The lights are on
Note: We were unable to test Ninja Gaiden 3's online functionality at this time, so we will be posting this impressions piece in lieu of a full review.
Earlier this year, Tecmo presented Ninja Gaiden fans with the lackluster return of Ryu Hayabusa. As the first entry in the 3D series that didn't feature the input of Tomonobu Itagaki. It attempted to appeal to more casual gamers and Western audiences, failing at both. Its Wii U debut, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, makes some welcome changes to the original version. Despite this, there's only so much you can do with such mediocre material at the source.
My complaints about the original involved many aspects of the game, including dumbed-down A.I., a troublesome camera, an awful story, and the lack of any kind of marketplace, currency, upgrades, or collectibles. Some of these issues have been addressed with Razor's Edge, but not enough to substantially improve the experience.
Being able to spend karma on weapon, ninpo, and armor upgrades is certainly the most significant change. Choosing which weapon to focus on and upgrade in previous Ninja Gaiden games was a lot of fun, and its omission from the third installment was confusing. With their return in this Wii U version, it helps to make the player feel like they're actually working towards objectives other than "just keep hitting attack until that guy's head isn't there anymore."
Speaking of decapitation, it's another returning element in Razor's Edge. In a misguided attempt to make the violence seem more realistic, the original version of Ninja Gaiden 3 featured no decapitation or dismemberment. Pushing for realism in a Ninja Gaiden game is inherently ridiculous, so it's nice to see the limbs fly once again.
Like they've done with previous Ninja Gaiden re-releases, Tecmo has included a handful of missions that place you in the role of Dead or Alive's Ayane. They've also re-introduced the golden scarab collectibles, which will give players some small incentive to actually slow down and examine their environments.
Wii U's defining feature is its controller, but you won't be using the GamePad in any particularly novel ways. By default, it's simply another screen for the action. If you'd rather switch to the TV-only option, the GamePad will feature large buttons that allow you to upgrade and change weapons, cast your ninpo, and activate your ninja sense on the touchscreen.
While none of these tweaks and additions are unwelcome, the core material of the game is still the weakest in the series. Enemies are still brainless, combat doesn't require the finesse of previous titles, and the story is as incoherent and terrible as ever. I didn't enjoy my time with Ninja Gaiden 3 earlier this year, and what I've seen of Razor's Edge leads me to believe that gamers won't have any better of a time with this update.