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The Confusing, Quick Timey World of Ninja Gaiden 3

If you like button prompts, you're gonna love this game.

Before I tell you what I think of Ninja Gaiden 3, let me say something up front: exploding shurikens suck. Their introduction was when I stopped playing Tomonobu Itagaki's Ninja Gaiden, as it was clear this was not my thing. With Itagaki having left Tecmo to work on Devils' Third, the Ninja Gaiden series is under new design management, lead by Metroid: Other M's Yosuke Hayashi.

Ninja Gaiden 3 was at E3 in its first playable incarnation, even making a splash at Nintendo's press conference, confirming that, yes, Wii U owners will also be able to join the bloodbath. But it was running on Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s in Los Angeles, wherein Hayashi was making his pitch for the series' new direction. At a glance, not much has changed; you're still smashing buttons, dudes are falling apart alongside blood geysers and everything's moving really fast.

There don't seem to be as many weird demon dudes this time around.

It's when you start actually hitting those buttons, however, it's clear Ryu Hayabusa's changed.

There are button prompts everywhere now, with quick time events now regularly incorporated into combat. It's not entirely clear how the button prompts are triggered, as it didn't happen in every encounter. Moreover, the prompts don't appear early enough for you to actively process them. In every instance, I engaged the button prompt by accident--I was hitting square anyway. When the prompts do appear, you can rest assured the enemy's about to meet a quick death.

The prompts extend to traditional quick time events, too, like ducking underneath a truck or tapping shoulder buttons to scale a wall. But as this demo is Ninja Gaiden 3's coming out party, it's hard to not have one's takeaway be plastered top to bottom with memories of button icons.

Blood. Blood never changes.

The other major mechanic introduced in the demo involved Hayabusa's mutated arm. Nothing in the demo made it clear how the arm's introduced narratively, but as story was never the stand out feature in previous Ninja Gaiden games, who cares? You're only given the ability to quickly execute a handful of guys at once in the demo, the assumption being there will be more options in the final game. The power itself is a stringing together of the automated button prompt kills without all the button prompts. It only takes moments to charge up the arm's use, however, which means it can be spammed over and over again. Eventually, I was just slashing dudes in order to waste time in-between using the arm.

The reason I backed away from the original Ninja Gaiden was the realization Itagaki had designed something more akin to a fighting game than a traditional action romp. You can (and I do) happily button mash through the God of War series. That wasn't the case in Ninja Gaiden at all, which is why the players who it clicked for found the experience so rewarding. Itagaki had made an action game where pressing each button had an important consequence and maintaing flow was crucial.

It's difficult to say whether Ninja Gaiden 3 is completely moving away from that, but the constant interruption of combat in favor of elaborate, scripted kills makes the case. Maybe if there was a way to make such kills optional, letting people indulge their own preference for how to play. By the end of the demo, though, I was definitely using these gameplay constructs as a go-to crutch to finish sequences faster and move onto the next one. The whole experience felt a bit automatic--quick time kill, charge up arm, kill room of dudes with charged attack. Rinse, repeat.

This is not how I remember Ninja Gaiden.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

Before I tell you what I think of Ninja Gaiden 3, let me say something up front: exploding shurikens suck. Their introduction was when I stopped playing Tomonobu Itagaki's Ninja Gaiden, as it was clear this was not my thing. With Itagaki having left Tecmo to work on Devils' Third, the Ninja Gaiden series is under new design management, lead by Metroid: Other M's Yosuke Hayashi.

Ninja Gaiden 3 was at E3 in its first playable incarnation, even making a splash at Nintendo's press conference, confirming that, yes, Wii U owners will also be able to join the bloodbath. But it was running on Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s in Los Angeles, wherein Hayashi was making his pitch for the series' new direction. At a glance, not much has changed; you're still smashing buttons, dudes are falling apart alongside blood geysers and everything's moving really fast.

There don't seem to be as many weird demon dudes this time around.

It's when you start actually hitting those buttons, however, it's clear Ryu Hayabusa's changed.

There are button prompts everywhere now, with quick time events now regularly incorporated into combat. It's not entirely clear how the button prompts are triggered, as it didn't happen in every encounter. Moreover, the prompts don't appear early enough for you to actively process them. In every instance, I engaged the button prompt by accident--I was hitting square anyway. When the prompts do appear, you can rest assured the enemy's about to meet a quick death.

