Ninja Gaiden 3 - Review

Ninja Gaiden 3 is the long awaited sequel to the 2008 game, Ninja Gaiden 2, and is the first Ninja Gaiden game to not be directed by Tomonobu Itagaki, but to be directed by Yosuke Hayashi instead. So just how is Ninja Gaiden 3? Does it live up to the Ninja Gaiden name? Well...

Ryu's Story begins once again:

Ninja Gaiden 3 takes place not too long after the end of Ninja Gaiden 2, and before the events of the original Ninja Gaiden on the NES. The game starts with Ryu Hayabusa learning about a group of terrorists that are attacking London. Although normally ninjas stay out of the affairs of other countries, Ryu decides to head to London after he learns that they are targeting him as well. After fighting off mobs of enemies, Ryu finally makes his way into a building where hostages were said to be held; however Ryu soon finds that he's too late.

Once inside the building Ryu, discovers that all of the hostages have been killed by a strange man with a white mask and red robe. The strange man goes on to tell Ryu that they are both very much alike and that they are both nothing but killers. After a quick fight, the strange man destroys Ryu's Dragon Sword and fuses it with Ryu's body, cursing him to feel the pain and suffering of everyone he has ever "murdered."

Ninja Gaiden 3, unlike the past two Ninja Gaiden games, have a very strong focus on the story, and it also deals with the human side of Ryu. As the game progresses Ryu slowly becomes close to the JSDF Agent Mizuki, as well as her daughter Canna. For the first time players really get to see what makes Ryu, Ryu, and not just an assassin. Although Ryu is in fact a super ninja who has defeated many enemies in the past, he is also a person; he has friends, he has family, and he cares about protecting innocent people. Throughout Ninja Gaiden 3 this aspect of Ryu's personality really begins to show, and it really helps make Ryu seem alive.

Although Ninja Gaiden 3 does have a major focus on the story and on Ryu's human side, it isn't perfect. The story can be a bit rushed at times, the terrorists plans really aren't that clear until the end of the game, and Ryu's morals can seem a bit strange at times. One minute he's finishing off a soldier who's begging for his life, and the next he's feeling sorry for them and avenging their deaths after someone else kills them. It can be a little bit strange at times, but overall the story does a pretty good job of getting Ryu from point A to point B, and it's also really nice to actually see Ryu as a human and not just a silent assassin.

Picking up the sword for a 3rd time:

As one might expect from any game in the Ninja Gaiden series, Ninja Gaiden 3 is an action game with a very strong focus on the combat; however things are quite a bit different this time around. While Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 featured many different weapon types, a shop system, as well as many different areas to explore outside of the main path, Ninja Gaiden 3 does away with all of it and stream lines the gameplay.

The basic formula in Ninja Gaiden 3 stays the same throughout the entire game. Unlike in the past games, all of the levels in NG3 are completely linear and will force you to stay on a set path. Although this might be a little bit upsetting for any treasure hunters out there, it also allows the game play to really take on the action route. Ryu will be doing his signature glide off of of buildings, escaping buildings as they explode, running from huge monsters, and climbing up walls with his brand new climb move. All of these new elements really help give the game more of a cinematic, and help with the overall gameplay. Although quick time events might not be your thing, you have to admit that watching Ryu jump off a building and cut a helicopter in half is pretty cool.

Outside of the quick time style events, the standard Ninja Gaiden gameplay can be found. As you move throughout the stage mobs and mobs of enemies will attack you, and it's up to you to decide how to fight them. Just like in the past games Ryu has hundreds of moves and combos which he can preform, but there is one major flaw with this in Ninja Gaiden 3. Although you have a lot of room to use whatever moves you want, it's really kind of pointless. While in past games each enemy had their own weakness that the player had to figure out, enemies in NG3 are pretty basic. You can basically use the same simple combos over and over again and still kill just about everything. Sure you COULD use Ryu's famous Izuna Drop (which is done by using a fast attack, strong attack, fast attack, fast attack, fast attack, strong attack, in that order), or you could simply spam your fast attack until you've weakened the enemy enough to pull off an auto finisher (which is what replaced the "delimbing" gameplay mechanic from Ninja Gaiden 2), which you can then chain into all of the enemies around you resulting in twenty plus one hit kills.

