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Review

Ninja Gaiden 3 Review

  • Game release: March 20, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

All flash and no substance: Ninja Gaiden 3 is a shallow action game with little of the series' challenge and depth.

by

Previous Ninja Gaiden games assumed you were a master swordsman. They gave you the tools to succeed and expected you to use them, having you bounding from walls before plunging a sharp blade into your enemies' bowels in a series of dizzying attacks. The challenge was steep but surmountable, and the thrilling acrobatics you witnessed onscreen were a direct result of your skill and finesse.

Ninja Gaiden 3, on the other hand, has little faith in you. On medium difficulty, you don't need to do much but hammer on a few buttons and occasionally block or dodge, yet every last kill is a cinematic event. Where previous games rewarded you for how adeptly you manipulated the controller, this one rewards you for pressing X. Forgot how to climb a wall? Ninja Gaiden 3 reminds you every time. (Do yourself a favor and turn off tutorial prompts after the first few levels.) Was your mind boggled by having multiple weapons and ninpo attacks before? Never fear: Ninja Gaiden 3 gives hero Ryu Hayabusa only a single weapon and a single ninpo. If you came to this series for deep, challenging combat, be prepared: this is no longer your Ninja Gaiden.

If you're more interested in visual spectacle than combat depth, however, you'll find plenty of it here. You don't lop off any heads or arms, but you certainly get your fill of dramatic brutality. With each assassination comes a cinematic animation in which the camera swoops in close as Ryu eviscerates and emasculates. Quick-time events intrude at every turn, giving you heaps of time to react and dramatizing spittle-flecked boss confrontations and graceful dives onto enemy aircraft. Every so often, you can hold a single button, and Ryu races from one fiend to the next, slicing and dicing without your having to lift an additional finger. If you prize form over function, Ninja Gaiden 3 might be enough to tide you over until the next mindless action game comes along.

Don't ask why this turret was on the edge of a forest clearing. Ask why there aren't more turrets in our forest clearings.

Even if you aren't familiar with Ninja Gaiden, however, it's hard not to notice the obvious: this sequel is more fun to watch than it is to play. Rather than look to previous games in the series, developer Team Ninja seems to be relying on God of War for inspiration, but misses the mark more often than not. Ryu can now scale ropes, for example, and you can fling shuriken at any baddies that try to knock you down. But where God of War could turn rope-scaling into a thrilling combat scenario, Ninja Gaiden 3 has you tossing one or two throwing stars and calling it a day. Ditto for wall-climbing, which requires pressing each trigger in turn, and maybe--maybe--hitting a button to throw a shuriken, or dodging out of the way of oncoming debris.

The core combat has its moments though, at least when the game requires you to do a bit more than hammer buttons and watch awesome things happen. A few boss fights are quite fun, such as one in which you take on a gunship that eventually falls to the ground and grinds its way around the battle arena. An encounter with a hulking dinosaur has you dodging about before closing in for a few energetic swipes. Such enjoyable battles are the exception rather than the rule, however. You face a particular nemesis multiple times, and each time, the same basic tricks suffice. The fact that Ninja Gaiden 3 is much less challenging than its predecessors isn't necessarily a bad thing; what is bad is the stunning lack of depth and creativity, best exemplified by these tame boss battles.

Ninja Gaiden 3 doesn't just strip away Ryu's choices--it also strips away his mask from time to time. The game focuses on its story a great deal. We watch as a little girl implores him to be her new daddy, and cringe as he grasps his veined arm, which becomes increasingly diseased by the blood of those he has slain. We're meant to take it all seriously: Ninja Gaiden 3 possesses none of the tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, or even Ninja Blade. But it's hard to buy into a story when you can easily sense who will betray you; it's hard to care about a little girl you spend almost no time with, and who speaks only near the end of the game.

The janitor at this place simply doesn't make enough money.

And yet the story is always there, intruding at the worst possible moments. Ryu holds his fingers to his ear to get a mission update like a Gears of War refugee. A cutscene ends, you walk for three seconds, and the next cutscene begins; why even have the player walking at all? Other times, story and gameplay merge: the action slows to a crawl, and Ryu clutches his arm, slicing through his enemies in slow motion. Used sparingly, these sequences could have given the game emotional heft, but instead, they are so frequent--and last so long--that they're just a pain. You slowly pan the difficult camera around looking for the next ninja you must murder, lurch toward him, and perform yet another hyperbolic execution before stumbling toward the next victim. It feels like those dreams where you try so hard to move but are almost paralyzed.

For an extra challenge, you could up the difficulty to hard (which is about as challenging as previous games' normal difficulties, but hardly as deep), or go online, where you can take part in cooperative challenges and (gasp) competitive matches. If you played Ninja Gaiden Sigma's co-op, you have an idea of what to expect here: servings of slashes and dashes for two. The sense of progression absent in the single-player campaign reappears: as you play, you level up and learn new techniques, along with costume pieces, costume colors, and so forth.