The prompts extend to traditional quick time events, too, like ducking underneath a truck or tapping shoulder buttons to scale a wall. But as this demo is Ninja Gaiden 3's coming out party, it's hard to not have one's takeaway be plastered top to bottom with memories of button icons.

Blood. Blood never changes.

The other major mechanic introduced in the demo involved Hayabusa's mutated arm. Nothing in the demo made it clear how the arm's introduced narratively, but as story was never the stand out feature in previous Ninja Gaiden games, who cares? You're only given the ability to quickly execute a handful of guys at once in the demo, the assumption being there will be more options in the final game. The power itself is a stringing together of the automated button prompt kills without all the button prompts. It only takes moments to charge up the arm's use, however, which means it can be spammed over and over again. Eventually, I was just slashing dudes in order to waste time in-between using the arm.

The reason I backed away from the original Ninja Gaiden was the realization Itagaki had designed something more akin to a fighting game than a traditional action romp. You can (and I do) happily button mash through the God of War series. That wasn't the case in Ninja Gaiden at all, which is why the players who it clicked for found the experience so rewarding. Itagaki had made an action game where pressing each button had an important consequence and maintaing flow was crucial.

It's difficult to say whether Ninja Gaiden 3 is completely moving away from that, but the constant interruption of combat in favor of elaborate, scripted kills makes the case. Maybe if there was a way to make such kills optional, letting people indulge their own preference for how to play. By the end of the demo, though, I was definitely using these gameplay constructs as a go-to crutch to finish sequences faster and move onto the next one. The whole experience felt a bit automatic--quick time kill, charge up arm, kill room of dudes with charged attack. Rinse, repeat.

This is not how I remember Ninja Gaiden.

Staff
Edited by ManMadeGod

After the first game kicked my ass, I skipped the second one. Not sure if this one is going to do anything for me even with the changes they are making

Posted by Zombutler

That's...weird. I still remember being really bummed out because I broke my wrist the day Ninja Gaiden 2 came out.

Posted by DarkbeatDK

I liked it better when this game was called Ninja Blade.... Well, not really actually.

I'm sorry to see Ninja Gaiden slip down this path.

Posted by Beforet

QTE always make games better! Right?....Right?

Posted by Moonshadow101

Nice of them to get rid of the main thing the series had going for it. Makes the decision not a buy much easier.

Posted by TheCheese33

So this one will be playable for us normies? Good to hear.

Edited by Brendan

Oh god, I really hope this game doesn't suck (see my favourites list for Ninja Gaiden Black in top 5). Becoming skillful at 1 and 2 (even with 2's sub-par camera) was rewarding in that mastering it became an art, and decimating enemies became incredibly satisfying.

Posted by rmanthorp

Looks fast as hell!

Moderator
Posted by Hashy

Watching the gameplay video was seriously soul-crushing for a fan of the previous games. I never even beat NG2 on even mentor but I blame myself entirely as the ninja dog I am.
 
When he used a launcher and it didn't launch the enemy a single tear rolled down my cheek.

Edited by Ares42

Don't remember exactly where, but in some interview with Hayashi he basically said that a lot of the QTEs shown at E3 is actually just sort of a tutorial thing and disappears once you get further into the game (which can also be seen in their longer stage demos).
 
Edit: found the video 6:00 for question, 7:25 for translated answer.

Edited by YoungFrankenstein

Looks faster than previous NG games but with all the QTE fest there it looks like a revamped version of Ninja Blade and that game sucks big time

Posted by JackG100

This sounds bad...

Posted by Rxanadu

It sounds like it's just gonna go downhill from here.  I actually loved the way combat worked in the last two games.  It was a pretty nice in-between from Devil May Cry's stylish precise combat and Bayonetta's insane moveset that worked with nearly every single button.  

Posted by AuthenticM

Wow, really? This perplexes me.

Posted by Hashbrowns

You can make Ninja Gaiden more accessible without compromising the fundamental gameplay system. Introduce easier levels of difficulty; give the player more health, give enemies less, that sort of thing.

Quick-time events have never been anything other than cutscenes pretending to be gameplay.

Posted by Hashy

Also it's really rare for games journalists to be perceptive and humble enough to 'get' the appeal of games they don't necessarily like. You rock Patrick.

