Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
So anyone who’s regularly following the action here at PL knows that months ago in September, I wrote an article about what I expected to see from the third installment of Ninja Gaiden. So it only makes sense that I, the Don himself, would return, like a zombie and spectre from the dirt of the online nexus and have my vengeance in the form of a review.
Back when I wrote the NG3 expectations article, we here at PL still had limited info about the game and surprisingly, some of the new additions I foresaw or expected were actually added, such as multiplayer, stealth, and a greater emphasis on the story. Now, I won’t be reviewing the online segment, but everything else will get a once over from Play Legit’s Ninja Gaiden Guru.
One thing that Team Ninja has always gotten right, is graphics. The environments look and feel engaging, and the overall appearance is sharp and defined, and one par with the rest of the series in terms of graphics. You’ll see well rendered water and rain effects, as well as detailed deserts and jungles. It may not be Crysis 2 level or anything, but it does in fact, look good.
The addition of stealth kills was a welcome new feature in this one, and one of the things I was expecting in my earlier article. I’ll talk more about the stealth kills later, but for now I’ll say that their presence in the game really does make you feel like a ninja.
The combat animations with the Dragon Sword are really very cool. From the basic combos to the intense fatality moves, Hayabusa shows some classic techniques from the old games as well as some creative new movements with the blade that looked ripped from a Sho Kosugi movie. There’s some really cool movement and free-running segments in the game where you’ll be escaping or getting away from something that really exploit Hayabusa’s agility. The addition of this new gliding technique really mixes things up and gives him a new way to get around that just visually looks awesome. There’s also the Kunai Climb, which requires some skill and timing to do, which is in keeping with the series trademark difficulty, however at times it is overused, but still a clever idea.
So I mentioned the stages earlier and how they looked. The actual look of them is fine, but what’s in them and what you see? Not so much. The older Ninja Gaiden games had Ryu going to fantastic, otherworldly locations as well as believable and realistic ones, and this is something that stretches back to the Nintendo days. In this installment, we have a lot of cities and semi-realistic locations, but the other Ninja Gaiden games took place in a unique world that had fictional countries and a mix of fantasy and reality in it’s setting that really drew me into the game. This version doesn’t feel like it’s set in the same world.
Ninja Gaiden 2 introduced “Obliteration Moves” where you viciously end a critically injured foe’s life through a unique fatality technique that would differ depending on enemy and weapon. Not only is this gone, but the enemies no longer receive these devastating injuries, but rather meander around after massive damage has been done to them, with you clueless as to whether or not they’re in a dying animation or vulnerable for the final move. In NG2, it was obvious, the enemies would have a limb cut off. With that removed, it can be hard to tell. Overkill is great, and one of the most fun things about 2, but there’s a limit that even this game should have, especially when it’s just a basic human soldier. At times, I felt like the endless fatality animations done on a single guy really slowed down large combat scenes.
All the diversity in the gameplay is gone now. Only Hayabusa’s most standard weapon and standard magic is available throughout all of story mode, and there are no upgrades that you have control over throughout single player. Even Ninja Gaiden (Black) for the first XBOX had three different weapons you could use, not including arrows and leveled up shurikens as well as unlockable weapons like the Plasma Saber, and 2 had a veritable treasure chest of ancient Japanese weapons, including many that aren’t normally seen in games, such as the Kusarigama (Sickle and Chain) and Tonfa (Nightstick-like bludgeons). Why would the game take a step back like this? The free DLC weapons are no excuse, one of the best parts about the older games’ campaigns was to find a new weapon and trash enemies in a whole new way with it, at the same time upgrading it and improving it. Not to mention the absence of all the various other Ninpo magic spells Ryu had, even if those are DLC, something that should be standard shouldn’t be DLC.
Aside from a lack of diversity in weapons and magic, the enemies are less varied than ever, with mostly human goons filling out the ranks of the badguys in the game, and less monsters, demons, and fiends.
The new “Steel on Bone” techniques are initiated in combat completely at random, and at times when you need an enemy dead or you’re being overwhelmed, it won’t happen, but if there’s 2 guys and you have full health, then it initiates! The point being that there is no defined way to use the technique, you just wait until it shows up. Other aspects of NG3 are like this, Ninpo is determined like many other games, you just earn it through combat, as well his new Demon Arm Ultimate Attack, which is inferior to the old style of Ultimate Attacks that made you choose between saving Karma and using it for powerups or using it to get you out of a bad situation.
The game feels much more empty without power-ups, potions, and little scarabs or scrolls to collect, hiding in secret. The karma system was always a little undefined, but getting rid of something instead of improving it is never the way to go.
There’s way too many in-game tutorials and reminders about how to play, but if you turn those off, then you disable the Quick Time Event prompts that you need to succeed in the game.
Overall, the lack of former Team Ninja leader Tomonobu Itagaki’s influence shows heavily in this sequel to the great series, with a sluggish combat system that provides more difficulty than the game itself as well as a lack of a number of improvements the last game made. Why would you make a sequel more bare bones than even the first game? Ninja Gaiden 3 is an average action game coming from a series that isn’t known for being average. Even the good areas of the game I mentioned, such as the stealth and free running aren’t expanded upon as much, and as for the emphasis on story that I wanted?
Well yeah, the effort was nice, but the story really is an afterthought still, but this time it interrupts the gameplay and fluidity, as opposed to providing a backdrop for great gameplay and a setting for what’s going on. With so many elements gone and only a decent combat system remaining, Ninja Gaiden 3 no longer sits amongst God of War and Devil May Cry in the modern 3rd person action department.
Ninja Gaiden 3 Gets
2.5 Out of five
-Several Weapons are missing
-Gameplay is severely lacking