Game Rant’s Zac Landry reviews Ninja Gaiden 3
Ninja Gaiden 3 is Tecmo Team Ninja’s first attempt at a brand new Ninja Gaiden title since their head honcho, Tomonobu Itagaki, left their development clan. Expectations for the title have been high – given the success of the previous two installments – which are favorites among hardcore action fans looking for a challenge.
Sadly, it appears that Itagaki’s exit from the studio had major (negative) implications - as Ninja Gaiden 3 may be one of the biggest disappointments of 2012.
Ryu Hayabusa is an especially iconic, as well as fan-favorite, video game character – and, while it might be hard to say, this newest Ninja Gaiden action title is just plain bad. Team Ninja decided remove many of the elements that made the previous two installments enjoyable – and have actually taken steps backward (which will no doubt leave diehards fans dumbfounded). While it might sound harsh, keeping in mind the terrific foundation established in Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden 2 (not to mention the long-lasting franchise roots), Ninja Gaiden 3 isn’t even a competent modern action title.
Soon after booting up the game, it was clear that, purely from a visual standpoint, Ninja Gaiden 3 lacks the style and polish of previous titles. Instead of chopping off limbs or decapitating opponents enemies are merely sliced into a bloody mess. Covering our ninja in the blood of his foes is a nice touch – but it’s not enough to overcome the feeling that Team Ninja delivered a game that’s missing the little details that made the original titles such a visual treat.
Anyone hoping that the series would take further steps to deepen the gameplay – not to mention add even more RPG elements found in the previous two installments – will be very disappointed. Gone are all the chests Ryu would kick open in cool ninja fashion – to reveal items. In fact items and shops have been completely removed altogether – resulting in significantly less customization. Unlike the prior installments, which allowed Ryu to wield a myriad of different weaponry, the character is now stuck with a sword for the entire game. The swordplay can only be improved by trading out different models over the course of the adventure but none of them are specialized in any way and result in the exact same combos – only a bit more powerful. To make matters worse, none of Ryu’s existing swords can be upgraded and the player is limited to a single Ninpo the entire game. The lack of weaponry and customization options represent a major failure – as mastering different combos with a new weapon was one of the main joys in the prior titles. As a result, combat in Ninja Gaiden 3 gets to be pretty “samey” – with no foreseeable added benefit to limiting the player in this way.
All of these gameplay exclusions are explained-away with an underdeveloped storyline that only adds-in one new gameplay feature. Early in the campaign Ryu gets cursed – which turns his arm in to one big veined mess and introduces the only “new” mechanic in Ninja Gaiden 3. Throughout combat encounters, Ryu’s arm will begin to glow red – and players can hold down the heavy attack button to send Ryu on a rampage. It could have been a cool addition if the camera wasn’t zig-zagging all over the screen. Instead, the camera zooms in so close and events play-out so fast that gamers will, no doubt, have a very difficult time following the on-screen action (not to mention get a bit noxious). The attack is powerful, but it won’t always clear the screen, and Ryu’s arm will start to act up – ending the rage sequence and leaving him vulnerable (that is if the AI ever took advantage).
Another noticeable difference is the game’s difficulty – in a franchise known for challenging experiences, that left even die-hard players feeling as though they’d accomplished a feat upon completion, on the hardest settings Ninja Gaiden 3 is still exceptionally easy. Everything about the title comes across as lazy – and the difficulty suffers greatly do to the streamlined weapon options and lackluster
Whether they meant to or not, Tecmo’s Team Ninja removed almost every feature from the previous blockbusters that resonated with fans – in order to deliver an underwhelming (and perplexing) product that doesn’t reflect the strengths of the series whatsoever. Even enjoyable side-options, such as swapping out the English dialogue for the native Japanese track (available in the first two games), is missing in the latest title.
If you had any interest in Ninja Gaiden 3, I urge you to pass on this game and spend your time and money on something more rewarding (such as replaying Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden 2). At the very least, wait a year – so that the game has dropped significantly in price. At $60, there’s no reason to pick-up such a thin and repetitive experience – even if you are a fan of the franchise.
Ninja Gaiden 3 is out now on PS3 and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.