Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Review: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Wii U)

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge could have also been subtitled “Don’t Blink!” or “Mash Button, Make Body Parts Fly!” because each is a more apt description of the gameplay than what Tecmo Koei came up with.

Razor’s Edge conjures images of exquisite balance between ballet and bloody chaos but all too often Ninja Gaiden 3 tips Ryu Hayabusa to one side or the other. The instances of balancing on a razor – between button-mashing and timed, measured attacks and parries – are the exception rather than the norm simply because the game pushes the player down restrictive hallways from killing room to killing room; from rooftop to helicopter; it’s still a straight line filled with clusters of bad guys to splatter in such numbers that it’s often impossible to plan an attack, evade the opposition, or line up attacks properly. Hell, even see where Ryu is on-screen.

That particular issue gets a little better when Ayane comes into the game, simple because her costume stands out a little more. Most of the time though, the action is so rapid-fire that it can be hard to follow.

The enemies, when few in number, offer the player a chance to actually exhibit some skill and try out different strategies for crowd control. Again, this is the exception rather than the rule. Mostly it’s about being vastly outnumbered by enemies that run straight at Ryu or Ayane, with a few standing at a distance firing rockets or other projectiles.

After the first level on the “Normal” difficulty, I re-started on “Hold My Hand” mode. My life’s too short to struggle against overwhelming odds or care about scoring, especially when my reflexes aren't what they used to be. So, some of the issues listed above were somewhat blunted because Ryu and Ayane aren't dying every other screen thanks to automatic blocking. Keeping the frustration down was key here and even though it’s easy to recognize how repetitive the gameplay can become, getting to the next overwrought cutscene always made it worth it because Razor’s Edge definitely has that Japanese sense of whackadoodle nonsense that appeals to me.

It’s because of that nonsense, that Ninja Gaiden 3 scores higher than it probably should. There’s still the occasionally spastic camera to deal with – as if even the game itself can’t keep up with what’s going on – and the feeling that something bad-ass is happening with all those button presses without really knowing what, so if you want nuance, just keep looking.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Looks pretty darn good
- Whackadoodle nonsense
- Facing off against a handful of opponents provides evidence there is actually some strategy and tactics possible

The Bad:
- Moves so fast it’s hard to know exactly what you’re doing
- Repetitive for stretches longer than about 60 minutes

Score: 7.0 / 10