Posted by Terrents

are you sure it wasn't just putting the button prompts up to teach you what to do and show you how to play? maybe those button prompts wont be in the real game? ah what am i saying. im sure they are
Edited by DamOver

Looks like a game Dethklok would make :\ If its a chore staying awake during a few min demo can't imagine seveal hours, it was like a grueling sequence from Clockwork orange played out in repetition. Being driven by flying quick time events simply concluding or somewhat rewarding the player with a couple more anime blood geysers. Cuts right to the core of my confusion of who this game will be adored by, mind you Assassins Creed has been a series based on the core concept of "stabbing dudes, yeah thats pretty awsome". Think theirs a benchmark for at least me in trying to justify playing this on a family tv, wife and kids on the sofa smiling in a Wii U add, I can see it now. But seriously, and thats what the game producer indeed was, serious enough to talk about the act of cutting a man in so much depth. Just seems like a miss-matched game that will (hopefully) be lost in the either, as it certainly has at this years E3. 
Furthermore, what the fuck happend to any asian 'Anything', Those elements at least added a slight of gusto to a persistant world and culture, but las no we get good old "Cutting dudes in parking lots".  

Posted by Andryan

@Ares42: that is so confusing. Does that mean that there are still Quick Time Events (technically) but you just won't see the button prompt?

Edited by Ares42
@Andryan said:

@Ares42: that is so confusing. Does that mean that there are still Quick Time Events (technically) but you just won't see the button prompt?

I think the idea is that when you do a finishing blow on enemies your blade gets stuck in their body and you need to a final slash to finish the kill. They called it "steel on bone experience" or something like that. Dunno if you wanna call it a QTE or not.
 
After watching the video it seems like it's not just for final blows. Just theorizing, but it sorta seems like the goal isn't necessarily to create a "make or break" QTE but more like if you do a well timed button press you get bonus damage, as it doesn't seem to use other buttons than the 2 attack buttons and they switch based on what direction your blade is cutting.
 
Seems to be yet another case of game not showing off it's good side this E3 though :P
Posted by Raikoh

Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden Black thats great games. Ninja Gaiden 2 this is not the same class. I hope Hayashi now up this game for glory again.

Edited by BoOzak
@Ares42 said:

@Andryan said:

@Ares42: that is so confusing. Does that mean that there are still Quick Time Events (technically) but you just won't see the button prompt?

I think the idea is that when you do a finishing blow on enemies your blade gets stuck in their body and you need to a final slash to finish the kill. They called it "steel on bone experience" or something like that. Dunno if you wanna call it a QTE or not.
There are button prompts in the "steel on bone" sequences:
http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-ninja-gaiden/715693
(apologies to the GB team for posting GT content but it's the only place besides Youtube that has it)
 
The game from what i've seen has been steamlined for the GoW crowd which is dissapointing since for me NG(itagaki's versions anyway) is part of a dying breed of games that require skill and coordination to play. That's not to say I have anything against GoW. It's just there's dozens of those games floating around in that vein and GoW is defiantely top of it's class among them. But NG was unique due to it's challenge and fluid pace of combat, and was very well regarded among fans because of that.
 
..Hopefully there are higher difficulties that make the game more of a challenge but the core mechanics of the gameplay seem to have been redesigned so sadly this looks to be the end of NG as we knew it.
Edited by Ares42
@BoOzak said:

@Ares42 said:

@Andryan said:

@Ares42: that is so confusing. Does that mean that there are still Quick Time Events (technically) but you just won't see the button prompt?

I think the idea is that when you do a finishing blow on enemies your blade gets stuck in their body and you need to a final slash to finish the kill. They called it "steel on bone experience" or something like that. Dunno if you wanna call it a QTE or not.
There are button prompts in the "steel on bone" sequences
Read my first reply :P they get phased out once you're past the tutorial area.
Posted by BoOzak
@Ares42: Oh that's a relief, my bad..
Posted by HerbieBug

Team Ninja will kill Ninja Gaiden without Itagaki's supervision.  I saw what they did to NG2 for the PS3 release.  These guys don't get what makes Ninja Gaiden such a fantastic experience to play.
 
QTE's?  Fuck off.  Fuck right the hell off. 

Posted by HerbieBug
@BoOzak said:
@Ares42 said:

@Andryan said:

@Ares42: that is so confusing. Does that mean that there are still Quick Time Events (technically) but you just won't see the button prompt?