The co-op is fun, in part because it jettisons superfluous mechanics and quick-time events in favor of the core action. This is in spite of the hyperactive camera, which is jarring enough to get you temporarily lost as you try to figure out just which of the blade-flailing figures is you. The team deathmatch-type mode also suffers from the game's incessant need to be a movie instead of a game. More importantly, there's a sense that you aren't quite in control. The auto-targeting is fickle enough in the single-player game, but it can be frustrating to have the game send you slashing toward one opponent when you meant to focus on another.

His ears are cold. What of it?

Further control issues are introduced if you use a PlayStation Move controller. The Move support is absolutely abysmal, forcing you to play around with controller settings simply to navigate the menus. The game doesn't even recognize the Move controller until you begin the campaign, at which point it allows you to select any of the three difficulties, even though the Move only functions in the easiest of them. Once you overcome these early hurdles you discover even more problems. For example, if controller vibration is turned on, the game perceives a vibration as movement, and in turn might keep you from pulling off attempted combos. Furthermore, you have no manual camera control, and certain button prompts are mislabeled.

Of course, using the Move controller is optional, so you can simply avoid these issues, but this feature's awful implementation is another reminder of the game's relentless mediocrity. This sequel's biggest problem isn't that it's less challenging, but that it's less exciting, less interactive, and less complex. This forgettable action game may feed your bloodthirst, but the series' sharp edge has been dulled by Team Ninja's attempt to bring the master to the masses.

The Good
Flashy, brutal swordplay is always a pleasure to watch
Online play instills a sense of progression
A few memorable encounters
The Bad
Shallow action lacks the depth and challenge of previous Ninja Gaiden games
Intrusive story elements bog down the pace
Recycled boss fights require too little skill
Terrible PlayStation Move support
5.5
Mediocre
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Discussion

47 comments
ErickPS4
ErickPS4

Could be much better if had option to play with Rachel and these many close ups...

FighterforJC
FighterforJC

Get over yourselves.  Ninja Gaiden 3 is hands down the best of the series.  Just because it isn't littered with cheapness that only the biggest losers can endure, it doesn't make it a bad game.

L30N4KU
L30N4KU

This is simply the worst game I've played this generation. 

Enforcer246
Enforcer246

So, no more good Ninja Gaiden games, and any sequel after this will just be an attempt to milk the franchise.

Enforcer246
Enforcer246

Reason why this game sucks balls is because the main person behind it left the company and some n00bs took over.

excludedkratos
excludedkratos

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i'm so disappointed in tecmo & this game. its shit, shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit !!!! any word from team ninja lately, telling us how sorry they are and how they're going to make it up to us with a remake? team ninja, more like team fuck up. 

justrome0
justrome0

I wonder why people aren't playing on hard difficulty if they think the game is easy. I think people are just cowards and then they blame the game. The game provides the difficulty you just need the guts to accept it.

regix416_basic
regix416_basic

Hmmm... hack and slash seemed to be the name of the game here. And there didn't seem to be much in the way of doing much else. You couldn't stop killing either, even when you were begged to either, which was quite annoying. The demo was enough to tell me that this probably should've had a lot more done to it to make it a better contender as a game. But it was okay... just not up to the standards that the other two set so highly... it was disappointing,

shadowmage101
shadowmage101

I played the demo of this, I wasn't impressed. Very similar to no.2 which was fun when it came out but seems a bit dated now.

Sscool88
Sscool88

Only single weapon & ninpo?? Too bad. I love NG2 but this one is worthless.

Gliave
Gliave

Uhm....This is overly underrated. This seems too good to be rated this bad.

issa3703
issa3703

No need for Ninja g$# 3 better because its a waste of money, i`d rather to buy ST X TK better.

Danu_06
Danu_06

Thanks for protecting my money, Kevin.

shadgrindk
shadgrindk

Is there a once great game off the ps3 capable of putting out a sequel on the same system a few years later that could possibly be less interesting? Intterest in NG3 is something apparently even the creators couldn't muster. Surprise there.

IpWnTuRdS
IpWnTuRdS

Why do so many developers seem hellbent on making games that hold our hands as if we are children who haven't learned how to cross the street without dying? Remember the days when you could get lost in a game for an hour because a screen didn't pop up asking "Are you lost? Try going this way."

digi-demon
digi-demon

Not as good as the previous titles - but still at least a 7/10

FightingGuyX4
FightingGuyX4

ima big fan of the entire series of ninja gaiden,I was a skeptical seeing how tomonobu itagaki is no longer involved,i should of figured the game wouldnt be met to full potential,this makes me worry a bit about DoA5,well ..still willing to give it a try due to my love for all ninga gaiden

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

Great review Kevin, completely agree with it. I hate how little credit this game gives the player as this supposed "master ninja". I love the first two Ninja Gaidens, but I just can't stand this game.

