There was a time when being a ninja meant something. Whether you’re a trained assassin or just someone trying to do the best for your clan, the art of ninjutsu should never be taken lightly. Stealth is your main asset. However, when needed, you can employ shuriken, swords or just about any other object as a weapon to accomplish your mission. If all else fails, the elite ninja have an array of ninja “magic” that can be used to befuddle and eliminate their enemies. Team Ninja throws every element that makes being a ninja great out the window in Ninja Gaiden 3. For series fans dating back to the NES, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a watered-down hack ‘n slash game, which can make your thumb with remorse. The Ryu Hayabusa you know and loved has been whittled down to a one-trick, one-button soldier with little depth and way too many QuickTime actions.
Ninja Gaiden 3 could have also been called “Ninja Gaiden 3: Ryu the Ninja Merc” because that is what the game feels like. Throughout the game, Ryu isn’t working alone. Instead, he has military intelligence guiding his every move. He walks around as though he’s Jack Bauer in 24, touching his ear so that we know that the voice in his head is coming from a com-link.
It’s during these bizarre moments that you’ll notice one of the most annoying “features” of this game. Ryu will be in the middle of a cinematic, then you’ll run for a few paces, and then the game will take back control for another pre-animated sequence. This happens repeatedly throughout the game, tricking you into thinking that you’re about to fight.
When you do fight, combat has been relegated to an excessive amount of slash tactics. Ryu doesn’t feel the need to hide. He’s just a regular soldier who has decided to forgo guns in favor of a sword. The combat isn’t difficult at all. Most of the time, you can turn away from the screen and just keep tapping the attack button without fear of harm. Should you feel the need to look at your screen, you’ll probably get dizzy watching the camera’s incessant ability to snap into and out of a zoomed perspective. Nearly every attack and kill is a cinematic kill. It may seem cool as you play through the first board, taking multiple rockets to the chest as if they’re water balloons (yes, your ninja apparel apparently diminishes rocket damage). However, the camera shifting gets monotonous as the game progresses.
There are a few moments where you will roll around to dodge attacks or hit the block button, but these tactics are only needed on the rare boss battle. You’ll fight metal monstrosities, airships and even dinosaurs without fear of harm. The only enemy that’s even remotely dangerous shows up repeatedly, but can hardly be called a challenge.
When Ryu is not engaged in hack ‘n slash attacks or using your bow to pick off lackluster AI opponents that can’t shoot to save their lives, this ninja is climbing up walls with alternating button presses. It’s a tacked on mechanic that was put in to give this game the illusion of depth. You’ll climb a wall and possibly throw one or two shuriken up to knock down an enemy at the top. Don’t worry about aiming, your enemies are too stupid to move away and Ryu need only throw a shuriken blindly to hit a target.
Ninja Gaiden 3 does actually have a targeting system at your disposal. However, it hurts more than helps. Too often, you’ll target the wrong opponent, resulting in your intended target getting the drop on you. Luckily, this game is so easy that it won’t matter – even on the most difficult setting. You’ll survive. The only times Ryu comes even remotely close to danger are in the boss battles.
As for Ryu’s robust array of ninja magics, they don’t exist. Ryu only has one ninja power at his disposal. Use it and you’ll just be privy to another cinematic.
Unlike Asura’s Wrath, which hid a great story behind way too many cinematic actions, Ninja Gaiden 3 hides a frightfully shallow story underneath QuickTime events. The big thing about this sequel was supposed to be the dragon sword’s effect on Ryu. The soul of every person he’s killed has somehow infected his body. However, it’s just another gimmick to stealthily cover up the shallowness of this sequel. Also (spoiler), some girl randomly wants Ryu to be her dad. Yeah, that happens.
Ninja Gaiden 3 probably should have just been released as a downloadable game for a small fraction of the cost. At full price, this is one big, sequel waste.