I think the idea is that when you do a finishing blow on enemies your blade gets stuck in their body and you need to a final slash to finish the kill. They called it "steel on bone experience" or something like that. Dunno if you wanna call it a QTE or not.
There are button prompts in the "steel on bone" sequences: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-ninja-gaiden/715693 (aplogies to the GB team for posting GT content but it's the only place besides Youtube that has it)  The game from what i've seen has been streamlined for the GoW crowd which is dissapointing since for me NG(itagaki's versions anyway) is part of a dying breed of games that require skill and coordination to play.
Dumbed down you mean.  NG: Black and 2 were already very streamlined design wise. 
Posted by BoOzak
@HerbieBug: Isnt that just the nice way of saying dumbed down? or at least that's how "streamlining" is being used by developers nowdays. I get what your saying though, you were never exaclty overburdened by needless options in the NG games.
Posted by LimpingFish

An abundance of QTEs reminds me of Ninja Blade, FROM Software's Ninja Gaiden clone. It also had a similar system of transitioning combos into QTE specials/finishers, if I'm remembering correctly.

Posted by Catarrhal

@HerbieBug said:

These guys don't get what makes Ninja Gaiden such a fantastic experience to play.

Motion-controlled breast bounce = fantastic experience. But seriously, you're right; I remember how Itagaki made fun of games like Heavenly Sword specifically for their use of button prompts.

Posted by Hailinel

@HerbieBug said:

Team Ninja will kill Ninja Gaiden without Itagaki's supervision. I saw what they did to NG2 for the PS3 release. These guys don't get what makes Ninja Gaiden such a fantastic experience to play. QTE's? Fuck off. Fuck right the hell off.

Are you kidding? Itagaki nearly killed the series himself with Ninja Gaiden II. Shit camera angles and projectile-spamming enemies on platforms you can't see is not a good design combination.

Edited by RaidenMitsuru

As a person that has spent well over thousands of hours playing every version of these games, I feel alienated by the changes they have shown so far in all the gameplay videos I’ve seen. First thing is getting rid of essence when killing enemies, this means combo hits mean nothing to the core gameplay anymore. Next is upgrading weapons and all the small rpg aspects of the game are gone, Hayashi said as much that there will no longer be a shop in the game so all of that is out the door. So this game is going to be even MORE linear than NG2. This to me is like 5 steps back. What is this game going to rely on to keep people entertained, just killing enemies over and over again in large flat level design that we saw in NG2? I was really hoping for the slightly opened world nature of the first game to return, and maybe it is in there but from what they have shown thus far it's not looking so great.

Posted by theveej

looked like Ninja Blade 2 to me.... this is disapointing. As a hardcore ninja gaiden fan, this is a shame.

Ninja gaiden, Ninja gaiden Black and even Ninja Gaiden 2 (360 versions) were all quality games (even though 2 had some tech difficulties) . I liked the difficulty and the way the combat was and to me its seemed that the series took a hit with Sigma.

I don't like mindless blood either, in 2 you could actually cut the head and the limbs off which was awesome, in this one you got just fountains it seems.

So yah disappointing for sure. I picked up Ninja Blade 2 and hated all the QTE, I look at Ninja Gaiden 3 and it doesn't appeal to me at all. everything from combat to graphics to the enemies.... not cool.

We'll see how it turns out I guess.

Posted by Sarkhan

3 buttons. that is all.

Posted by Govannan

I hope this isn't true because NG1 still remains one of my favourite games. I lost count of the number of times that first boss, hell, the first group of white ninjas, pummeled me into the ground before the game just clicked and I never looked back. NG2 was a bit of a let down with the poor camera, was hoping for more from 3. I'll have to wait for the Giant Bomb review I guess. Or the GameBomb.ru one.

Posted by Chop

Someone should tell them the only reason people liked Ninja Gaiden is because it was harder and more complex than the button mashers it took inspiration from. 

Posted by Sarkhan

Chop....my god. do you ever like any topic? Whine again? about what? what? Show us! Button mashers? Hehe, step it up and SHOW US!!!!!!!

Edited by RandomInternetUser

Jesus fuck.  I hope that these quick time events he's talking about are no more than just like the Triangle/Y button executions you could do in the second game.  If it's a ton of "Hey, press circle to go through an elaborate, brutal animation of killing this dude and be taken out of control for 5 or more seconds" like God of War is (No hate, God of War is fun and has it's place, but I like old NG as well) then I will be pretty pissed. 
 
EDIT:  Ok, watched some gameplay.  It seems sorta similar to the executions, but closer to being the God of War quick time events than it was in NG2.  I'll less upset now, and shall give this the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by LiquidPrince

This doesn't sound too compelling, however the game itself looks cool.

