A Passable Letdown...
Ninja Gaiden 3 is a game that was on the list of must play games for 2012, that is, until it was actually released. I followed the release and pre-ordered the Collector's Edition of the game for PS3 and was excited to get my hands on it. Ninja Gaiden 2 and Ninja Gaiden Black were both games I played over and over and rank high on my all time favorites list. This third installment, however, is not a top notch entry in gaming and may go down as the title with the biggest disappointment this year. Making the game too newcomer friendly hinders the experience greatly, among several of the problems the game faces. When put up against greater releases like Mass Effect 3 killing this game is easy to do with what the overall product came to be.
Good. Ninja Gaiden 3's presentation is decent. In game engine runs some cut scenes, there are quicktime events spread throughout the game with enough pause to make it quite impossible to miss. Loading screen changes to world map showing where Ryu will be traveling next, Some action sequences are good, but overused. Most of the things that actually work well with the game are repeated too many times in every aspect. Good graphic engine as well, but in 2012 I don't think anybody expects to see a bad looking game by now.
Speaking of, good. Although mostly comprised of dark themes and colors the graphics are good in this game. Frame rate is good as well and even with many enemies around things remain fluid. The main character is better detailed that in previous entries, and the enemies faced are also. Effects jump out well, mainly the blood splatter, and explosions look cool as well. The graphics are probably one of the better parts of the game, the implementation of them is where the questions arise.
Mediocre. Sound is rather iffy in this game. The soundtrack itself feels added on instead of implemented to complement the game or to emphasize certain situations. The voice acting is rather meh as well with Ryu's voice jumping out more American Ninja than anything else. His coarse voice is more similar to an Army soldier giving orders than a stealth based assassin ( not the same actor as in the previous 2 games ). Sound effects are decent but the ones that work well are repeated in use. Enemies you face throughout the game have a knack of saying the same thing over and over like ( I got a degree in killing! ) or something like that and this definitely hinders the experience a lot...
...but not more than this does. The controls in this game are bad. For an action game they are terrible. You will have several BS I hit the block button! moments and there are delays when attacking as well which can drive you nuts when fighting against a small room full of soldiers or even a single boss. I don't know how probably the main staple of the series, aside from its difficulty, was lost in this game. Controls used to be fast, responsive, and downright enviable. I went back and played a couple minutes of Ninja Gaiden 2 just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating of how bad the controls are for Ninja Gaiden 3. I died so many times because this Ryu did not respond, than anything else. Killing the soldiers here was made more tedious because of this problem. Another gripe to enjoy is the exclusion of items or any type of upgrade system whatsoever. Yes you fight with only one weapon the whole game and one magic skill. There are no health regenerating items to find or buy making the possibility of exploration completely useless. So you are left with a straight forward campaign trying to kill as many bad guys that appear and then we will give you your health back gameplay while they scream I'm going to kill you! ten thousand times while your controls are 0.5 seconds tardy in responding.*
*In a strange twist, however, the controls in Multiplayer mode are good. Mainly when playing in the Ninja Trials mode you will feel like you are actually playing Ninja Gaiden again.
Bad. The level design suffers greatly not because the levels themselves look bad, or some aren't cool to go through, ONCE, but more in the sense of how badly they are put together. Being a straightforward campaign, the game launches Ryu all over the globe and every new area is its own world where he just happened to drop, sometimes literally, into. I guess the level design is affected mainly by how the vanilla story is made up, and this disconnect from area to area you never feel like the main character is traveling within the same world or era just popping in and out of worlds like Super Mario Bros. The transition from one area to the next is non existent while the areas themselves seem like a reach to appease Western culture more than anything else. ( I don't know many ninjas that go fight in the desert, for example ).
Laughable. Bad. Even though this series has never been really known for its Hollywood story telling, I'm sure they could have come up with something better than this. The game starts out as a rogue group of attackers take control of an Embassy in London so they can take revenge on Ryu Hayabusa. If revenge is what they desired, why did they not go to the Hayabusa village and surprise him there? Other questionable plot points are the need to incorporate rescuing a girl ( more Western influence as in sorry Mario, but the princess is in another castle ) the repeated return of the main villain, main character going soft or showing that he cares for something other than the main reason he is put there, etc. Plot holes everywhere. The Archfiend storyline in Ninja Gaiden 2 was a cool one to fight through at least and the better storyline in Ninja Gaiden Black with Murai betraying the Dragon Clan was one that was entertaining as well. The NES games had better plot and cinematic feel than this game and that is said because those games were made over 20 years ago.
Poor. The enemies you encounter in Ninja Gaiden 3 do not offer much in terms of variety, much less in being memorable. You have the main soldiers that attack you with guns, two other with blades, some have rocket launchers on their backs, basically the norm. Farther into the game you get hounds, soldiers on jetpacks, a couple strange creations that morph into bad clones. Nothing fantastic or hinting a desire to face again. The only cool boss in the game, the main villain, has too many acts in the game thus relieving his status as becoming memorable. All other bosses are questionable, like a remote control dinosaur, a spider tank, a heli-plane, etc. There are no I want to kill that again moments for sure...*
* In the Ninja Trials multiplayer, however, this changes greatly. Why? Most of the bad guys from Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden 2 were added to the mix, and with the better control scheme making it the saving grace of this entry hands down.
Inconsistent. Coming in I thought the game was supposed to be easy. Read about it somewhere, because they want it to be more welcoming to new audiences. Yeah right. Easy as in I can kill everyone while paying attention to something else, I don't think so. The newcomer friendly patent is slapped on mostly because of the quicktime events and the irritating and never ending tutorial, not because foes will die easily. They would have had the controls not been so Forrest Gump in story mode, but yet you still had to be aware of the block/counter technique to get out of some piling on situations enemies tend to practice and the only way you can have a chance at killing some bosses. I say inconsistent also in the sense that some particular situations the average gamer would have major troubles getting out of if more action oriented gamers like myself did. Yeah they put tutorials everywhere but they don't say jack about getting out of a small room with a bad camera with three hordes of enemies coming out you and you two hits away from dying.
Very good. Strange as it feels like you are not playing the same game when you do the whole Online Pass Code thing. The versus and Clan modes are fun to play even with the limited arenas. In contrast to shooters of any kind a one against 3 is not impossible to overcome in this game, one that I even won a trophy for kicking their ass for. Skill is still important here and there is an upgrade system as well. You gain more moves and magic as you gain experience. The multiplayer also has the before mentioned Ninja Trials where you can either co-op or go solo in a set of different levels, variety of enemies AND bosses, from this game AND the previous two. By far the best part of the game. You can customize your nameless ninja with gear and color schemes, and more options open the more levels you pass through in the trials. You can gain experience and moves by yourself in solo mode and your character can then be used in Clan matches. Meaning you can level up first before heading to a specific Clan match or Trial where more experience is needed or required depending on how the match is set up. Overall I highly recommend the Ninja Trials over the main game by a lot.
Players of the previous two games will most likely not favor this game at all. The story mode may be good for one play through, but the bad controls will anger anyone this side of Devil May Cry 3. While the Multiplayer is fun and engaging with many options to go for, it may not be enough to warrant a full retail purchase.
I rate it a 6.5 / 10.0
While a DLC here will add more weapons and levels to play in, charging for them makes it a thumbs down situation. The main game suffers greatly and it would have been helpful if the DLCs released would cover some of it up but by charging $$ for it seems like a slap in the face to me. The game is not worth the $60 nor the $100 for the Collector's Edition. Wait for it to go down to the $20 range if you are a fan or just curious about it and you'll be alright.