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Ninja Gaiden 3 Review

publisher: Tecmo
developer: Team Ninja
genre: Action Adventure

ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 20, 12
» All About Ninja Gaiden 3 on ActionTrip

We're all fond of the Ninja Gaiden series here at AT. Challenging isn't the proper word to describe the original. It was beyond that. It was a terrific game, with enough heart and soul, cool characters, kick-ass boss fights and, above all, some honest-to-God frustration. Not the kind that makes you spit on the game and toss it out the window (although 2lions almost did that at one point), but rather the kind of frustration that makes you sweat and curse until you finish every task the game has in store for you. Realizing that you've been enraged every step of the way, you just go with the flow because every level, every boss fight, every enemy encounter eventually proves to be a rewarding experience. That was the main attraction and those qualities returned in Ninja Gaiden 2. The sequel wasn't a perfect game, albeit it retained the difficulty aspect, which was always a traditional element in the series. Ninja Gaiden 3, on the other hand, takes things in a slightly different direction.

Even the story takes a different turn from right at the beginning. Ryu Hayabusa, the hero of the previous two chapters, returns. He doesn't quite seem himself though. His powerful red, demonic arm appears to be influencing him greatly. Not in a good way either. The arm, allegedly, contains the souls of all the fighters and baddies he slaughtered in the past (yep, that means every enemy in Ninja Gaiden 1 and Ninja Gaiden 2). So, from there... Um, I don't even have the slightest clue what goes on from there. Okay, the narrative has to run its course here and despite our sincerest effort to enjoy all the cut-scenes and dialogue, well, we just... didn't. Then again, we weren't expecting a lot in that department and the story wasn't why we'd normally buy a Ninja Gaiden title.

The main reason why any Ninja Gaiden game was appealing is the difficulty. Fighting an enemy means you'll be doing plenty of tough swordplay and that denotes effective and well-timed blocks, followed by a range of skillfully executed attacks and combos. Each boss fight and every wave of baddies was usually accompanied by a lot of in-game deaths. To survive, you had to make an effort. That's just how the game is played. If you're a beginner to, say, Ninja Gaiden 2, here's how your initial session is probably going to look like: you begin by bravely stepping up to face the oncoming group of enemies - Ryu dies in a matter of seconds. You didn't even unsheathe his sword. Your jaw drops and you brace yourself for the second attempt. Things improve, you try to dodge the first attack from an enemy grunt, and you manage to survive a few seconds longer. You're slightly pissed off now, but you press on. By the time you reach your 10th endeavor to complete the very first battle in the game, you slowly begin to understand how the combat system works and that you are actually required to be skillful at this shit. It was about mastering Ryu's abilities and using all the key moves in order to proceed. You won't be challenged by Ninja Gaiden 2. You'll be pushed to your limits. You'll be annoyed and thrilled at the same time, because the exertion you put into each fight ultimately feels rewarding and it greatly exceeds what you've experienced in other action games.

Ninja Gaiden 3 tips the concept upside down and eliminates the system, allowing for more accessible combat. Enemies can now be defeated with ease. In fact, in order to proceed, there's little you have to do, apart from pushing the 'X' button continuously. My goal was to play the game as much as possible, because I really thought things would improve and become a bit more exciting. In time, you run into enemies that are more challenging and you get to fight some pretty cool-looking bosses. The feeling, however, has nothing to do with any emotion or challenge I've experienced in earlier installments. In this game, fighting foes never forces you to retrace your steps to, perhaps, learn from your mistakes and then return more eager into a dangerous fight. In older games, when enemies kick your ass, you just changed tactics quickly in real-time, but the trick is to stay alive and then try a different approach. That spectacular drive represented the very essence of Ninja Gaiden. Ninja Gaiden 3 is defined by simplistic gameplay and largely predictable combat situations, where the player just slashes through armies of opponents with little to no effort, at the same time easily pulling off cinematic execution moves. It's an overused and mediocre game concept; one which I'm certain will infuriate the Ninja Gaiden fan-base.

If you're a developer and you slap the title 'Ninja Gaiden 3' on the product, you must understand that players are going to expect the core combat mechanics from the previous two games. Since you've pretty much obliterated all chances of fans ever liking your game, at least you can please newcomers. Well, this game doesn't even accomplish that, because, at the end of the day it amounts to an average hack'n'slash routine players have seen too many times before. Seeing as the devs threw the traditional gameplay right out the window, they could've taken the time to write a more convincing plot. Sadly, they didn't. The characters are uninteresting and downright ridiculous, almost as much as the annoying cut-scenes and dreary dialogue taking place between the battles.

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3.1   Don't Bother 

It can be fun if you really, really want it to be;

The core gameplay, which was the spine of the series, has been brutally pulled out and violently stomped on to make way for a run of the mill hack'n'slash action adventure, disappointing and often outdated visuals.


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