Ninja Gaiden, what started as an NES 8-bit series (though also having a beat em up counterpart in the arcade) that provided the player with intense platforming based on the players multitasking skills, turned into a similarly described hack-slash action series on the original XBOX back in 2004, developed by the princes of perverts, Team Ninja. Ninja Gaiden 3 has an uphill battle to face with the departure of Tomonobu Itagaki, the man responsible for the reboot of Ninja Gaiden in 2004, many fans say Ninja Gaiden is in trouble, now under the control of the Ninja Gaiden Sigma director Yosuke Hayashi, who’s known to considerably taint the original versions of Ninja Gaiden (2004) and Ninja Gaiden II (2008), with updated versions titled “Sigma” at the end of them. Now that he’s in charge of the Ninja Gaiden series from here on it, it definitely appears to be the case.
The story of Ninja Gaiden 3, while only having few ties to the previous installments, it can come off just as if not more convoluted than the previous games, which at least played it safe as a ho-hum Ninja-based action movie. This time Team Ninja has enlisted Masato Kato to write for Ninja Gaiden 3, who has had previous work with the original NES trilogy’s storytelling and Chrono Trigger. That DOES sound like a good reputation and sounds like the story will come out alright, yes? No, as good as those games just previous listed were, their stories were great but have questionable plot presentation, however, came through with big payoffs to give the players closure and sense that their time has been respected. This is what happens when he fails at giving those last qualities that can redeem such story that makes you shake your head in disbelief of the story you are even being told in the first place! Ninja Gaiden 3 opens up with Ryu Hayabusa slaughtering baddies, the thing he’s known to do finest. The opening minutes of Ninja Gaiden 3 will attempt to tug at your heartstrings as one last enemy remains, leaving you with a sole option of approaching him and slaughtering him only moments after he begs for his life, exclaiming that he was only following orders and that he has a wife and kids. This is exposition in writing at it’s weakest and one of the many shoe-horned attempts at a more depth plot as this is a repeated practice in Ninja Gaiden 3. I’ve seen better exposition from Basil Exposition in an Austin Powers movie.
Here in Team Ninja’s latest outing we follow Ryu’s journey that deals with a cult of alchemists that are looking to create a New World Order, having Ryu be the spur of such, he is cursed by having his right arm absorbing his Dragon Sword applied with the terms of bearing all of the hundreds of people that have been slain by sword, making the biblical quote “you slay by the sword and you die by the sword” play a much more literal plot device. Throughout the struggle with one’s self to be a trained killer punished for his own killings, somehow there’s deviation from what you think would be the most interesting thing with this cult group of alchemists in the fray, somehow we end up with a story that’s really about creating a new world order of dictatorship as if we’ve never heard of such a story before! Not to mention somehow cloning of humans and dinosaurs get in there somehow—ugh, can you see what went wrong here? While it’s nice to see Ryu’s human side (even though it can be a side that talks WAY too much for a Ninja and not always in a good way), the villains seem to have no real agenda and there’s one villain in particular who makes speeches more hammy than William Shattner. Not to mention tons of terribly executed double crosses and being in an implausible situation all of the time kind of takes away from what could be a very in depth story and turns it into something as surprising as a Michael Bay movie having explosions in it. It doesn’t help on top of it when Ryu continuously slaughters more and more enemies without any philosophical thought into why he has his curse in the first place. Even though it overall comes off as a mediocre story, it’s very appreciated that it tries to go for something more of a complex character study of Ryu Hayabusa which will intrigue players WHEN focused on – It’s just a shame that the game doesn’t focus on what it advertises: the focus of Ryu’s more human side. I’d even let this mess of a story slide (while mildly entertaining, in a good or bad way and sometimes dare I say it, even tugging at your heartstrings), in comparison to it’s other problems.
