gracefully around places and have more intense and badass-looking attack patterns. The gore from the original Ninja Gaiden II is back so you’ll see enemies drop fountains of blood and lose limbs in pretty much every fight. The game is extremely fast unlike others in the same genre like for example God of War and yet, has a very solid framerate that never slows down even when too many things are happening at the same time, which is almost in every fight. The textures are much better than in vanilla, especially on the important characters.

Musically, Razor’s Edge is a bit generic but not bad at all. Many of the most iconic old songs from Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 make a comeback like Ayane’s theme or the Boss Battle themes that played when fighting against Doku or Zedonius in the previous games. It’s cool overall but it doesn’t really offer any new iconic musical scores. One of the things I have to thank to the Gods is the removal of the annoying lines the human enemies used to repeat in vanilla. Those are gone for the most part and now they just scream in rage or agony as they fight, just like the non-human enemies.

In gameplay, Razor’s Edge feels much closer to the first two titles than to vanilla as now, enemies have a very solid AI that make them perform very intense attack patterns that can be very difficult to deal with. Enemies now feel real instead or the lifeless models the game put before you to kill before. The annoying parts from the first version are either gone, like the uncomfortable scene with a terrorist asking Ryu for mercy only to be killed anyway, or extremely reduced like the “stealth” section in Chapter 1 or the part where Ryu had to carry a little girl around a hallway filled with ugly monsters for a long while. Now, those only take about 10 seconds to complete and feel more like a connection between cool fights rather than an annoyance. They’re only present in Story Mode too, which means, never.

A radical change in gameplay was added. Now, you’ll earn Karma Score with each fight and use it as currency to unlock skills like the Guillotine Throw or Flying Swallow technique, better versions of weapons and Ninpo spells and of course, costumes for each playable character. Golden Scarabs are also back and collecting them will give you pretty cool bonuses and Obliteration Techniques also make a comeback from Ninja Gaiden II. If an enemy loses a limb while fighting, you can kill it with a single excellent-looking attack. These Obliteration Techniques replace the crappy quick-time events from Vanilla.

Ryu himself got several new weapons like the Dual Katanas that allow him to use two blades at the same time for intense-looking attacks, the Lunar Staff or one of my personal favorites, the Kusari-gama, a weight attached to a small scythe with a metallic chain that has excellent animations and works excellent for both one-on-one and area-of-effect damage. The returning weapons now feel very different and trust me when I say that each of them has its uses. Many of the enemies will be more susceptible to certain attacks while probably being more resistant to others. I truly recommend avoiding sticking to a single weapon in Razor’s Edge as all six are really excellent.

After completing the crappy plot, you’ll earn access to the Chapter Challenge mode that allows you to play any chapter without the lame story cinematics and best of all, with any of the three new playable girls, Ayane, Momiji and Kasumi. Each of them has their own gameplay style that does not resemble Ryu’s at all. Ayane is extremely fast with her two daggers and exploding shurikens, Momiji is slower but deals tons of damage with her Naginata and Kasumi (who makes her first appearance in Ninja Gaiden) uses a single short Katana in reverse-grip for some beautiful and elegant attacks.

Besides Chapter Challenge, there’s a mode called Shadows of the World where you’ll engage in some extremely cool Ninja Trials that put your character-of-choice in a set area to kill a specific set of enemies that may or may not end in a boss fight. These trials are all very cool and have some of the most insane enemy combinations. As you advance on them and unlock new ones, the fights against normal enemies and bosses will get more and more difficult, even to ridiculous points where you’ll most likely wonder what the hell you have to do to survive. Fan-favorite bosses like Doku, Alma and Genshin return in Ninja Trials. These are all excellent for gamers looking for a challenge and beat Karma score records in the online Leaderboards.

Shadows of the World also has a level-up system where you’ll be able to take control of an Unknown Ninja and unlock weapons, skills and even parts of costumes to him. In gameplay, he’s just a clone of Ryu but unlocking the stuff and leveling up his skills and weapons is actually very fun. You can also take part in Co-op challenges with a friend online, these are VERY hard and Clan Battles are a return of the shitty multiplayer from vanilla. This time however, glitches and bugs are fixed, the maps are better designed and the overall performance is better. Defeating other players online will prove to be just as difficult as the AI-controlled enemies with their mechanics.

It’s truly a shame that Team NINJA decided not to change the storyline because that’s probably the thing that still keeps Razor’s Edge below Black in overall quality. Still, I can say for sure that this is an amazing game in every other aspect. The vast majority of the bad things are gone and in their place, many excellent ones were included. New weapons, enemies, characters and game modes make Razor’s Edge the true Ninja Gaiden 3, with countless hours of replay value. We can now add this game to the increasing number of excellent remakes made by Team NINJA who somehow always manages to do an excellent job when remaking their own games like in the cases of Dead or Alive ++, 2 Ultimate, 3.1, Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Sigma 2.


Pros:

-          Tons of new content like weapons, modes and characters.
-          Obliteration techniques replace QTE.
-          Excellent graphics.
-          Extremely solid gameplay will test your abilities.
-          Ninja Trials and Clan Battles add a lot of replay value.
-          Intense boss fights.
-          Annoying sections of the original version are gone or heavily reduced.

Cons:

-          Extremely bad storyline.
-          Soundtrack is a bit generic.


-          Graphics and Visuals………....9
-          Music and Sound Effects…......7
-          Gameplay……………………10
-          Replay Value………………...10


-          Overall Score……………….. 9 / 10

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