Razor's Edge offers a look at the world through Hayabusas eyes, showing what drives him to fight, and kill. At the center of the conflict this time around is a masked man who has taken the English Prime Minister hostage and sent out a video that says “Bring me Ryu Hayabusa”. A secret arm of the Japanese government travels to Hayabusa Village and asks Ryu to travel to London and wipe out the terrorists. Ryu is amenable, but when he confronts the masked man a curse is placed on him, a curse that blurs the lines between hero and villain, good and evil, and has Ryu Hayabusa questioning his way of life. Can the Dragon Ninja lift the curse in time to save not only his life, but also the world?
If you've never played a Ninja Gaiden game before, what you need to know is it's a brutal-looking hack-and-slash game with a third-person camera angle, and it's hard. Really hard. We're not talking Dark Souls kind of hard here, where even the weakest enemies can kill you if you're not paying attention, but it's close.
Your character has a few basic moves at their disposal. Offensively you have a fast attack and a strong attack that you string together to form deadly combos. You can also attack through the air with a variety of jump attacks, hurl shuriken with the press of a button, and attack enemies at distance with a bow. Killing enemies and stringing together combos also builds up your Ninpo meter which, when full, unleashes a deadly magical attack on all targeted enemies. Killing hostiles also earns you karma which you use to unlock new attacks, health meter upgrades, stronger weapons and Ninpo among other things.
In terms of defence you can block by holding L1, and dodge by pushing a direction while holding L1. These two moves play a critical role in your success as enemies are relentless, and you'll take major damage if you're not blocking or dodging frequently.
Outside of the campaign Razor's Edge offers a couple of other modes. First off there's Chapter Challenge, where you fight through an individual chapter trying to beat your previous best score. You can also use three female characters, Ayane, Momiji and Kasumi in Chapter Challenge once they've been unlocked. The women are, if anything, even more deadly than Ryu, making them a pleasure to control.
“Clan Battle” is a versus mode for up to eight players, but unfortunately despite frequent attempts to play this mode I could never find a game. That suggests there aren't many people playing Clan Battle online – at least not at Australian-friendly times. There's also a training mode you can use to hone your skills, though this does little more than list your moves and let you lose on a single enemy, so it's not very fun or exciting. “Ninja Records” stores all your gameplay data and lets you check your rank on the leaderboards. Online modes are deep too, as you start off with a level one character that must be levelled up, just like in the campaign.
As far as issues go, Razor's Edge has a few. Most notable are the cheap tactics employed to make the game as challenging as it is. Too often you get bombarded by long-range attackers you can't deal with because of the overwhelming number of melee enemies surrounding you. In the time it takes to aim and shoot your bow at the long-distance enemies you've usually been punished by the melee guys.
Another way combat feels cheap is by allowing enemies to deal you damage while you attack someone else, but not allowing you to dodge-roll during one of your attacks. This means you need to spend a lot of time ‘kiting' enemies, making them all follow you so you can attack them all front on, with no-one behind you dealing cheap damage. This just seems at odds with such a high-paced game.
Challenging games can be fun and rewarding, but in the case of Razor's Edge there were times where I asked myself if the pain was really worth it. The story is horrible, combat feels cheap more often than I cared for, and the rewards for progress aren't especially exciting. For most people this will result in the game being relegated to the shelf to collect dust.
Moving onto the visuals and while Razor's Edge runs at 720p this isn't a game that makes full, or even near-full, use of the PS3's power. The game looks decent enough, but the graphics haven't improved in the three and a half years since Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 so it's definitely showing its age. One significant change from Ninja Gaiden 3 is the inclusion of dismemberment and a crap-load of blood. Razor's Edge is extremely gory, and its R18+ rating is well deserved.
Sonically this game is dominated by sword slashing as one would expect with a few other effects such as explosions, opening doors, birds and, well, little else really. Other than the effects there is some music which is nice enough, but not memorable, while the speech varies between quite good to pretty average. Surround sound channels are used to good effect though, which is a plus.
Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge is an OK game, and one that fans of the series will likely get more out of than anyone else. It's hard to see this game winning over casual fans given the brutal difficulty level though. With a below average story, frequently cheap attack patterns and rather bland environments, Razor's Edge is hard to recommend to any but big-time Ninja Gaiden fans.
Review By: Mike Allison