Developed by Team Ninja
Distributed by Tecmo
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language & Suggestive Themes
Available for PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Ninja Gaiden is a highly famous video game series that dates back to its debut on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The series lived up to the ninja name when it disappeared for a long time during the next two generations of gaming, and it finally reemerged for the original Xbox back in 2004 and instantly received praise for its complex, yet fun, fighting style and difficulty that made playing through the game more enjoyable overall. Ninja Gaiden 2 received many of the same merits, so, obviously, Ninja Gaiden 3 was one of the most anticipated games of this year. However, Team Ninja decided to throw everything that made the Ninja Gaiden series over the past few years out the window and produce a game in which even the most hardcore fans couldn’t find a bit of enjoyment.
You once again take control of the legendary Dragon Ninja Ryu Hayabusa when a terrorist group has attacked London and taken the Prime Minister hostage. They demand to see Ryu Hayabusa as their simple request, and the famed ninja is more than happy to oblige. As it turns out, the terrorist group is working together with LOA, a powerful conglomerate that specializes in military weapons, to capture Hayabusa as part of a world domination plan. While it’s a decent enough premise, the remainder of the story turns into the biggest contradiction in gaming history as Ninja Gaiden 3 tries to present the soft, mushy side of Ryu Hayabusa. The attempt to show Hayabusa’s gentle side is shoved down your throat at nearly every major cutscene throughout the game, and it eventually becomes sickening when combined with the brutality and ruthlessness Hayabusa shows all of his opponents throughout his every action in the game. In fact, the opening fight shows Hayabusa slowly approach a soldier begging for his life that ensures the ninja he means him no more harm and only took the job so he could make a living and provide for his family. You are then left with no choice but to repeatedly mash the weak attack button to savagely murder the unarmed man in cold blood.
This presents some of the biggest problems in Ninja Gaiden 3. Simply put, the new steel meets bone mechanic is majorly annoying. The game will prompt you to rapidly mash one of the attack buttons when this feature is activated, and it happens so frequently that you’ll eventually find yourself using repeated weak attack combos to fight enemies, since you’ll end up having to mash the same buttons at the end of combat regardless. Also for some unfathomable reason, Team Ninja decided that every enemy in the game had to cry, whine and beg you not to kill them once they’ve been incapacitated. When you consider the massive amount of enemies you fight in the game and at one time (more than featured in previous Ninja Gaiden titles), you’ll realize just how awful a decision this was, as every fight sounds more terrible than your local daycare just before nap time. Finally, the game is littered with scenes where Hayabusa has to walk slowly towards an opponent or objective, or the curse he receives from the game’s main antagonist early in the game acts up causing him to be able to barely walk or fight during which time enemies don’t take advantage of the nearly helpless ninja. These moments were meant to add emotion and tension to their designated scenes, but the constant occurrence of them only slows your progress through an awful game.
The problems don’t end there however, as the game takes many steps back in nearly every way possible and makes combat no longer fun at all as a result. A once great fighting system is dwindled down to bare necessities, as you’ll find Hayabusa constantly performs attacks you didn’t intend or in the wrong direction and advanced combos are gone with only a few decent ones to cycle through each fight. Intelligent opponents have been taken away and replaced instead with a great abundance of weak enemies and a handful of enemies that will use cheap tactics to defeat Hayabusa. Bosses are recycled over and over again as well, so even if you had fun with a fight, you won’t after the fourth and fifth time of fighting the same exact enemy. After enough enemies have been defeated, Hayabusa can unleash his 1 Ninpo magic attack he has in the game to clear the screen of enemies and regain health.
You’ll fight enemies with a sword, bow and useless shurikens with no way to level up, add new combos or skills, unlock new weapons, or use any other forms of progression. There aren’t any items to find out of combat either, and areas can’t be explored. Should you fail to realize how to walk down a straight path or climb a bright wall in front of you, the game offers up the True Path when you click in your right thumbstick. Add all of these problems up, and you have one of the most repetitive, mindless games ever created.
Ninja Gaiden 3‘s presentation is a mess as well. Graphics will glitch, colors will fade, the camera can’t keep up with the action, boobs are unnecessarily jiggly, and I even had Hayabusa transform into a shadowy ninja figure that resembled the enemy at one point, but the game’s graphics aren’t impressive even if all of these problems weren’t working against it. The voice acting isn’t terrible, but everything the characters are saying is. The music and sound effects in the game are fine, and a few of the real time button events are mildly entertaining as you glide through the air, avoiding missiles on your way to cutting down a doomed enemy, but it’s not nearly enough to save such a terrible game.
Should you want to continue being tortured in other modes, Ninja Gaiden 3 offers up Clan Battle and Ninja Trials for online cooperative play. Clan Battles let up to 8 players fight to the death in a bland arena, but you’ll find your opponents in Ninja Gaiden 3‘s version of team deathmatch even more cheap than enemies in the campaign. Ninja Trials allows you to play alone or with a cooperative partner to complete challenges that award you Karma necessary to level up and unlock goodies in multiplayer. That’s right; there’s actually some point to fighting in the online modes! Still, there aren’t enough customization options to warrant playing these modes for very long.
The proven track record showed that Ninja Gaiden 3 should’ve been a great game; however, the resulting game is a sloppy mess of terrible ideas stacked on top of more terrible ideas. I cannot discourage you from playing this game enough. The game spits in the face of loyal fans of the series, and newcomers will find the game just as abysmal. Should you ever feel the need to play this game, just put a pair of underwear on your head, pick up an empty paper towel roll and pretend to be a ninja, and you will have a better experience. Trust me; I’ve done both before…
Ninja Gaiden 3 released on March 20, 2012 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For more information on the game, check out the official Ninja Gaiden 3 website.
1/2 out of 5