Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (part of Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection)
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA Corporation
Genre(s): Fighting, Action-Adventure, Hack and Slash
Platform: PS4 (also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 10/06/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Ninja Gaiden 3 released in 2012 with little fanfare. The developers received so much backlash, that they planned a rerelease that same year. In 2013, Team Ninja released Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, bringing a more complete version of Ninja Gaiden 3 to the Wii U. Now, in 2021, Team Ninja has released the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on most modern consoles. Featured in this collection are Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Find out my thoughts on Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge in this Rapid Review.
The Modern Era!
Unlike its predecessors, the story in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge focuses on ninjas in the modern era. Organizations like the CIA and the League of Nations are prevalent, which was a complete contrast to the prior titles. This implementation adds a modern spin to the classic formula. Though it was surprising, the new direction of the story did not strongly impact my opinion of the game, as the story has never been the focus in Ninja Gaiden titles. Even though they went in a new direction with this installment, the story featured in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was not noteworthy enough to warrant purchasing the game by itself. This is normal though, as gameplay is generally the main reason to purchase a Ninja Gaiden title.
In addition to the new plot premise, the developers include various new characters. These people help immerse players in the new world and introduce exciting new characters in the Ninja Gaiden canon. Unfortunately, to make these characters feel important Ryu has a more prominent role in the story. He strays from the quiet stoic ninja fans have come to know and converses with characters throughout the story. The new characters helped bridge the divide between the traditional story and the new one. However, I did not like that the developers changed some of Ryu’s fundamental principles. Regardless, there are some enjoyable characters introduced in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
Even if you Cannot Speak Ninja
In contrast to the lacklustre story, the developers included some excellent accessibility options. The entire story could be played with subtitles which was an excellent help, especially for players who have auditory restrictions. Additionally, when the player logs in to their save file after taking a break, the developers included brief summaries about what was going on in each chapter. This helps keep busy players engaged with the title. Even if players take a long break, they will find themselves able to pick up the title right where they left off. I thought this was helpful, as I occasionally find myself losing my places in games.
No Ninja Gaiden games have captivating stories, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is no exception. Though this effort to revitalize the formula was good in theory, I still found the story a little underwhelming. Moreover, new characters were enjoyable, but the developers altered their vision of Ryu to stress their importance. The developers included accessibility features to ensure the audience could play their game though which is an excellent addition. Even still, overall, the story featured in this game were underwhelming.
How am I to Win without Healing?
The gameplay in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is like the predecessor Ninja Gaiden Sigma II. Combat is fast-paced, requiring the player to make quick decisions about their actions. The player still has two types of health. All damage lasts throughout the battle but there is also some lasting damage that spans until the next save point. In Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, this mechanic is implemented better than in Ninja Gaiden Sigma II because enemies are more abundant. These additional enemies provide the challenge that the predecessor lacked.
The challenge level also increased in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge due to the lack of consumable items. The last title allowed the player to heal in the middle of fights and gain special moves. They could even purchase an item to resurrect them when they died. In Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, there are no such items. Though this makes the game more difficult, the resource management in the prior titles was a fun way to challenge the players. It even allowed for players to choose between offence and defence and required that they strategize before entering battle. The lack of items made the game more challenging at the cost of resource management, something that strips the gameplay down to the combat alone. I preferred including resource management and was disappointed by its removal.
Stop Watching Me!
Overall, the difficulty turned out to be at a good level. It was not too easy and not too frustrating. However, the developers also included some difficulty related features that will aggravate players. For example, after the player dies a predetermined number of times, the game forces the player to reselect their difficulty and shows them that other difficulties are available. This is helpful the first time, as players may not have known the true challenge the game would offer. Unfortunately, if the player continues dying, this message will appear constantly. It is discouraging to receive this message multiple times and it seems as though the game is judging the player as they play through the game.
Not only are there a bombardment of messages requesting players to change their difficulty upon death, but fights are given ratings based upon how quickly they are completed and by how much health the player retains. These are excellent motivators for players to return and master the game. Receiving an S ranking is one of the more enjoyable moments in the game. However, earning a D ranking awards the player with 0 points. The crippling feeling associated with receiving no points alongside the constant request to change difficulties can leave players of lower skill feeling discouraged. Regardless, the difficulty was at a good level and though there were some questionable design decisions, the multiple difficulties and ranking system ensure that players are aptly challenged in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
No Map Needed
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge takes additional inspiration from Ninja Gaiden Sigma II in the linear level designs. This title focuses so heavily on making levels concise that they eliminate nearly all exploration. The skulls and scarabs from prior titles make a comeback but levels are extremely linear and straying from the path is discouraged. The game further discourages exploration by putting a message up on the screen if players are not following the path for a while. This helps players find their way but reinforces the end goal of reaching the boss fight at the end of the stage. Personally, I longed for further exploration and still missed the cohesive map and hidden items featured in Ninja Gaiden Sigma.
Even though I was let down by many elements of the gameplay, at its core, the gameplay featured in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is good. There are a variety of weapons, special techniques and a decent variety of interesting enemies and bosses. The campaign is fun to play through and players can further increase their skill level with the bonus challenges.
The soundtrack in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is sufficient. It offers a solid ambience for the title. This game also featured voice acting which was done well. After each death, one of Ryu’s companions will yell out at the player to keep going. Some of these were annoying, but overall, the voice lines were a nice touch. The sounds were good enough and worked throughout the title.
The developers selected a dark and gory art style. While it was different from the others, the dark art style fit the nature of the game and looked good. Blood sprayed out of enemies like geysers throughout the title, so players who are afraid of gruesome art should be wary about picking up this title. I thought the visual design was good.
Despite not living up to the predecessors, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is still a solid game. It lacks expansive levels, but the combat is precise, and movement is fun. Many of the changes in this title disappointed me but that does not mean the game is bad. I simply wished it retained more of the characteristics featured in prior instalments. I enjoyed my time with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on the PlayStation Store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.