Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge Review (Xbox360)

Known for their impeccable stealth abilities, being deadly silent and never leaving a trace of their presence behind after a kill, Ninjas are arguably the most bad ass character type in gaming. Though included in the title of the long running Team Ninja series, the above description would be inaccurate describing the hero of Ninja Gaiden Ryu Hayabusa. He's loud, leaves destruction in his wake and is certainly one for a bit of show boating to give himself a bit more flair in battle. He may have began life as a Ninja, but the Ryu Hayabusa at the centre of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is far from the norm.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge follows the current trend of re-releases for the long running franchise. Though it may not bear the Sigma name, this is the same style of re-release that Ninja Gaiden and Gaiden 2 received in the years after their launch. The two Sigma games were known to be improvements over the original game, and with Ninja Gaiden 3 receiving a sour response last year a new version is welcome. Much more than a pack of bundled DLC, Razor's Edge features an expanded story mode as well as some much needed tweaks to the original game.

Ayane adds a new female perspective to the story of Ninja Gaiden 3 as well as giving you a host of new moves to use in combat

The mots noticeable change comes in the form of new playable character Ayane, who has her own story missions split throughout the game. Playable before in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Ayane has her own mini campaign and story built into the Razor's Edge plot. Though separate enough that Ryu and Ayane cross paths only briefly, her story does link to the main themes and objectives of the main narrative. Said narrative is just as overly dramatic and ridiculous as in previous entries of the series, albeit with Ryu put up against his inner demons when his Dragon Sword becomes trapped in his right arm. The bad guys are suitably silly, and while some lines of dialogue may verge on the comical, taking Ninja Gaiden seriously is slightly missing the point.

That point is usually found at the end of Ryu's blade, typically sticking out the other side of a soldier or slicing its way through the limbs of other ninjas. There's no holding back when it comes to the violence on offer here, both Ryu and Ayane take on hundreds of enemies across the game, ranging from attack dogs to helicopters, the tactics used to defeat each rarely changing. Fights have you swapping between countering strong attacks and performing a flurry of combos between each. Early on you can make it by simply mashing square and triangle for quick and strong attacks respectively, but without upgrading your abilities and learning intricate combos the later battles will become impossibly hard. Both Ryu and Ayane earn Karma points for every action they take, with bonuses granted at the end of each encounter. These points are then used to improve your move-set, as well as increasing the damage each of your weapons can do, the system is robust enough to make switching play styles and weapon types on the fly simple to accomplish.

Everything here is dramatic and explosive, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is much more of a roller coaster ride of set pieces than you might first expect from a series like this. Little time is spent doing much else than falling into the next 'arena' to fight some enemies, climbing back out again once you've cleared them all. It's a repetitious format seen in so many combat orientated games like Devil May Cry and God Of War. It's the sections in between the combat that feel slightly dated here, with abilities like the Kunai Climbing refined in Razor's Edge but still never feeling very natural as you play. The timing on actions such as swinging between poles and traversing large gaps can feel strange too, this isn't the game for fans of platforming rich action games.

Ayane and Ryu team up in the online co-op mode of Razor's Edge

The other tweaks to Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge are less noticeable, subtle changes to streamline the experience. The Steel On Bone counter ability is now automated, making battles much smoother and less like a series of button mashing minigames. Extra weapons only add to the experience allowing it to feel fresh for just a little bit longer. The online co-operative mode is enjoyable, but it's difficult to see this keeping the game in your console much longer once you've completed the campaign.

This is definitely the premier version of Ninja Gaiden 3, but the game still fails to live up to the pedigree of the games that came before it. You often don't feel in control of Ryu or Ayane at all, there will be times that you die because of poor game design rather than your own skill. Those who enjoyed the previous games should give Razor's Edge a chance, the improvements allowing the finer aspects of the series to shine through much clearer, but if it's a Premier Ninja experience you are looking for you might have to look elsewhere.

Top Game Moment: Performing one of Ryu's brutal Steel On Bone finishers is always much more satisfying than your brain tells you it should be.

Platform Played: PlayStation 3

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