The game DOES feature easier and harder modes which actually balances out the combat a bit more, but it still doesn't change the fact that the combat is a lot easier than it was in the past games. Either though it no longer requires you to learn hundreds of moves, the moves are still in fact there, and they are still a lot of fun to use.

Besides the addition of the "bone on steel" moves, which are used to finish off an enemy, a brand new slide attack as well as a new magic dragon attack has been added. The slide acts like the original dodge and dash moves from 1 and 2, but it can also be used to pull off different moves and combos. For example you can slash the enemy until they get knocked off balance, and then you could slide under them causing them to trip and land on your sword. It's actually a really nice addition, and adds a bit more to the combat overall; however I sadly can't say the same for the dragon attack.

In past games Ryu was able to use quite a few different types of magic. Each had its own advantages, and none of it was really over powered. Sure it could be used to one hit kill enemies, but the strict limit on uses really forced you to think about using it. Well, sadly this system has been completely replaced. In Ninja Gaiden 3 Ryu is only able to use a single magic attack which is a screen clearing dragon which also heals him to max health. Yep that's right! Not only does it kill just about every enemy on screen, except for the few rare occasions where it misses, it also heals Ryu and makes the game easier. Since the magic bar now fills up based on many enemies you attack/kill, and since the bar will reset to zero after the fight is over which keeps you from using it in the next right right away, there is basically no reason to save it. It's a boring attack that gets old fast, it destroys everything, and it heals you. It's the ultimate safety net.

Ultimate Techniques have also been completely revamped in NG3. In 1 and 2 Ultimate Techniques were used by charging your strong attacks which allowed you to release a very strong attack which would basically destroy everything around you. The technique could be a life saver, but it could also be a challenge to pull off as well. Once again, all of that has completely changed! Now Ultimate Techniques are completely random and can be pulled off by simply tapping your strong attack button. As you fight Ryu's arm will begin to glow red, and that's all there really is to it. Sometimes it'll glow red right away, and other times it won't start glowing until you've killed 50 plus enemies. It's random, but at the same time it can be an over powered life saver.

The other changes to the combat comes in the form of the ranged weapons. Just like always Ryu can throw and endless supply of shurikens, but that's not the only thing that's endless. The bow has always been a key weapon in the Ninja Gaiden games, and it was always something you got early on; however there was always an arrow limit which stopped you from abusing it... But let's just say that's not a "problem" anymore.
Like in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, the bow has unlimited, although it is now explosive ammo, and can be used as many times as you want; however it really isn't as over powered as it might seem. Although the bow does have some uses when it comes to fighting ground enemies, it's mainly there to fight off the ones that are out of reach. Since the bow auto locks onto the nearest target, it freezes time when aiming in the air, and you can also move while aiming, it is very easy to use and it's something almost everyone will be able to pick up on right away.

Although originally Ninja Gaiden 3's core gameplay focused solely on Ryu's sword, updates have been released to add in more weapons. In other words, if you're a fan of Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, and you miss using your favorite weapons; worry not because game changing updates are possible, and you never know what might be added in the future!

Shadows of The World:

Shadows of The World is another one of the main modes featured in Ninja Gaiden 3, and it's also the mode that plays the most like a Ninja Gaiden game. While the main story mode focuses on Ryu and features the new style of gameplay, Shadows of The World allows you to create your own custom ninja and take on trial missions, which are a mix of both old and new, as well as battle with other fellow ninjas in an online death match.

When you first start Shadows of The World you'll start with basically nothing. You'll have a few basic clothing colors, a few basic helmets, few basic gloves, and a few basic boots to pick from. You'll also start with level 1 magic, a level 1 sword, a very limited supply of arrows, and a very limited supply of shurikens. As you battle online and play through the trials, you'll slowly begin to level up your ninja and unlock new features just like in the original games. As you level up your character you'll learn new abilities and unlock new parts to customize your ninja, and as you level up your weapons you unlock more moves in the move list.

