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Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge: Nintendo grows up

Wednesday, 2nd January 2013 09:17 GMT By Dave Cook

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge isn’t a simple port; It’s proof that Nintendo wants in on on the mature market. VG247′s Dave Cook takes the final code for a spin and gets his hands dirty.

Around about Autumn 2007 I became confused by a rather vocal minority of gamers. It was the same group who found it necessary to lash out at Nintendo for daring to sew up the family and pre-teen market with Wii. It was as if – to defend their elite status in gaming – they had to publicly savage the company online. For what? Being a smart business and making a lot of money in difficult times? Nintendo, clearly, were fools.

I didn’t understand it. After all, here was this rich, largely-untapped audience that Nintendo had identified and chose to – rather wisely – pursue. PS3 and Xbox 360 certainly weren’t speaking to families the way they are today, but you can bet that they all want a little slice of Nintendo’s money pie now. See: Kinect, Move and Wonderbook.

“The idea that ‘real’ gamers only play mature games is outmoded because after all, we were all children once, we’ve all played colourful kid’s games before. Or do you only become a ‘real’ gamer once you become old enough to play mature games?”

So what if Nintendo was going after a new, captive audience? Wii still had Mario, Zelda and all its classic franchises, and besides Nintendo was never a bastion of violence or mature content to begin with – see the severely watered-down edition of the original Mortal Kombat on SNES for one (thanks to clubberbboy for the clip). The knee-jerk reaction had me absolutely stumped at the time.

Then came the Wii U announcement at E3 2011, and with it all of the usual family-bashing and people asking about its multi-format potential. Except this time, the console’s launch window was brimming with mature titles, games like Assassin’s Creed 3, Mass Effect 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.

Suddenly, claims that Nintendo’s remit has been to purely chase the elderly, family or child-friendly markets became largely base-less, spun out as a form of derogatory criticism from armchair pundits who view violence as a form of validation for their hobby.

The idea that ‘real’ gamers only play mature games is outmoded because after all, we were all children once, we’ve all played colourful kid’s games before. Or do you only become a ‘real’ gamer once you become old enough to play mature games? What are the rules? I’m still massively confused here.

None of us are exempt from what Nintendo is trying to achieve, because after all, we may all have kids of our own one day, and we may also want to introduce them to the gaming hobby via suitable titles. Well, you’re not seriously going to let them play Mortal Kombat or Battlefield 3 under-age are you? Jesus I sincerely hope not.

Walking on the razor’s edge.

I recently had three hours of game time with the finished code of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge on Wii U. It’s violent, massively violent. In fact, it’s more violent that the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions, with tons of extra executions, the addition of dismemberments, multiple weapons and the removal of poorly-received features.

It’s not just a port either, as Team Ninja has changed some areas, tweaked attacked patterns, re-tooled bosses and added in new survival rounds, not to mention adding two stages featuring Dead or Alive’s Ayane, and free Kasumi DLC coming after launch. Overall, it’s a good effort at improving on the original game, even if that core game still falls behind genre-mates DmC: Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or Bayonetta.

But what is surprising is that – during any given encounter – areas can become littered with body parts and blood in a matter of seconds, with arms flailing through the air, heads popping like ripe melons and chest cavities bursting open faster than you can blink.

And the game’s being published and marketed by Nintendo.

Yeah, as it happens Nintendo wants this game on Wii U 100%, and is giving Team Ninja its full support in bringing it to the masses. What does that say about the company now? Well, now that is has conquered the ‘casual’ market – for want of a better term – Nintendo can now focus on converting the ‘real’ gamers – for want of a better term – to its cause.

Will the move work? Who knows? But make no mistake, this is a seriously violent game on a format often laughed at for pandering to babies. So I thought I’d give my initial impressions on the first three hours that I played, and to discuss the new changes and violent content at hand.

Push it to the limit.

One of the most significant changes between Razor’s Edge and its predecessor is the return of multiple weapons. Call me crazy, but I thought the idea to only give Ryu variations on his sword – rather than a full set of diverse weapons – was a real step back following the multi-weapon combat of Ninja Gaiden 2.