Minutes of within beginning to play Ninja Gaiden 3, aside from the rushed exposition, you’ll find it’s easy to spot changes as a Ninja Gaiden veteran. Your choice of weapons is now shrunk down from a huge toybox of weapons to play with to the lone option of wielding a sword plus your bow and “Ninja Stars” which barely work and can seem an awfully pointless . After the fantastic way weapons were handled in Ninja Gaiden II, it makes you wonder why they would simplify it like this. You will take your uni-weapon Ninja through linearly designed levels with no branching paths what so ever this time, not even for treasure chests since all hidden objects have been abolished. There will be checkpoints in between sections of enemies but there is a more old-school save system given when you run into member of fowl who will save your progress, as checkpoints will only act as a placeholder in your current game session between the actual save points. Your only goal is to get through the level and survive the onslaught of many enemies, with mixtures of platforming segments in between, walls to climb and a few puzzles. Outside of the singleplayer, there’s a multiplayer option that feels extremely like an afterthought. Some reviewers would deck points off Ninja Gaiden II for not having multiplayer! Not everything needs multiplayer and it shows here. There’s a rankings system and all with it, letting you have co-op or competitive play. Co-op gameplay can be fun tackling challenges with eachother, however once you get to the competitive, it feels like a button mashing contest, where the winner dies last! let’s just say you better stick with Dead or Alive 5 for your chances at Team Ninja competitive multiplayer action, provided that it doesn’t fall flat like this game has.
It is to be known that I am a total fanatic of the Ninja Gaiden series. I loved the original Nintendo Entertainment System classics for their sense of storytelling which rewarded me for all of the difficult platforming I had to use my Nintendo Hard skills for and I found a different kind of love for the new Ninja Gaiden games on the original XBOX and XBOX360 which provided that same sense of difficulty but with hack-slash action instead which would normally be an option for those who have distaste for button mashing found in other competitors of the hack-slash genre being God of War, Devil May Cry and ESPECIALLY any Koei Warriors game being Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors or Warriors Orochi which are considered the polar opposite of what is usually Ninja Gaiden. The gameplay of Ninja Gaiden 3 in comparison to the previous installments have taken a major downfall and have been streamlined, if that’s even the proper word to describe this. It’s basically a troll to those who found faith in the NG series in response to detesting such games like Koei Warriors. From right when you go in, you will notice that you can start mashing on the light attack button and it seems to go on autopilot from there as long as you are pressing something you should be okay! Mashing the button will automatically make Ryu turn and slash towards the nearest enemy, when that enemy perishes and you’re still mashing, Ryu will automatically swing and advance towards the next enemy, as stated before, auto-pilot via. button mashing. You can mix up attacks by alternating between the light attack and heavy attack buttons, but you’ll tend to abuse one maneuver of your liking over and over again. I have cleared sections of enemies without even looking at the screen and that is dreadful. You will have to deal with this plus the fact that sections will go on for almost over 5 minutes at a time in the same area. It doesn’t help that you only carry one main weapon to do this with, making it very monotonous very fast. It’s pretty dreadful. When you kill enough baddies, your arm will glow letting you slaughter many enemies in a row teleporting between as many as 5 enemies or sometimes it will make things go in slow motion because Ryu is in pain (as if we need a slowdown on repetitive combat). There’s also a Ninpo (magic) meter that fills up and when you unleash the spell (yes THE spell for there is only one the entire game), it will produce a move that kills all of the enemies on screen and replenish all of your health (which also happens if you manage to clear a section of enemies). Does this sound familiar? *cough*MosouMove*cough* Let’s make it fully clear if not then. The heart feels pierced by the common Ninja Gaiden veteran such as myself and it’s unbelievable to make this comparison: Ninja Gaiden 3 has fallen to the simplicity and mashing of Dynasty Warriors games.
