Ninja Gaiden 3

Ninja Gaiden 3 PS3 Review

Ninja. Who doesn’t love ninja? They’re sleek, streamlined, and sexy all wrapped into one package. Much like the fictitious ninja of old, Ninja Gaiden 3 is sleek, streamlined, and sexy, but falls just short of capturing all of these elements into one refined package.

For starters, you should know that the title takes a step backwards of sorts in quite a few areas. Depending on who you ask, this can be considered good or bad. Unfortunately, I fall into the latterTo the more casual player, having a consistent weapon layout of light attack, heavy attack, and a Ninpu [read: AoE, instant kill magic spell] can feel like a streamlined innovation that allows even the most uninitiated of gaming individuals to enjoy frantically-bloody gameplay. On the other hand, to the experienced hack-and-slash player, Ninja Gaiden 3’s combat system goes from a roller-coaster of mashing fun at times to dreadful repetition and downright boredom at others.

Countless times I found myself fighting the same three or four enemy types in any given chapter, with not so even as much as a change in colour palette. Luckily, the game manages to keep a decent pace in difficulty should you choose to approach the title in any mode but Novice. However, even with enemies who dodge and weave your attacks more effectively, it still feels immensely repetitive and tired, especially when getting to the later chapters in the game. I constantly found myself thinking, “when are they going to be dead? I want to see the next cutscene”. Combat in an action-oriented title simply shouldn’t be this way. In addition to streamlining the combat system, Team Ninja has opted to remove any semblance of an inventory or collectible system, making the single-player campaign especially meaningless after a first play. Why the developers would choose to take a step backwards in practical design of their game, I have no idea. All I can say is that the oversimplification of combat and inventory management [or lack thereof] is something that’s truly perplexing.

Those into eye candy will be pleased to know that Ninja Gaiden 3 looks absolutely fantastic. Everything from Ryu’s black scarf to the glint of his katana glistens in gorgeously-set lighting. Character models were sharp, crisp, and superbly-animated to the point that I was unsure if the game truly froze at certain points within my playthrough [which it in fact did, on two separate occasions during boss fights]. Ninja Gaiden 3 will take you through breathtaking locales such as the desert, forest, shinobi temples, and even military watercraft.

To be quite frank, the story in Ninja Gaiden 3 isn’t bad at all, but is in no way masterfully done either. Your clichés rear their ugly heads. Betrayals can be seen from a mile away, and multiple people are killed then reborn in strangely convoluted plot twists that fail to capture the emotional impact which Ryu is intended to make. After being inflicted by a blood curse on his arm, Ryu learns that the malice and murder caused by the Dragon Sword has been absorbed through his body via a hex, and begins to walk a path that promises to showcase emotional compassion, consideration, and empathy, character traits that no one has really seen in Ryu. Unfortunately, this isn’t reflected too much in the title’s gameplay, as Ryu is as ruthless and deadly as possible regardless if his opposition is begging for mercy at his feet or not. At times when the script almost comes across as immersively touching, the narrative abruptly sweeps you out of any emotional experience you may have been happening to enjoy.

Multiplayer was an okay experience. It took a few tries upon multiple boots to successfully enter a Clan Battle [Team Deatchmatch] which lasted for about 15 minutes. Ganging up on the opposing team with my fellow ninja was fun at first, but as I progressed through the modes I found customization options to be limited and boring.

The sound isn’t anything special to write home about, just your run-of-the-mill synth-techno beats. Something extremely irritating was listening to the repetitive death screams and cries of agony and bloodshed over and over again. In revue of experiencing the game in its entirety, I really can’t say this is a disappointment. The shoe fits, as mediocre enemy design and AI was married to boring enemy voiceovers.

There is one final area I can honestly say I enjoyed about my foray into NG3 – the beloved QuickTime Events [QTEs]. Now, QTEs are usually a 50-50 when it comes to any given audience. You either love them, or hate them with a passion. I’ve never understood the hate, and found them to work quite fine in Ninja Gaiden 3. With the press of a button, I was able to witness Ryu stylishly cleave the arms off of mutated beast-creatures or slice the  turrets off of a gunship. Without a skip in framerate, I witnessed intense battle scenes at the press of a button. Unobtrusive and stylishly done, my only complaint against this heavily-used game mechanic would be that the camera work could be polished up. Team Ninja seems to have been going for a Bayonetta-esque, action-centric set of camera angles, but I found that they tended to make the screen a little too busy in conjunction with QTEs and often caused me to fail due to simply not knowing what was clearly going on.

Ninja Gaiden 3 has all of the telltale signs of a good game. Triple-A branding, fantastic dev team, worldwide support. Unfortunately, what could have been a fairly solid entry is plagued by backwards-innovation [No inventory? Japanese voice option?], absolutely mediocre and over-streamlined combat gameplay, and a predictable plot. It is with great hope that I suggest Team Ninja take a moment to reflect on this release and consider why they would make such erroneous changes to what was a near-perfect formula for high-octane, Japanese action.

5 out of 10