Whenever you have a brand new console on the market, the games launched with it are automatically graded on a scale, either intentionally or – at this point – simply by habit. You may love a game on whatever new system, but while holding that game under the microscope, you realize that part of the thrill is just the newness of it all. It’s fresh, because the console is fresh – even if the game itself may not withstand the next wave of releases.
There are exceptions, of course, but launch day (or launch window) titles tend to be risky. For every great new title that justifies the new system, there are two that were hastily assembled to create the illusion of available content range for when people shell out cash for their new console. It happens on every new gaming hardware system, and the Wii U is no different. Nintendo does have one huge advantage here though.
Launch window games tend to be quickly developed for the launch thanks in no small part to the need for secrecy leading up to the release, which limits the development time a game can have; A problem that is compounded by unfamiliarity with the system. But what if you could skip all that and release games that had healthy development cycles, then give them half a year of fine-tuning on top of it?
This is our first Wii U review, but it is the beginning of a theme you may hear repeated often in the next few months. Several of the Wii U launch titles are re-releases of existing games, with a few twists to appeal to the new hardware. They are good, even great games have been given a polish. For Nintendo fans that only have the Wii, this is Christmas, and these games alone should keep you gleefully playing the Wii U for months. For the more dedicated gaming fan, this might be a moot point in favor of the Wii U; Many of the games are some of the biggest titles recently released so they’ve probably already been played by people who had any interest in them. And then there is a game like Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, which has been granted a new life, and revealed in it.
Ninja Gaiden 3 was originally released on PS3 and Xbox 360 in March, and it’d be kind to say that it was “flawed.” If you like, you can check out our full review here, but there isn’t a lot of point since it is a markedly better game now. The six months have been kind to Team Ninja, who overhauled the game and have created not just a good launch window game, but a good game, period.
The Director’s Cut
The story of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge remains inherently the same as the previous Ninja Gaiden 3. You play as the death dealing ultimate ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, whose total kill count borders on having him classified as an act of nature, or at least a weapon of mass destruction.
Upon investigating a hostage situation in London at the behest of the Japanese government, Ryu goes head-to-head with the group known as the Lords of Alchemy and is cursed with the “Grip of Murder.” This causes the odd slip into a murder filled dimension that occasionally pops up.
The plot is the same as the previously released Ninja Gaiden 3 with one notable exception, the addition of playable sections starring the ninja Ayane. These new modes don’t significantly alter the game or the story, but they do deliver a good bit of variety as Ayane comes complete with her own move set. She can also be selected in the Chapter Challenges, and is available through the online co-op, which was sadly not available during the review period.
The story remains as convoluted and yet oddly entertaining. As we mentioned in the original NG3 review, there really is no reason for a cloned dinosaur with a headset like the Borg to attack you, but what the hell. It’s bloody, wild, completely over the top, and features women with breasts that operate under water balloon-like physics which border on misogyny (okay, not even border), but it all works under the rules created by the game.
Porting this game to the Wii U also signifies something interesting that we are seeing more of: Nintendo’s changing stance when it comes to mature games. Nintendo was never outright against mature games, but it never did anything to truly attract them either. With games like NG3 and ZombiU as featured launch titles, that seems to have changed.
Dress Like a Ninja, Kill Like a Plague
The gameplay remains Ninja Gaiden’s defining characteristic, for better and worse. It’s a hack and slash in the truest sense of the word, but it is also brutally, sadistically difficult. As you play you unlock abilities, new weapons (including three new weapons: dual katanas, the Kusari-gama chain weapon, and the awesome lunar staff that are all exclusive to the Wii U), and new moves that give you better options as you progress. This adds impressive depth to a demanding combat system. But while the scenery is varied and looks better than ever on the Wii U (albeit not significantly better), the enemy variety is still fairly weak. You will see the same soldiers and monsters repeated over and over and over again, and by the time you reach the seventh and final day, some eight hours in, you can’t help but feel the weight of repetition. The combat does keep things lively though.
The learning curve is steep, and it requires quick reactions, as well as a good TV to be able to track everything that’s going on during hectic fights against enemies that aren’t that differentiated from you. But once you do figure it out, each new battle is an experience and a challenge. You need to practice patience and perfect your block, but also be able to react and link combos quickly. If you want to test yourself, try the hardest setting. Beating it on that level will give you bragging rights for life. If that isn’t your thing, then there is no shame playing on the easiest setting. The main difference from it and the level above it is that you’re charged a penalty in your score when it auto-blocks for you. It is a challenging game.
Like eating spicy foods, this is entirely down to personal tastes. The game is solid, and the Wii U port fixes numerous small problems like homicidal camera angles. It is, without question, what Team Ninja was hoping for with the previous version.
Introducing the GamePad
The highlight of the Wii U is, of course, the tablet-like GamePad. Each game will utilize it differently, and in the case of Razor’s Edge it offers more gameplay options, as well as additional information for your viewing pleasure. On the touchscreen, there are three buttons you will use often: The change weapon prompt, the Ninja Sense that guides you, and the Ninpo special attack. They simply make it easier to do what you already can with a controller. The Ninpo is the most useful, and when you power it up through combat the icon glows to signify that it’s ready.
The GamePad is ergonomically sound, but with games that have you constantly moving your fingers without mercy, you may consider switching to the new Wii U Pro Controller instead. Don’t consider this a negative against the game, however. We just thought it’s worth noting.
Online – Under Construction
During the review of this game, the Wii U’s full online functionality was not quite ready for prime time. The original version was something of a mess, with balance issues helping to highlight other problems. But since the rest of this game was polished so significantly, there is good cause to think the online has been refined as well. There is also the co-op, which is tantalizing.
Once the online is fully active, we will give it a full shake down and update this section (as well as the score, if necessary).
Ninja Gaiden 3 was a mess. It had technical problems, and it just didn’t work all that well. While this game is a port of that one, there is more than just a few new modes and inclusion of a new controller scheme. Razor’s Edge is a better game: Polished and reworked. It’s a second chance for Team Ninja, and one that they made the best of.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is still a hack and slash game with waves of identical enemies charging you endlessly. The combat is what makes this game, which is good, since that is pretty much all there is. Still, fun is fun. If you are among those looking for Wii U launch titles, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is among the strongest.
Score: 8 out of 10
(This article has been updated to correct an omission pointed out to us by the reader, NanaO).