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Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Wii U) review: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Wii U)

The Good Bloody, dramatic swordplay is a blast to watch
Certain battles and boss fights test your skill in entertaining ways
Additional weapons and Ayane chapters provide variety

The Bad The controls can't always keep up with the action
Frustrating fluctuations of difficulty levels
Story falls flat

The Bottom Line It's harder and more varied than its original release, but Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge doesn't reach the greatness of its forebears.

6.0 Overall

Ninja Gaiden 3 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was met with a large chorus of disappointed cries. Clearly, developer Team Ninja heard and considered the negative feedback that players flung in its direction like the blades of a thousand and one katanas, and thus crafted a retooled, more difficult edition of its brutal action game. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge has more faith in you than did its original iteration, challenging you to prove your worth rather than mindlessly slice your way through hordes of foul-mouthed ninjas. There are other improvements and additions too, all of which sound good on paper. But making Razor's Edge substantially harder did not make it substantially better.

6400265Ryu and Ayane prove that their blades are just as adept at slicing ninjas as they are at slicing watermelons.None

In many ways, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge resembles its blade-heavy forebears, with series hero Ryu Hayabusa eviscerating ninjas and dodging about at an alarming rate--and with alarming amounts of viscera--as accompaniment to your frantic button presses. With some assassinations comes a cinematic animation in which the camera swoops in close as Ryu slashes and chops, though they are fewer in number this time around, which keeps the pace flowing better. Every so often, you can hold a single button, and Ryu slices and dices through a number of foes, though you can't rely on this mechanic to do too much of the work for you: you have to earn your victories.

Indeed, Razor's Edge is quite hard at certain points. While you started the original release with a full repertoire of moves, here you begin with a scant list of attacks and purchase new combos and upgrades once you have earned enough karma through battle. You earn new weapons and magical ninpo attacks too, which is a great relief considering how the original Ninja Gaiden 3 limited you to a single blade and a single ninpo. Now, you can cut into bad guys with a giant scythe, voracious talons, or dual katanas, each of which subtly varies the tempo of combat in satisfying ways, and features its own gory animations.

Ryu and Ayane prove that their blades are just as adept at slicing ninjas as they are at slicing watermelons.

The increased challenge also comes in more traditional ways: enemies do more damage and you do less, and certain new enemies, such as throngs of speedy demon-creatures, threaten to overwhelm you by sheer numbers. But while the challenge is welcome, Team Ninja didn't balance it out by tightening the controls--and all too often relies on the projectile-spewing enemies that plagued Ninja Gaiden II. It simply isn't fun to have rockets flying at you from multiple directions in a melee combat game, particularly when they interrupt animations and knock you down. More importantly, there are excruciating moments when Ryu simply doesn't want to perform the necessary action, even though the animation for his previous move is clearly finished. This was a noticeable foible before, but given how easy Ninja Gaiden 3 was, it was more a nuisance than a liability. Now, Razor's Edge requires precision, but doesn't give you the tools to be precise.

The Wii U control pad doesn't prove a great asset to Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge--nor does it present a great liability. Given the mashy nature of combat, the sticks and buttons allow you to keep pace as well as a traditional controller. As for the touchpad, the ability to select weapons from the screen rather than pull up a separate menu is a handy touch, though otherwise, any action you can perform on that screen (ninpo attacks, for instance, or ninja sense, which shows you where to head next) is more efficiently performed using buttons.

Ryu and Ayane prove that their blades are just as adept at slicing ninjas as they are at slicing watermelons.

Along with standard encounters, the boss battles have been intensified, in some cases exponentially, though the original release's recurring boss still manages to be a tedious one. At least most of these battles test your wits in this iteration, with additional attacks and vast amounts of health lost when big baddies like a hulking metallic dinosaur get a swipe in. But while many of these encounters require more focus than before, the challenge was not evenly applied. The god prototype requires many minutes of patient slashing and dodging that you will likely repeat a number of times--yet you'll probably triumph in the larger-than-life Obaba battle in a single go. Your biggest enemy when it comes to bosses is not the battle itself, but rather your health bar: your maximum health diminishes over time as you take damage. There's a good chance you might enter a boss battle with your health bar a fraction of its full length--and there it shall remain even when you restart the battle.

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