But Team Ninja has fully restored all of Ninja Gaiden 2′s weapons in this release, letting you tear through enemies with dual katanas, a giant scythe, long-ranged spear and a set of claws that attach to Ryu’s ankles and wrists. The variety is welcome, although you can’t change between weapons on the fly like you can in DmC or Bayonetta.

You have to either tap the Wii U GamePad menu to select a different weapon, or use the Pro Controller’s d-pad – both of which pauses the game while you do so. This means the potential for improvised, multi-weapon combos isn’t there, and leaves the attack combos feeling shallow by comparison.

“The accentuated, wanton slaughter of faceless enemies, while looking rather badass in the process speaks to a lot of people. It’s empowerment at a raw level, and it comes with a shiny 18+ PEGI rating to boot.”

It’s still fun though, playing more like a 3D riff on classic games like Final Fight or Streets of Rage. It favours simple commands, instead of focusing on the deep combo trees of other hack-n-slash titles, and although that may not speak to veterans of the genre, the game is still very difficult in parts.

I say ‘in parts’ because one or two boss encounters I attempted on normal mode were rather simple. One battle against a giant T-Rex boiled down to simply dodging left and right using the left trigger until it bopped its head on a wall and fell over, leaving it open to attack. It felt far easier than previous Ninja Gaiden titles, but still, challenging spikes do occur.

Another change between Ninja Gaiden 2 and its successor were dismemberments. In the second game Ryu could lop off his enemy’s limbs, leaving them hopping or crawling around in a vain attempt at a final, health-sapping suicide attack. But Ninja Gaiden 3 saw that mechanic removed entirely.

It has also been restored in Razor’s Edge and while it looks daft and plays into the tongue -in-cheek style of the Team Ninja’s world, the threat of suicide attacks makes you consider your approach more often. Getting too close to a desperate, half-dead foe can result in death if they manage to get hold of you.

Plus, this is the kind of violent stuff ‘real’ gamers go for isn’t it? The accentuated, wanton slaughter of faceless enemies, while looking rather badass in the process speaks to a lot of people. It’s empowerment at a raw level, and it comes with a shiny 18+ PEGI rating to boot. In picking up the Ninja Gaiden license, it suggests Nintendo are listening to the concerns of its critics.

Like a bat out of hell.

The game’s opening level takes place in London, and it sees Ryu Hayabusa tooling around the cobbled streets battering thugs with his sharp instruments, unleashing charged attacks and occasionally dishing out Ninpo attacks to deal splash damage and regain health for every hit landed.

While fighting, the Wii U GamePad displays Ryu’s attack command list. It’s a neat touch, but don’t go expecting any highly technical moves here, as Team Ninja has delivered a streamlined combat system indeed. Ranged kunai and explosive arrow attacks can be also be used to create space, but do little to broaden combat.

Another neat difference between the games orignal release and Razor’s Edge are the removal of annoying ‘Gears of War’ moments, in which Ryu would be locked into a slow walk, while listening to comm chatter in his ear. They’ve been completely removed.

“If you yearn for blistering combos and incredible feats of skills across multiple button presses then you will find fault with Razor’s Edge at many junctures. It’s just not as deep or as slick, which is funny considering the original Ninja Gaiden reboot on Xbox was – at one point – deemed a leader in its field.”

Transitions between scenes now take the form of combat arenas that Ryu is sucked into whenever his cursed arm takes hold of him. These areas are simple survival games that end either when Ryu is defeated, or when the scene times out, hurling a barrage of foes at you.

These hubs can be used to hone skills and earn extra combat points to be spent in the upgrade store, which is where players can learn new techniques or expand Ryu’s weapon set. Conscious attempts have been made to really flesh out the Ninja Gaiden 3 template, and while welcome, still result in a game that feels behind the rest of the genre.

But again, I have to keep stressing that its still fun – in the same relatively mindless way as corridor beat-em-ups of old. Personally, the Streets of Rage series is my all-time favourite – because I’m weird like that – so if you liked those kind of simplistic beat-em-ups, then there’s much to enjoy here.

