Some people associate the Wii with family-friendly games, and thus classify the console as a kid’s platform – those people have obviously not played MadWorld. For those who are looking to slice and dice with abandon -next-gen style- on the Wii U, look no further than Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge to quench that blood thirst of yours. I read a lot of negative stuff about the other console versions of Ninja Gaiden 3. However, I think that players of the Wii U version may be in for a bloody treat.
The protagonist of the game, Ryu Hyabusa, is a ninja without peer*, laying waste to opponents (human or otherwise) with his Dragon Sword. Ryu is a typical badass: skilled beyond belief and refusing to flinch at impossible odds, he is the kind of butt-kicker that movie action heroes look up to. He is also a fairly simple man, cutting to the point in every sense of the phrase. Thus, it is only fitting that the premise of the game is fairly straightforward: destroy your enemies**. And off you go, dispatching opponents hither and yon in between some very impressive cut-scenes.
As you slash and slice through your foes, your Karma increases. The better your technique (great combos; remaining unscathed) the more Karma points you receive – which you can use to better your character. As the game progresses you will be able to upgrade your combinations and ninpo (think: ninja magic tricks that can kill you); you will also attain new weapons. I originally thought that this would just end up being a plethora of re-skinned weapons that would all feel the same – but I was wrong. Each weapon actually looks and feels quite different from others; which makes the action a lot more satisfying. Also, the upgraded combinations and ninja magic go a long way in alleviating your constant death (resulting in only near-constant death).
Let’s see a Disney Princess do this!
For the most part, you can achieve your ends with “ye olde mashinge of buttonse”; however, the pace changes slightly with some quick-time sequences, so it is best to pay attention as Ryu will tend to over-commit to some of the moves that you perform, giving him a momentum that is hard to pull out of. I haven’t played a Ninja Gaiden game since the olden days; and all I really remember from that experience is that I died. Even so, I recall it being a frustratingly fun game – but, as tough as it was, I don’t think it prepared me for the difficulty of Razor’s Edge. That’s right: plan to die a lot. While mowing through the foot soldiers is relatively easy (at least, before the game starts throwing super-natural enemies at you), some of the mini-bosses take some finesse to conquer; and don’t even think about sailing through the end-stage bosses without a few retries***. Your health bar is cursed: it seems to never really be anywhere near full when you reach the bosses – and if you should die and respawn, it doesn’t seem to be any more full than the last time you faced off against the boss.
I used the Wii U GamePad to play this game; but I found that it got a bit uncomfortable after a relatively short period of time. This is a shame, because the new controller is quite functional due to the extra buttons. The GamePad’s touch screen is also oddly inconvenient in some instances: being able to select weapons is awesome; using the touch-screen for “ninja sense” (which shows you where to go) feels weird. During the Nintendo holiday party, I used the Pro controller, and while it is missing a touch-screen, I think it might be a better fit for this game.
Visually, the game is stunning. Action can be lightning-quick, or it can happen in John Woo-esque slow motion; but no matter what speed the game is moving at, everything is as smooth as a Barry White number. Of course, this game will make you feel like wearing a rain-coat due to the sheer volume of spraying blood and the abundance of gore – but like Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi, the spilling of blood seems to be its own kind of art. Audio is also quite awesome, with great music and bone-crunching sound-effects, this game is definitely not for the faint of heart and will get your adrenaline pumping in pretty much no time.
“I borrowed this from the Witch King of Angmar.”
As fun and crazy as Razor’s Edge is, it feels like it suffers a little bit from the curse of a launch title. While not a one-to-one ratio, there is definitely an odd thing for every few great bits. For instance, the idea of including multi-player co-op and competitive play is awesome – but in multi-player mode the camera feels like it is out of control at times (just like in the single-player mode occassionally), making it hard to figure out where you are (and who you are). The inclusion of Ayane, a strong female character who is light on her feet, is great – but it highlights the issue that I indicated before: sometimes Ryu over-commits to moves, resulting in your health bar going down on account of a severe attack of…well…attacks – with no real way to defend yourself, resulting a sluggish feeling ninja (if only for that moment). All of these would be more forgivable if it wasn’t for the ridiculous difficulty level.
So, what to think? Is Razor’s Edge a fun game? Yes. Is it visually beautiful? Oh yeah. Does it have issues? Of course. However, it is definitely a fun launch title and has to be taken with a grain of salt. While not trying to insult Team Ninja, I’m just not sure if I would pay full price for it (unless they somehow fixed the camera bits and the odd “stickiness” of Ryu’s combinations not allowing him to defend himself). Also, if you are going to play this, you really have to like difficult games. Really.