While the trial mode features enemies from the original two games, which are a bit more challenging, where Shadows of The World really shines is the multiplayer death match mode where teams of four get to battle it out! Due to the level up system, you will be at a disadvantage when you first start, but as time goes on and you unlock more abilities, it becomes a really fun mode to test your skills against other players. With the addition of the stealth system, which makes you invisible while walking, and the stealth kill system, the multiplayer mode has quite a lot of depth and is a really nice extra mode.

So in the end, Ninja Gaiden 3 really worth it?

Ninja Gaiden 3 is a pretty hard game to rate simply because it's a Ninja Gaiden game. Most fans who go into this game expect the Ninja Gaiden standards, while new players come in expecting an action game. This is one of them rare times where a game is completely a love or hate title.

If you're a Ninja Gaiden fan you're sure to be disappointed in a lot of the changes that were made. Even with the updates, the weapon list is still very limited which basically forces you to play the game in a certain way. If you were one of them people who spent the past few years mastering your favorite weapon, you're really going to be upset once you learn that the weapon wasn't originally included in the game and may never be included in the updates. Also if you were one of the fans who didn't like the route Ninja Gaiden 2 took with the linear level set up, you'll most likely hate it even more now that ALL exploration has been completely removed. No alternate paths, no side roads to take to find hidden items, no shop to buy items at, and well, no items! Exploration has been completely removed and replaced with action scenes.

Ninja Gaiden 3 also doesn't quite offer the challenge you would expect from a Ninja Gaiden game. Ninja Gaiden is known to be so hard that a lot of players can't even make it past the first room on the easiest setting. That will NEVER happen in NG3, especially since the "Hero" easy mode actually has a setting that takes control of Ryu and auto dodges and blocks for you. You can basically sit the controller down in a room filled with enemies, and come back an hour later to find Ryu is still alive. This mode makes the game so easy, even a two year old can play it. Even so, there are harder modes that will give you a challenge, but it still won't challenge you the same way as NG1 or 2. Besides the fact that enemies will spam grab moves non stop, most of which are one hit killers, the limits made with some of the other features in the game cause it to be more challenging than it should be. Yes it's hard, but it's annoying "cheap hard," and not a true challenge. I also STRONGLY RECOMMEND turning off the in game tutorial as soon as possible. With the tutorial turned on, combat will be slowed down with quick time events after each and every kill. If you truly want to play this like a Ninja Gaiden game, you'll want to turn them off as soon as possible and play like you have been for the past few years.

Now with that being said, just how will a non Ninja Gaiden fan feel about this game? Well... Ninja Gaiden 3 is a pretty solid action game! Compared to most other action games coming out today, Ninja Gaiden 3 is easily one of the better ones and a lot of fun can be had with it. The story is pretty good, the sword play and large move sets are VERY nice, the main story can take around 10 or so hours to beat, there are a lot of challenges to play through on your own or with co-op, and there's a nice multiplayer death match mode. The game, in short, is a great action game. There are a few glitches every once in awhile, and there are times the game will slow you down for story scenes, but none of them are really that big of a problem.

Ninja Gaiden 3 is actually a pretty good game, and it only gets better with each update. The only problem is that this game doesn't follow the standards set by the past few games. Sure you may end up liking the game even if you are a long time fan, but there's also a pretty good chance you'll be disappointed. Still if you're an action game fan and this is your first game in the series, then fear not because you'll most likely love it!

In the end, despite the fact that it's not like the other games in the series, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a 7/10 in my book. Nice graphics, a pretty good story, fun trials, and a pretty fun online mode. It's a game that's sure to last you quite awhile! Still, this is NOT a game for you Ninja Gaiden fans. (As a fan myself, if I were to rate this compared to other NG games; it's about a 5/10. It isn't the Ninja Gaiden we fans have been waiting for, but that doesn't make it a bad action game on its own. The good news is, Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge is there.)

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