If you yearn for blistering combos and incredible feats of skills across multiple button presses then you will find fault with Razor’s Edge at many junctures. It’s just not as deep or as slick, which is funny considering the original Ninja Gaiden reboot on Xbox was – at one point – deemed a leader in its field.

So it’s shallow, and some people will enjoy that, but what Razor’s Edge really succeeds at is showing that Wii U can still play home to violent titles, and that Nintendo is all for it. Whether or not the trend will continue remains to be seen, but don’t forget that Bayonetta 2 – a game that neither Sony or Microsoft wanted on their respective formats – is coming exclusively to Wii U. That’s an exciting prospect if you’re a fan of this genre like me.

So, there are the many pros and many cons of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. It’s a mixed bag for sure, but it is most certainly a significant improvement over the original in almost every regard – from control and frame rate, to visuals and aesthetics.

But enough from me, let us know what you make of Nintendo’s approach of publishing the game, and the ‘casual/hardcore’ divide that hangs over Nintendo these days.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge hits Wii U across Europe from January 11th.

Disclosure:
In writing this article, Nintendo loaned Dave a locked debug Wii U console with Ninja Gaiden 3 installed to play the game, and he returned it straight after his session. No merch or advertising was offered or accepted alongside this coverage.

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28 Comments

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  1. Francis O

    I’ve been playing the full game on Hard my first Playthough and I will tell you this Dave, there is a big F*cking difference between normal and hard in this game. I’m talking like 35-50% more damage done, more waves of enemies ect. But the game is fantastic. I love it so much. All the additions make it much better than the original NG3. I love the upgrades, the Level 3 Staff is just outright nasty! Plus online co-op and Ninja Trails were added. I know the Wii U is not doing the best in Europe right now, but for those who have the system, please do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 Hey Francis, thanks for the insight man, I only had three hours with it unfortunately, but really wanted to play more. It’s good to hear that hard mode difficulty ramps things up, as I like my hack n’ slash games to be tough :)

    Definitely getting this when it releases here.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Francis O

    Yeah, It was good you played it on normal so you can get a feel for the game with the time you had. I’m glad your going to be picking it up. It really is a great game. BTW GREAT ARTICLE man! I agree with everything you said.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Karooo

    Nice article, Dave. I will pick this one up soon.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @3 thanks bud, really appreciate the feedback :)

    @4 same to you Karooo, glad you liked it. It’s fun, if not a touch simple at points. But I’m a fan of that 100%. Let me just fight people in the most stylish way possible and I’m happy.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. ps3fanboy

    oh… nintendo want in now after they ditched the hardcore users last gen, to catch all the casual gamers.. that did leave as quickly the wii-mote fad was over. sorry to say it but it is to late nintendo, you will be outta the game next year when the ‘real’ nextgen consoles arrive.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @6 But they’re making so much money. How can chasing casual gamers be seen as a bad thing in that regard? I’m not following.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Ireland Michael

    @7 It’s because he doesn’t actually have a point.

    Nintendo never ditched the “hardcore”. The hardcore was just spoilt and upset because it couldn’t get its fixed from them on a weekly basis. Nintendo released plenty high quality games on the Wii, and there are some great third party titles on the format as well.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. ps3fanboy

    @8

    i have a point feeding the casual is a quick and easy but never last… the hardcore is there and support the system… you piss on your hardcore follower, as nintendo did with the wii. they go and never come back, its that simple. this wii-u is gonna be nintendos downfall when the ‘real’ nextgen arrive, mark my words.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. polygem

    great article and interesting thoughts. i think i´ll pick it up as well when it releases in europe. never was a huge ninja gaiden fan and there are indeed better games in that genre, at least imo but i really enjoy playing on the wiiu atm.

    the wii had indeed awesome games and i do not get that hardcore bullshit. here´s a list of great wii games. i just found it in my purse today;) i bought many wii games late because i was one of those in doubt when the wii launched. i was wrong and i am glad that i worked on that list! check out this “incomplete” list of awesome, exclusive games and then tell me something about harcore gaming…it´s one of the most idiotic terms anyway, mostly used by platform fascists.

