We’ve nothing against a series being made more casual – nobody likes frustrating difficulty levels, after all. However, in attempt to make Ninja Gaiden 3 appeal to a larger audience the developers have removed just about everything that made Tomonobu Itagaki’s previous Ninja Gaiden games so entertaining in the first place.
The plot sees Ryu travelling all over the globe – starting in London and ending in Tokyo – to try and stop an alchemist and his fellow scientists. The cut-scenes are laughably poor, enforcing the fact that there’s a low budget feel throughout. Visually only Ryu himself looks the part – everything else looks like it has been taken from a lesser game with blurry and featureless textures coating the environments. Dialogue is also close to terrible with the soldiers that you fight repetitively uttering the same needlessly expletive-loaded sentences.
Treasure chests and collectable items have been left out, so there’s no reason to explore the surroundings which in turn makes the levels seem even more linear than they already are. Ryu’s simple yet pleasing ability to collect souls after battle and use them to acquire new items has been omitted too. As such there are no shops to speak of and although Ryu is given a few different swords to use as the story progresses you’d be pushed hard to tell the differences between them. The fact that there are no nunchaku or any other additional weapons other than a bow and arrow is frankly inexcusable.
As you may have guessed, it’s the combat system that has suffered the most. It does look a little flashy in places but whereas the combat in previous Ninja Gaiden games was sophisticated and well balanced, with enemies that would strike the moment your guard was let down, now it’s a mindless case of button bashing. A few enemies such as those carrying riot shields have to be struck with a strong attack to weaken their defences but this is about as technical as it gets.
If you could physically see the difficulty level it would be a flat line with a tiny little hump towards the end. This isn’t just the easiest Ninja Gaiden yet; it’s also one of the least challenging games we’ve played in a while and very close to being patronising. Right up to the final battle there are prompts to perform actions learned as early on as the first level.
Only the boss battles show Team Ninja’s usual level of imagination and it’s only during these battles that Ninja Gaiden 3 raises from utter tedium. Hardened Ninja Gaiden fans shouldn’t struggle with them at all but they put up a good fair fight regardless.
A couple of multi-player modes have been included. Like the main game they’re lacking polish and presented in the most basic of manners. The co-op mode sees your customised ninja and another battling waves of enemies. What’s nice about this mode is that there’s a combo meter – something the single player mode could have done with to make the combat a whole lot more engaging. The clan battle mode on the other hand is a deathmatch mode for eight players. Fights can be quite chaotic – it’s possible to use magic attacks and turn temporarily invisible once levelled up – but there’s nothing in the way of balancing while the level design can only be classed as ordinary.
Ninja Gaiden 3 is never a broken game but it does feel very dated and bland. There’s very little here that hasn’t been done before, resulting in a game that’s entirely forgettable.