Posted by scuttlebu345

this game looks insane haha

Posted by Hashy
@Hailinel said:

@HerbieBug said:

Team Ninja will kill Ninja Gaiden without Itagaki's supervision. I saw what they did to NG2 for the PS3 release. These guys don't get what makes Ninja Gaiden such a fantastic experience to play. QTE's? Fuck off. Fuck right the hell off.

Are you kidding? Itagaki nearly killed the series himself with Ninja Gaiden II. Shit camera angles and projectile-spamming enemies on platforms you can't see is not a good design combination.

Nothing about Ninja Gaiden II was unfair, though, once you learned which moves gave you invincibility frames and used them tactically. Bump the camera sensitivity and it was serviceable.
Posted by onan

I could be wrong about this, but if I recall if you got hit with an exploding shuriken, all you had to do was roll while it went off. I forget if it completely negated the damage, but the important thing was you were locked into that roll animation momentarily so you didn't get sent flying by an explosion and have to try to recover while being pelted by more shuriken.

It actually wasn't that bad. Amazing game, that first one. The second one... eh....

Posted by Hailinel

@Hashy said:

@Hailinel said:

@HerbieBug said:

Team Ninja will kill Ninja Gaiden without Itagaki's supervision. I saw what they did to NG2 for the PS3 release. These guys don't get what makes Ninja Gaiden such a fantastic experience to play. QTE's? Fuck off. Fuck right the hell off.

Are you kidding? Itagaki nearly killed the series himself with Ninja Gaiden II. Shit camera angles and projectile-spamming enemies on platforms you can't see is not a good design combination.

Nothing about Ninja Gaiden II was unfair, though, once you learned which moves gave you invincibility frames and used them tactically. Bump the camera sensitivity and it was serviceable.

So how would you defend that giant boss monster that explodes when you kill it?

Posted by RandomInternetUser
@Hailinel said:

@Hashy said:

@Hailinel said:

@HerbieBug said:

Team Ninja will kill Ninja Gaiden without Itagaki's supervision. I saw what they did to NG2 for the PS3 release. These guys don't get what makes Ninja Gaiden such a fantastic experience to play. QTE's? Fuck off. Fuck right the hell off.

Are you kidding? Itagaki nearly killed the series himself with Ninja Gaiden II. Shit camera angles and projectile-spamming enemies on platforms you can't see is not a good design combination.

Nothing about Ninja Gaiden II was unfair, though, once you learned which moves gave you invincibility frames and used them tactically. Bump the camera sensitivity and it was serviceable.

So how would you defend that giant boss monster that explodes when you kill it?

I agree that that thing was stupid and I died a few times by it, but all you had to do was block if I remember right.  They should have made that MUCH more clear though.
Posted by Napalm

I'm quite happy somebody has managed to bring this to light and and stop and say, "well wait... is this really a good thing?" I don't think it is, personally. If the QTEs were more akin to something like Godhand, where you could unleash some quick devastation by hitting the correct button, and hitting that button as fast as you can for three seconds, that's fine, but this sort of "hit [button] to kill" isn't really a good thing. 
 
And besides, wasn't Other M garbage?

Posted by Hailinel

@Napalm said:

And besides, wasn't Other M garbage?

I sure as hell didn't think so.

That being said, It's hard to say how the whole game will play out based on this E3 demo. The game isn't due out until early next year, and the Wii U version, with whatever other bits it might have, obviously won't be out until sometime after the console has launched. The increased prevalence of QTEs is a cause for concern, depending on how they're used overall throughout the game. Still, I'm reserving judgment until I've seen more.

But given that I loved Other M, I'll give the game at least some benefit of the doubt for now. The game's director did work on the Sigma versions of NG1&2, so it's not like he's never touched a Ninja Gaiden game before.

Posted by heavyplay

All I want to know is how big are the boobs in this one?

Edited by MeatSim

Never been really into Ninja Gaiden and this still doesn't sound very appealing.

Posted by TripMasterMunky

The first Ninja Gaiden was a great game, I loved it. Didn't care for NG2 at all though. Not sure about NG3.

Posted by Creigz

This, I find disappointing...I love Ninja Gaiden, not for anything more than the difficulty. It takes longer for me to finish this than most action/fps games...definitely not RPG games because of how slow paced they are. But in comparison to most fast paced games I find Ninja Gaiden to be rather difficult so I get some sort of accomplishment for finishing. The charging arm will ruin that for me. I abused the hell out of Krauser's in Resident Evil 4's side mission on my Wii and in The Mercenaries on the GameCube when the game first came out.

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