Ninja Gaiden 3 Review
Dumbing down and repetition makes the latest entry in the Ninja Gaiden series a dismal affair
With Tobnou Itagaki's departure from Tecmo, Team Ninja had a lot to prove when it came to continuing the Ninja Gaiden franchise without their leader. For those of you who haven’t played the series before, Ninja Gaiden is a 3rd person action game where you fight hordes of monsters as you make your way through various levels. Occasionally a puzzle or two might block your advancement, but for the most part the answer to any problem is more killing. Many gamers had their doubts whether they would be able to pull it off, and unfortunately, unless they were aiming for a middling and forgettable game, the Itagki-less Team Ninja has failed.
Instead of being filled with the high octane and varied action we've come to expect from the series, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a repetitive and ultimately dull experience. In previous games players were given a wide array of weapons and ninpo to use, but in the age of DLC Tecmo has chosen to make the regrettable decision of locking many of these weapons away as downloads. Throw in an abundance of quick time events that often throw too many button prompts at you, the game becomes an exercise in frustration.
The previous Ninja Gaiden games in the series were known for their excessive amounts of blood, and that's no different here. What has changed though is the removal of executions, a one button instakill on any injured enemies. Veterans who didn't like the execution gameplay element might think this is a good change, but many enemies have far too much HP in the game. It's almost as if they planned to keep executions in the game but then removed them, resulting in many of your fights into battles of attrition rather than skill. The blood splatters from the executions also added a unique style to the series, something that NG3 is severely lacking. Levels all felt like I was revisiting locales that had previously been used in the other games.
While for the most part there has been no new additions to the series, for the first time Ninja Gaiden features competitive multiplayer. And like all others aspects of the third entry, it's poorly executed. Online combat is very simple minded, with the most effective way of tackling your opponents being either to flip at them or attack them when their back is turned. Not only is this boring, but it's made all the worse by the terrible framerate that often drops into the single digits. Even if you want to play multiplayer it took a great deal of time to find a match around the launch of the game, and it's only getting worse with each passing day. Don't feel too bad if you can't play it though, you're not missing anything noteworthy.
The core combat in NG3 is pathetic, and even a newcomer to the series will find it too easy. As mentioned before, the lack of weapons and ninpo remove any decision making players had to make, and severely limit the amount of combat options they have. The enemies' AI is almost non-existent, with the only strategy they employ is running straight at you and attacking. With executions replaced by lengthy cinematics, players will spend just as much time watching as playing. It makes an otherwise daunting series much more accessible, but at the cost of it being unenjoyable.
If the terrible and tedious enemy design wasn’t enough, many bosses are recycled and return up to three times. Outside of attack power and health these reused foes are hardly any different except for the occasional change in palette color. What makes these repeated fights even worse is the fact that they have been unfairly balanced, doing way too much damage since the player’s first encounter with them. Some of the repeat offenders even possess moves that nearly one shot Ryu Hayabusa.
Who is the main protagonist of the game if you didn’t know; I’ve purposely avoided discussing the plot of Ninja Gaiden 3 until now. Story in the Ninja Gaiden games was never the drawing point of the series and was easily ignorable. However in the latest entry the amount of cutscenes have gone up significantly, with the story as ham-fisted and sigh inducing as ever. Plot twists are seen a mile away, and even if you don’t see them coming you’re not likely to care with cheesy writing that’ll make any player consider skipping every and any cut scene.
Is Ninja Gaiden 3 a good game? No. Is it a terrible game? No. The end result of continuing the series without its creator is ultimately a failure, but the finished product is still a slightly below average experience. Players who never possessed the skills to overcome the earlier titles will appreciate the changes in this game, while everyone else will loathe them. The problem is, I think anyone who was willing to give the series a chance and was deterred by its difficulty has long given up on trying again. Leaving dedicated fans with a game that is often a chore to play through, and absent of the series’ trademark satisfying depth. If you enjoy watching your enemies explode into pools of blood as a result of button mashing, then check out Ninja Gaiden 3. For those of us who prefer our action games needing skill to conquer, this is not the game for us.