Ninja Gaiden 3 Hands-On preview at E3 2011

We’ve long since known the protagonist of Ninja Gaiden to be a cold, merciless and virtually unstoppable killer. Throughout the first two games, Ryu Hayabusa completed all of his tasks by spilling insane ammounts of blood – most of which wasn’t his.

The third time around, Team Ninja wants you to know that Ryu Hayabusa is a man with a history. Ninja Gaiden 3 will guide you through this story as you attempt to figure out the “conflict of a masked man whose motives and goals are unclear.”

The controls of the game are extremely easy to pick-up on, with individual buttons for quick and powerful attacks. Ryu now has an evasive slide move to add to his arsenal, which effectively replaces any rolls he may have made in the previous games. Using the block button and a forward directional, you can slide below low objects or tackle into enemies before bringing on the real damage. Of course, most of your attacks will be fresh moves which look gorgeous, and gory, as the camera pans in to give you maximum splash damage. Within a minute of starting the game, I had glided like a sworded Batman from the top of a building onto a rainy street and dismembered several unfortunate guards.

After getting into some active combat, Ryu’s arm will begin to glow noticeably red. As soon as you press the activation button, you’re going to see Ryu’s inner demon unleash on any nearby foes: they’ll quickly be cut down one after the other as Ryu exhausts his demon energy. It’s a fantastic tool to have in your arsenal when you’re surrounded, as you often are, by several opponents.

After I fought through several streets of soldiers in the demo, it was time to duck into an alley and climb up along a brick wall to escape. This brings us to another new feature of the game, dual-knife climbing. With a click tap of the left and right bumper buttons, Ryu begins his ascent one knife swing at a time. As long as you don’t have enemies attacking you from above, which you can dispose of by throwing a third knife, the climbing is a surprisingly quick and simple maneuver.

Check out the official Ninja Gaiden 3 trailer to see Ryu in action:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_Yc81j8zQ4

The graphics of the game are simply gorgeous in the blood-and-rain style that Ninja Gaiden has become so recognizable for. The street glistened with moisture, and as the sword split enemies in half there were satisfying globs and spurts of blood that squished out of every possible source. If you’re used to the legendary Ninja Gaiden difficulty, you’ve probably lost a lot of blood yourself – after playing the demo on normal, it’s evident they’ve seriously toned down the difficulty of the game. This opens up the series to a lot of gamers who may have otherwise been frustrated by a mostly enjoyable experience – though this may be a direction that will turn-off hardcore fans.

Ninja Gaiden is looking to be a polished and pleasing experience for both fans of the game and potential new players. Hardcore gamers may be disappointed if the difficulty is toned down, allowing for some admittingly button-mash style techniques – for a winning strategy. That said, the gameplay, with all of its attacks and dodges, is still a fun experience.

What do you think about Ninja Gaiden 3? Are you excited for the third iteration for the game? What do you think about Team Ninja’s choice to explore Ryu’s personal side with an edgy storyline?

Ninja Gaiden 3 is scheduled for release in early 2012.

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