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Ninja Gaiden III, when released initially for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 earlier this year, was generally considered a flop among the gaming community, mainly because it was a very bland and poorly designed game that was unrecognizable as a Ninja Gaiden game. With non-aggressive and repetitive enemies that provided little challenge, the use of only Ryu Hayabusa’s Dragon Sword for the entire game, reused bosses, and very disjointed pacing that took player’s out of the action far too regularly, the game was a redundant, poorly designed and executed mess that was equally frustrating and disappointing. Thankfully, though, it looks like the good folks of Team Ninja have decided to try and rectify their mistakes with their port of the game on the Wii U, newly entitled Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge, and luckily the initial impressions of the Wii U version seem to be pretty positive.
For one, Team Ninja has focused a great deal on making it this version a tried and true Ninja Gaiden experience, and much less redundant than the original game. The game is now much more difficult, with aggressive enemies who will relentlessly assualt Ryu in great numbers, and the pacing is much faster and more action oriented. The gameplay as well, has been made to be much smoother with Ryu being able to switch weapons (yup he now has six weapons to choose from right off the bat, including the scythe, claws, staff, and double katanas) on the fly, the camera being much less “cinematic” and more tight knit on the action, and finally Ryu is much more responsive to commands at all times (no matter stopping mid-combo to clutch his infected arm). Combat itself has become more technical and thrilling, similar to the first two Ninja Gaiden games, instead of what the original Ninja Gaiden III, which was considered more like a Dynasty Warriors in its basic “wave of easy enemies, wave of easy enemies, new area, repeat” combat formula. Ryu can recover and respond from damage/stuns much more quickly and fluidly move into a dodge or block with ease, while enemies can be staggered much more easily this time around. Ryu and Ayane (the other playable character) now have a universal grab move rather that alters up the combat greatly, a teleport ability to quickly move out of harmful sitiautions, and finally charge attacks (charged heavy attacks that lengthen combos), which this time around are much faster and easier to execute. Finally, the “Karma” system has been reworked to be both a point/ranking system and a currency system; Karma, which is earned by either pickup up collectables or chaining together long combos, can be spent to buy upgrades to weapons, magic, combat abilities, and even new costumes to play in.
As I mentioned before, Ayane of Dead or Alive fame will be available to play in Razor’s Edge, complete with her own campaign with unique missions, storylines, weapons, and abilities. She has a shorter range than Ryu, since she uses a pair of short katanas known as kodaichi to string together quick, deadly combos. Some other features of the original release, as well, have been updated to better fit into a more energetic, action packed game. For one, the idea of dismemberment being the main focus of the game is still present, where the goal is to cripple an enemy by severing a limb, and then finish them off with an Obliteration technique (a super stylish/gory instant kill triggered by the use of heavy attacks near the weakened enemy). This idea has been amped up, though, as crippled enemies will try to make a banzai run at Ryu, trying to kill both themselves and Ryu in a Kamikaze-esque attack, so players need to respond quickly and accordingly. As well, the “Steel on Bone” mechanic has been brought back and completely revamped. This mechanic was a new addition that was triggered when an enemy attempted to grab Ryu/Ayane, and they would then receive a warning in the form of a red aura surrounding them. They could then, in that exact moment, press a heavy attack and trigger an instant kill attack that can be chained from enemy to enemy. This time around, it is much riskier as the window to respond is much shorter, and if missed it leaves your character wide open to the enemies subsequent attack.
Perhaps the most revamped idea is the “Grip of Murder” events, which in the original release were dull affairs where Ryu’s infected arm would cause him to go into these anesthetized slow motion action sequences. Originally in these segments, Ryu was supposed to be “near death” so he could barely swing his sword, but even then enemies would barely respond and would just allow themselves to be chopped down; they were rather boring and tedious segments that slowed the pace of the game down to a crawl. Now, though, these segments are breathtakingly intense. Ryu is instead transported to a mental “arena” where his health depletes rapidly, and only by slaying enemies is his health bar able to refill; this means he has to defeat his enemies quickly while avoiding their incredibly aggressive assaults. These segments, now, are much more challenging and rewarding for the player when they are able to conquer them.
Granted, though, most of these improvements have been seen only in some floor demos at various gaming trade shows, so we will still have to wait and see what the final product of the game is like to truly get a look at the scope of the changes. These changes do look rather promising, though, and it also helps that on the Wii U the game looks beautiful and runs rather smoothly (aside from some occasional framerate hiccups), making the gameplay experience as fun to watch as it is to sit through. Either way, gamers will get the chance to form their own opinions when this game is released in several weeks on November 18th, and hopefully not only will the Wii U have another stellar game in its roster, but also Ninja Gaiden fans will finally have the true sequel that they have been waiting to play.