Like Dynasty Warriors, the game feels extremely padded by tons of enemies on screen, sections will have 50 enemies where only 10 can be on screen at a time where you kill one, another from the pool of remaining enemies spawns, all of which feel like a lazy copy and paste job. What might make it even possibly fall below a Mosou game such as Dynasty Warriors, is the fact that the difficulty is inconsistent. At least with Koei Warriors games it’s consistently mindless and even at times stress-relieving after a long day! This is not, in fact it would be if it weren’t for the segments that only stop you from button mashing by having one of the goons in the pack shooting a rocket launcher at you camping from a far away distance or due to the terrible camera (forgot to even mention it’s a camera worse than the past two games) having bad guys jump at you and pulling off combos that take anywhere from between a quarter to half your life. No matter which difficulty setting you choose, this is what you have to face. Having to go through 30, 40, 50 and a couple instances (at least it feels like it) 100 enemies, if you happen to take that cheap death the checkpoint puts you all the way at the beginning of the waves, which can feel like a total slap in the face to the players time. My thumb actually starts to hurt so much, I wouldn’t be surprised if I developed a case of Arthritis! Between the huge case of quantity over quality with the enemies and cheap deaths, Team Ninja has adapted a cheap case of game extension in the worst way, as if the game has stuffed Viagra pills down it’s throat much like Team Ninja shoves silicone in the chest of women. There’s padding all over eh? You can literally walk only 3 steps after you’re given a checkpoint (if they’re even being merciful) via. defeating a section of enemies and ANOTHER section comes your way, with no breathing room. There’s really nothing to do in this game except move forward down corridors and slaughter and even that is nerfed, which will take you all in about 10 hours to complete. Sure there’s some quick-time events shoved in there, but they don’t add anything to the game and they give you too much room for error and bosses in this game are probably only meant for you to not fall asleep while playing, being that they ramp up the cheapness more than a dollar store and they flood in with unfairness more than the average criminal defense attorney. In my Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus Review I said to “wait for Ninja Gaiden 3″ instead! Well, you can forget it, because a rehash of an 8 year old game is better than this and that’s a bit sad.
Looking at what Ninja Gaiden 3 presents you with, is also overall mediocre like the rest. It’s graphical engine is tolerable, nothing special but actually a downgrade from Ninja Gaiden II. It was advertised that Ninja Gaiden played at 60 frames per second. It looks like when Itagaki actually left Team Ninja though, he must have taken 30 of those frames with him to work on his next project, because I have no idea where the other 30 frames are! Dismemberment has been removed from this game, there’s still plenty of blood splatter but dismemberment was a key feature of Ninja Gaiden that played into the strategy of combat being that in Ninja Gaiden 2 enemies would still come at you hopping on one leg with their other being chopped off. It more so feels like Team Ninja has been the one’s castrated with their decisions regarding this game. (It’s kind of disappointing that dogs have to be part of the slaughtering as well, no joke doggies do get killed in this game, hundreds of them) As for the voice acting, Ryu is chattier than ever in this game than in the previous games, though he has a good voice actor, it still sounds like he had a long day all of the time before recording his lines. As for the main villain introduced in the beginning of the game, his dialog is so laughably bad when he’s talking about destroying the world in 7 days, I’m finding it a comic routine. So when Ryu and the main villain are talking with eachother, it feels like it’s underacting vs. overacting. What makes it worse is that the main villain will spill his hammy speeches during boss battles, so you’ll have to button mash and deal with bad voice acting at the same time, the ultimate torture. The rest of the voice cast though do a great job to save a script that seems to be lost in translation a lot of the time and most of the supporting cast sounds believable enough to keep the emotions strong.
Ninja Gaiden 3 is a game that suffers from a terrible case of streamlining and plain laziness in gameplay development. All of this has turned this franchise for the hardcore anti-button masher crowd to something of mere mediocre mashing. It also could have been one of the most interesting games of the series but Ryu’s character study took a backseat to the painful repetitive slaughtering. The redeeming factors are far and few in between and overall the departure of Itagaki from Team Ninja sees no good in the future of Ninja Gaiden. The same feeling was felt for many with Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom on the NES and it happens again, making it the 2nd time one of my favorite beloved franchises dies as if the name Ninja Gaiden 3 was destined for disappointment. At most this game is a rental, but the average player’s time is worth more spent somewhere else than Ninja Gaiden 3