I enjoyed the story in 3 a lot more than Sigma 2, even though this storyline is much more serious. It centers on a terrorist organization that has carried out attacks around the world, and the main villain (a character that can’t help but remind me of V for Vendetta) asks for Ryu Hayabusa, the star of Ninja Gaiden. There’s also several other characters involved in the plot, but I won’t talk about that here. What I will talk about is one section of a level that I really enjoyed. You have to carry Canna (actual spelling!), a girl who is a central character in the story, away from danger. You hold the L1 button on PS3 to carry Canna while moving down a hallway, and when zombies jump out to snatch Canna, you repeatedly press the square button to break free.
There are several new mechanics here that I thought were clever. One technique that I repeatedly used was Steel on Bone: when enemies are glowing red, dodge their attacks, and press the triangle button for a flashy finishing move. If you are surrounded by enemies, you can just attack other enemies after performing a Steel on Bone maneuver to quickly dispatch foes. Evasion techniques let you dodge split second attacks, and you can also take out some enemies with stealth. The Kunai Climb allows for Ryu to climb walls and attack foes above him. I loved the rhythm of pressing L1 and R1 to quickly ascend up cliffs. Wall running and jumping aren’t new, but they are smoother in this installment. The controls overall feel intuitive and fluid.
As expected in the modern Ninja Gaiden franchise, the graphics are incredible. There is a much more cinematic feel compared to Sigma 2. All of the action runs smoothly, and is very pleasing to the eyes. There is plenty of blood, dismemberment, and visually stunning fighting moves. The English voice acting sounds more believable than previous installments, but for those that prefer it, Japanese voice acting is still available in the Options menu. Unfortunately, dialogue can get repetitive after several attempts of levels.
Razor’s Edge introduces some other changes to the Ninja Gaiden formula. Save points are easier to find in the form of falcons that swoop in after battles. Instead of going to Muramasa’s shop to upgrade Ninpo techniques and weapons, the Select menu lets you spend your earned Karma points at any time to upgrade weapons and Ninpo powerups. Finding a Crystal Skull in Normal difficulty or above activates a Test of Valor; in this survival challenge, you kill as many enemies as possible for bonus Karma points. Golden Scarabs can be collected to add Karma points to your total score in Story mode. To mix up the majority of the Story action with Ryu, you can play as purple-haired-heroine Ayane in some side missions. I enjoyed her different techniques, and the change of pace. You will also encounter other fighting companions along the way.
Probably the best change for me was the game’s ability to detect the right difficulty for me. After playing on Normal for a little while, and dying several times, it asked me if I wanted to switch to the easier Hero difficulty. As a lifelong gamer, I fought this suggestion at first, but I gave in, and it made my experience much simpler.
Despite these improvements, as a wise person once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Camera problems, glitches, and invisible walls are still present in Razor’s Edge. The camera has improved, but there were some spots where it lost control, moving in all directions. The game battlefield is chaotic enough without camera issues. Invisible walls didn’t bother me as much this time around, but they can still be annoying. Yet, that isn’t nearly as annoying as being forced to restart a level because of a glitch. While fighting a boss, and moving to the next area, the boss got stuck behind a door, and I had no way to attack it, so I had to restart to the last checkpoint. Eventually, I figured out the correct way to fight the boss and advance; I wish the developers had made it more obvious what to do in these sorts of situations.
Besides the Story mode, there are online modes to take advantage of: Clan Battle, and Ninja Trials. Clan Battle is basically a Ninja Deathmatch with 2 teams of up to 4 in each team fighting for the most points. In Ninja Trials, you go through waves of enemies, either by yourself, or cooperatively with another player. If you want to watch your triumphs later, you can save replays, and upload them online. Chapter Challenge is unlocked after beating the main story, and lets you race through a story chapter of your choice for extra Karma points. You can also unlock other playable characters, and the hardest difficulty.
Razor’s Edge is a welcome update to the Ninja Gaiden formula. An improved story, more weapons, more fighting techniques, more save points, a readily available upgrade menu, and more blood/violence are just some of the great additions. Online play is enjoyable as well. For Ninja Gaiden fans, there is a lot to love in Razor’s Edge. If you can overlook problems like the camera, and glitches, lots of fun can be had here.