    -sonic colours
    -sin and punishment
    -a boy and his blob
    -mario kart wii
    -no more heroes 1 and 2
    -smash bros brawl
    -house of the dead overkill
    -tatsunuko (?) vs capcom
    -muramasa
    -madworld
    -super paper mario
    -donkey kong country returns
    -metroid prime triology
    -zelda skyward sword
    -mario galaxy 1 and 2
    -kirby epic yarn
    -kirby return to dreamland
    and many many more…

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Dave Cook

    @10 cheers :) yeah your list is awesome. The Wii had so many great games. I;d add Wario Land: Shake Dimension to that list too. Ever try it?

    #11 2 years ago
  12. polygem

    i played some wario games but not that one. i think it was on another list too though but never made it in my collection:) thanks for the hint, will look into that now.
    my one complaint about the wiiu is that you cannot play wii games on the gamepad alone. for some games it could work well, like DKCR, the kirby games, mario kart and many more. it would be awesome…

    #12 2 years ago
  13. landrik

    @9 somebody doesn’t understand the term “core gamer.” As it stands, every grown up I know who grew up on Nintendo remains at Nintendo’s core. And if rated M is what makes a game mature or hardcore, then you don’t understand video games at all.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Clupula

    I feel as though this was written to purposely get a ton of replies through the usual NDF vs. reality fights that so many articles on here constantly devolved into.

    For what it’s worth, Nintendo themselves have pretty much said that the Wii U was their attempt at luring in the hardcore crowd and putting this on the system is a definite step in the right direction, but with all the other things they did wrong with the Wii U, it’s not enough to bring in those who weren’t already drinking the Miyamoto Kool-Aid.

    On the other hand, it’s not like the Wii didn’t try to appeal to the hardcore crowd with Madworld, No More Heroes, House of the Dead: Overkill, Dead Space: Extraction, and whatever that sword game was…I think it was called Red Steel, as well. It’s just those titles didn’t sell very well, especially compared to the family fun fare that are Nintendo first party titles, so they stopped coming out.

    Everybody knew these titles would be coming to Nintendo’s new system. Whether or not they continue to do so will depend on the sales.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. dreamcastnews

    Really, really good article Dave! I really wasn’t keen on the Wii U when I got one, the internet update was a joke both trying to connect it to WiFi and the patch pausing downloading every ten minutes. I played Tekken and Nintendo Land and although both games are good – they just weren’t lighting my fire like Wii Sports did back in 2006.

    This all changed a few days ago when I downloaded Trine 2 and Rayman Legends, these two have changed my opinion on the Wii U and are true system sellers – it occurred to me that even if the Wii U doesn’t do as well this generation; it’ll still give some kick ass games and hopefully a return of 2D platformers and couch-based multiplayer.

    Sure the other two ‘next gen’ machines can do their thing – no doubt they’ll be keeping an eye on Nintendo since Ninty have always marched to their own drum.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Gregard

    @10 Hey! Don’t forget Xenoblade Chronicles, Last Story and Pandora’s Tower! :)

    I also loved Monster Hunter Tri (online!)

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Clupula

    I will say that I got a chance to actually play Nintendo Land and Mario Brothers on the thing and…well, I wouldn’t spend money on them, but I didn’t hate them. Although that controller…Christ…I am never going to complain about the size of the 360 controller again.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Clupula

    @15 – I am curious, though, as to how Trine 2 could be a system seller when it is available on just about every system.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. CPC_RedDawn

    @Davecook

    How does the frame rate hold up on the Wii U? I have heard really bad things about third party games being ported to the Wii U and the frame rates being seriously low in a lot of places…

    People say that Batman Arkham City is almost unplayable?

