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.
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
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.
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.