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

@xXsNiPeRtHeFoX "thats right nowadays if the game isnt Call of Duty,Battlefield,Assassins Creed every other game is inferior" *Sigh* You couldn't be further from the truth dude. Your first post actually made an oxymoron of what's in the quotes: who cares you have your opinions on the game and I have mine. If that's the case, why are you complaining about people who like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Assassin's Creed?

xXsNiPeRtHeFoX
xXsNiPeRtHeFoX

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

xXsNiPeRtHeFoX
xXsNiPeRtHeFoX

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

xXsNiPeRtHeFoX
xXsNiPeRtHeFoX

thats right nowadays if the game isnt Call of Duty,Battlefield,Assassins Creed every other game is inferior

xXsNiPeRtHeFoX
xXsNiPeRtHeFoX

I enjoy Ninja Gaiden 3 its different and its not Assassins Creed,Battlefield or Call of Duty Thank God for that im tired of those three games i mean for christ sakes how many installments do we really need?dont like Ninja Gaiden 3 who cares you have your opinions on the game and I have mine

romulo772003
romulo772003

I tottaly disagree, it's a great game. A different way to see Ryu Hayabusa. The game has great combos and scenarios, great bosses and everythinge else. I really like it.

omi1
omi1

The story by all means was good, the let down for me was yes the difficulty was pretty much a breeze on normal but if your gonna introduce a multi-player to the franchise why not be able to choose a variety of weapons like in the previous games. The variety of weaponry is just not there though I did enjoy the cinematics of slicing through bone

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Well to be honest I've always found all of the games EXTREMELY repetitive so I'm not all that fussed.. It looks beautiful, but the gameplay looks tripe :?

VivaRevolucion
VivaRevolucion

How the **** do you come back from something like this? Seriously, did I just witness the end to one of gamings greatest games? When people talk about the hardest game they've played, guess what usually comes up? Ninja Gaiden does. How did this happen? It really looked like it was going well with the demo's and displays, but watching the gameplay in the review, it doesn't even look the same.

rzayas28
rzayas28

I dunno if I agree with this one. This one is waaay better than Gaiden 2 and as far as challenging, I still can't get past evil Ryu. I've got a stack of new games that I haven't played due to time constraints, but the eye candy on this one pulled me in and I wasted about 6 hours blown away by the cinematics today. Call me shallow, but this game rocks!

666Rich666
666Rich666

If they do the same thing in the next Dark Souls game I will quit video games for good. The reason we play games like Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls is that they are NOT for casual gamers. They are games meant for those with the skill and persistence to overcome the obstacles and reach the ending. That is what makes them rewarding and fun to play. Please dont screw up the next DOA like this Team Ninja.

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

Sad this series has dissolved into crap. What a shame.

rynmls
rynmls

minus 1 game = save money

Leonagard
Leonagard

Graphics violence blood and.... interactive button action for the masses!... this is the end of this game gen... lets play the 8bits ninja gaiden 2!... if I want to watch a movie I go to the theaters!

biagio55
biagio55

i always likened ninja gaiden to a game called Otogi myth of demons tht was the hardest game i ever played in the hack and slash genre and it was one of the reasons i liked ninja gaiden. its a shame it went mainstream in its direction

B0B_GSTREK
B0B_GSTREK

I liked the previous games of ninja gaiden, this one is wast of time and money

saifssj6
saifssj6

 @Gliave I'm sorry did you play ng 1 and 2?if so,you would easily understand that THIS abomination isnt evan a ngs game..its just a random hack and slash game.....THIS game has NONE of the fun stuff the previous ngs games had.FORGET paying 60 dollars for this crap...this game doesnt even deserve to be downloaded for piracy!!!!

FighterforJC
FighterforJC

 @Danu_06 Sounds like he does more than that for you.  Make sure to wipe your keyboard.

saifssj6
saifssj6

 @warhawk-geeby ONE sword,ONE ninpo.This game had an excellent arsenal of weapons,where each of the weapons were handled uniqely ,and many variations in magic...and lets not forget the upgradingThose weapons and insane combo's were enough to make any ngs fan play the game hours upon hours.

saifssj6
saifssj6

 @666Rich666 developers of dark souls and ninja gaiden are different.And yes there is more than 95 percent chance that they will screw up doa

FighterforJC
FighterforJC

 @saifssj6  @Gliave The "fun stuff the previous ngs games had" as in the bow that cannot be aimed, cheap, PS1-era health system?

Gliave
Gliave

 @saifssj6 

I did play 1, and am playing Sigma on the Vita, damn awesome.

 

After trying the NG3 demo, I'm inclined to agree.....Sure looks good, the combat's way too tuned to auto-pilot, to the extent u can't even enjoy it being so easy O.o :p

saifssj6
saifssj6

 @FighterforJC bow that cannot be aimed?lol...well it would not take a genius to figure out but any body would agree that the gameplay combat and ninpo were way more awesome than ngs3...and the hell do u mean by ps1 era health system?

Ninja Gaiden 3 More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Ninja Gaiden III is the 3rd installment in the Ninja Gaiden series.
    6.4
    Average User RatingOut of 723 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Ninja Gaiden 3
    Developed by:
    Team Ninja
    Published by:
    Koei Tecmo Games, Tecmo Koei America Corp., TECMO KOEI GAMES CO., LTD.
    Genres:
    3D, Action, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes