Ninja Gaiden games have always been known for certain things. For starters, there’s the unapologetically brutal difficulty – this has kept the series appeal rather limited to the extremely hardcore crowd. Then there are the decapitations and eviscerations – nothing is more satisfying than being able to watch your enemies literally fall to pieces in pools of blood and limbs after a fight. Lastly you have interesting boss fights and a story that, while it may not make a lot of sense, is engrossing enough to keep you moving on. So what happens when you take all of those things away and put out a softer, more accessible game?
You get Ninja Gaiden 3.
I know a number of Team Ninja members left to do other things, but the fact that they put this out under the Ninja Gaiden name is inexcusable. For starters, the difficulty isn’t hard anymore – it is laughably easy. Oh you can turn on “hard” mode, but all that does is ramp up the number of enemies you face – it does nothing at all to the AI or level of real difficulty. On the PlayStation 3 turning the hard mode on is basically saying you don’t care about framerate one bit, because when all the enemies appear the game feels more sluggish than anything I’ve played in recent memory. I have heard that on the XBOX 360 version the framerate hit isn’t anywhere near as bad, but I haven’t played it to compare the two. All I know is that the game is all but unplayable on the PS3 in hard mode.
That being said, I suppose I should move on to some of the other problems with Ninja Gaiden 3 (even though I could write paragraphs more about why the lack of difficulty is wrong here). There is a multiplayer component here, but there is no real reason anyone would want to play it. It isn’t fun, exciting, or anywhere enjoyable at all – you get a trophy for killing yourself, and after that I think most people will just completely forget it even exists. I mean there is a co-op mode that is kind of fun, but the four player mode is just completely stupid in this kind of game. I can understand wanting to push barriers or try something new – hell I usually champion that effort – but this is just the wrong game type to try going this particular direction in.
Extreme blood and gore was also a huge draw to the last Nina Gaiden game, and I’m really questioning the removal of it here. Look, I’m not one of those people that only wants to play a game if it is a visceral mess – but if you have something in a game that works good and works with the story, why would you remove it? That would be like Grand Theft Auto removing guns – it would serve absolutely no purpose. And speaking of story – the story here is completely bat shit crazy and not in a good way. I mean Ryu become a government agent and then fights a robot dinosaur? I know the other Ninja Gaiden stories weren’t known for completely believable plots – but this is just so over the top that you wonder if anyone was sober while making it.
There are definitely some aspects of the game that aren’t terrible – the aforementioned co-op mode pits you and a friend against an onslaught of everything the game can throw at you, and it works – I just don’t know how much fun it would be to play with a random stranger. The graphics are extremely vibrant and alive – but this is something we have come to expect from a Team Ninja game. All of the character models and backgrounds are fantastic – if only the graphics would be enough to carry a game then this would get a great score. Sadly for Ninja Gaiden though, it is almost the end of a console cycle and people expect a lot more than pretty trimmings to keep their attention. Also, as bad as it sounds, there is something to be said about the fun level of killing waves of mindless enemies. When you know you aren’t going to die, you can just have fun and try new things to abuse the otherwise worthless AI.
One of my biggest problems with the new Ninja Gaiden though, has to do with how Team Ninja has decided to portray Ryu’s character in this game. There are moments where an enemy will literally beg for his life by telling you about is family – and you cut him down. People may reference the violence of killing innocent people in Modern Warfare 2’s infamous “No Russian” scene – but there was a guiding story behind that. Here, there may be a story, but it is so unintelligible that you have no inner justification for what you are doing. Things like this turn Ryu from a hardcore hero into nothing more than a cold blooded murderer.
The Bottom Line: Ninja Gaiden 3 is a slap in the face to anyone that really enjoyed any of the past games; now rather than being a challenge to survive even one fight the game is simply a cake walk – perfect for children younger than the intended age range.
- The graphics are at least nice to look at
- It can be fun to crush mindless AI constructs over and over for a little while
- At least the co-op mode can be good for a few laughs
- The story is utter nonsense when you are able to follow it (which is about 15% of the time)
- The AI is pathetic – gone is the ruthlessness of the old games
- What Team Ninja did to Ryu’s persona in this game is a travesty
You can get a copy of Ninja Gaiden 3 for either the XBOX 360 or PlayStation 3 (version reviewed) console from anywhere games are sold like Amazon for $59.99