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Ninja Gaiden 3: Razorís Edge
Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Tecmo KOEI America
Developer: Team Ninja
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Ugh, Ninja Gaiden 3. In my opinion, it is the second most disappointing sequel ever made (the first being Devil May Cry 2). It's maddening to see a game remove almost everything that made its forebears great only to make room for some terrible new ideas. Well, here we are, one year later, and we have Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. Originally released as a Wii U title, this upgraded version of a troubled action game aims to be a sort of apology. After playing this PlayStation 3 version, I'm inclined to forgive them. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is hardly the best game in the franchise, but at least it's worthy of its name.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge has the look of a Team Ninja game. The animation work is excellent and the character models look, well, like Team Ninja characters. The men (particularly Ryu) are ripped and possess what is quite possibly a body fat percentage of less than 1%. The women, well... they're Team Ninja women. They are implausible combinations of the following factors: they are incredibly powerful and agile, they possess soft faces, they are ruthlessly violent, and of course, they all have torpedo breasts that seem to run on their own physics engines. The gore has been returned to Ninja Gaiden II's level. Ninja and fiend alike are decapitated, halved, and reduced to two legs and a pelvis. The blood sprays and the viscera splatters. Environments aren't terribly interesting by design, but they are no less fun to traverse, thanks to Ryu's incredible agility.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge has essentially the same sound design as last year's game; it was fine last year, and it's fine now. Troy Baker's voice roles tend to sound interchangeable with each other, so if you've played a game with him in it, you'll know what to expect from his Ryu Hayabusa. Just about every human enemy in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge has a cockney accent, so get used to them cursing you out when you lop off a limb. Sound effects are disgusting; while I can't say that I know exactly what the clashing of steel on bone sounds like, the impact in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is grisly enough for me to accept. The music is decent without being anything spectacular; that being said, there's a ton of heavy metal shredding that I don't really recall being in previous games. It doesn't matter, though -- it fits well enough.


Gameplay:
Ninja Gaiden 3's story hasn't changed since last year, so make of that what you will. Ryu Hayabusa finds himself pitted up against the Lords of Alchemy, a sinister organization of mages whose plans involve the destruction of the world to make way for a new beginning. One of its most powerful members manages to dissolve the Dragon Sword and seal it within Ryu's right arm (a curse called the Grip of Murder). Standard stuff, to be sure, but there's also some family drama in the troubles of the Japan Self-Defense Force's Mizuki McCloud and her adoptive daughter, Canna. As you can probably expect, these two stories collide in a spectacularly over-the-top manner. The storytelling isn't good, but it's better than that of both of its predecessors.

Like Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is a linear character action game. As Ryu (or series veterans Ayane and Kasumi), you make your way through a series of levels, stopping time and again to deal with groups of enemies out to do you harm. When you're not fighting, you're finding a way to traverse the environment.

Shadows of the World returns for Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and it's essentially the same beast. Player customization, ranking up, and game modes remain virtually unchanged, for better or for worse. Ninja Trials and Clan Battles are here for your cooperative and competitive fix. I don't think any of these multiplayer modes has any longevity in it, but I've been wrong before.


Difficulty:
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is much harder than Ninja Gaiden 3. That may not be saying much; last year's game was a joke, a total pushover featuring enemies who were more than content to die at your hand. In Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, they want you dead, and they do what they can to make you dead. Enemies don't line up for you anymore. They attack wildly and out of sequence; they do not wait for their friends to get in a hit or two before going all out. You must be on your toes all the time; situational awareness is key, and if you don't have any, you're going to die. The increased challenge level is met by an expanded move list, and that makes for an infinitely more rewarding gameplay experience.

Two particular moments feel more than a little cheap, and they are both towards the end of the game. However, you can be cheap in these moments too; thank God for exploits, right? Well, not really, but at least they let you give the game a taste of its own medicine, right?


Game Mechanics:
Ninja Gaiden 3 made the mistake of letting its story interfere with gameplay. Those wretched forced-walk sequences and painful dramatic interludes utterly destroyed any sense of proper pacing. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge fixes this entirely. When the Grip of Murder takes over, Ryu is sent to a nightmarish dimension where he must dispatch legions of enemies. Oh, and his health slowly drains away; if you want to replenish it, you must kill, kill, kill. These sequences are chaotic and exciting -- a fine replacement for those horrid forced-walk moments.

I still miss the Essence system, and I still don't know why Team Ninja chose to remove it from the combat system in the first place. However, you can upgrade and purchase equipment and techniques using the Karma earned in battle. There are multiple weapons and multiple Ninpo types this time around, which adds some much-needed diversity. And speaking of Ninpo, it heals you when you execute a successful attack, which lessens the sting of not seeing those delicious blue orbs during each fight. Ryu's arsenal of abilities is much expanded, and the game is much better for it.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is the game that should have been released last year. It's still one of the weaker games in the series, but it's so much better than Ninja Gaiden 3 that it's managed to erase most of the unpleasant memories I have of that game. That's really saying something. Alright, Team Ninja -- you're forgiven. Just don't let it happen again, okay?


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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