    #19 2 years ago
  20. polygem

    @16: sure! there are countless more good games on the system…my list was incomplete :) i have more wii games today than those on the list.
    @dave: thx again, just ordered wario shake dimension. looks great. i love buying 2d platformers. they age well. you can play and enjoy those 15 years from now and they’re still great looking games.
    @clupula: i love the 360 pad. you cannot compare it to the wiiu pad though, makes zero sense. you could compare it to the pro controller. the pro controller is fantastic. have you checked out miiverse too? well i for one am still loving the wiiu. my ps360 are collecting more dust than ever before:) that’s all i can honestly say atm.
    @19: that’s just crap from the net. i played through the game almost completeley on the pad alone. it’s great.works great…it’s like ”in bed with batman”…scratch that: catwoman.
    gamers are complaining waaaaay too much about nothing.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Dave Cook

    @14 oh please just stop will you? It’s getting boring. The article wasn’t written to protect or slam the NDF. Just one guy’s honest opinion about a game where the devs actually listened to their critics. Small victory in itself no? :P

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Dave Cook

    @13 spot on, very well said seriously.

    @15 thanks :) Wii U isn’t the first and won’t be the last console to use a tablet controller. Watch the horizon.

    @19 very well actually. It’s not 60FPS but it is very slick. Bear in mind it’s not a straight port too. It has many enhancements.

    @20 Nice. Let me know what you think of it.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. DrDamn

    Some of the best Wii games were Boom Blox and Boom Blox Bash Party. Fantastic examples of games which were designed for the system/controls and not games which were adapted to them. Fantastic party games for couch multiplayer.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Clupula

    @20 – I am sure this will somehow turn into one of the typical arguments between you and I, but…I have never liked the 360 controller. It’s way too big, for one, and for another the analog sticks are not in the same place on both sides of the controller. I’ve always felt that if the Dual Shock had six buttons instead of four, it would be the perfect controller. It’s a nice size. It’s symmetrical (although I guess having six face buttons could potentially throw that off, if they were placed the wrong way) and my thumbs line up perfectly with the placement of the analog sticks.

    The Wii U tablet felt really cumbersome and the one big thought I had in my head while playing it was, I would need to use the Pro Controller thing (which my cousin did not buy, so I did not get a chance to try it out) if I were to ever play Bayonetta 2.

    As for the Miiverse, I watched my cousin’s son go on it. It seemed easy enough for a 7 year old to go on and use, which I guess is nice, but it didn’t look like anything I’d be interested in. But then again, I am one of those people who doesn’t use his mic when he plays multiplayer games with strangers, so I’m not really into being social with strangers. I can see the benefits of it, especially if someone is stuck on something in a game, but I still would really hope they don’t implement anything like that on the PS4/720, simply because I don’t want to be forced to talk to strangers.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. polygem

    @clupula: hehe. yeh, i never liked the ps3 pad, but that´s probably nothing to argue about just personal taste. i like the size, layout, analog sticks of the 360 pad. really my fave pad this gen…the dpad sucks though. the wiiu pro controller is great. it´s shaped like a 360 pad but with a great d-pad. the analog sticks are symetrical on it but after a while i really liked that too. the trigger buttons are no real triggers like on the 360 pad though, just digi buttons:( not really a problem though, at least not for me. overall a great controller and i like playing games on it. i´d prefer to play third party titles on the pro and some exclusives, with the touchpad functionallity in mind on the touchpad.
    @Dr.Damn: i´ve heard about boom blox being good, just recently watched a classic game room youtube review of the game and they praised it too. thank you as well for the hint. i really like to keep buying those wii games from time to time. most of them are almost free now 5 or 10 euros.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. polygem

    @clupula: i stopped chatting too online. just not worth it but that´s exactly why i like the wiiu´s take on online. it´s about sharing game experiences, helping out, drawing funny stuff, not trash talking or gamerscore off showing. one of the top reasons i like the wiiu so much. but enough of that, don´t wanna fight. sly cooper is coming out soon. it will be great even on a dualshock!

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Dragon246

    TN is taking fans interests in consideration while making games , a good thing to do. Looking forward to their vita games.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. DrDamn

    @24
    Just to add to Poly’s comments. Miiverse can just be about friends too. Bring up Miiverse and just check the activity feed and that shows just friends posts. Friend comments integration directly into games is really nice too. So from in the game you can see comments and pictures/screen grabs from friends.

    #28 2 years ago