Everyone was shocked when Tecmo veteran Tomonobu Itagaki decided to quit after Ninja Gaiden 2 got released. Many thought of him as the reason that Ninja Gaiden became such a success. But how much of an influence did he really have? Fortunately Ninja Gaiden 3 came along to provide answers.
Oddly enough Ninja Gaiden 3 feels like a return to the first Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. But like everything in life, first impressions do not necessarily reflect how the rest of the video-game will play out. Anyone with the resolve to get through Ninja Gaiden will probably still remember struggling throughout various parts.
It’s certainly not the same when playing through the story, on this third installment, or at least it isn’t on normal or hero difficulty. It achieves this by simplifying various aspects that have restricted the Ninja Gaiden series to a selective group of skilled gamers.
One of the biggest changes is the fact that there is no need to use items any more. In doing so Team Ninja has created a system that leaves room for error. Health is regained by either using the trusty nimpo power(once the power metre is full) or defeating the current wave of enemies.
It’s possible for a player to approach each fight cautiously or by defeating all enemies quickly. Either of the strategies will make it far easier to get through each level, since it will allow for health to refill swiftly. It’s the perfect way to ensure that it’s not only skilled players who manage to play through without being near a nervous breakdown.
These changes to simplify the combat mechanics do not always end up creating the desired effects. A bow that Ryu Hayabusa uses in later stages has unlimited arrows. At a point these are upgraded to explode on impact.
It literally means that it’s possible to spam entire sections of a level by continuously dodging and hitting enemies with explosive arrows. It’s not a negative comment since it gives players a chance, but it almost seems like a development oversight.
The ability of using the ninpo power when a power is filled is very efficient though. It means that there is no need to keep it for urgent situations. Ryu’s own fighting abilities have been slightly modified to conform to the Ninja Gaiden 3 simple approach.
Kill enough enemies and it’s possible to unleash a devastating power. It’s also much easier to combine sword attacks making it easier to take on the large groups of enemies. All these improvements combined make for a much more enjoyable experience.
It’s not like there isn’t a challenge because it’s possible to play through on harder difficulties. The problem lies in the fact that there isn’t much to do once it is over. The lack of upgrades or collectibles means there aren’t any incentives to play it again.
Fortunately the story will last for a reasonable amount of time. Even a seasoned gamer will find it difficult to finish in less than a day, without taking any long breaks. It’s also a pleasure to explore the exotic locations that each level is set in.
This is made all the more enjoyable by checkpoints that are placed at right moments, so players don’t have to restart whole sections. This was a rather frustrating aspect of the previous Ninja Gaiden video-games, since lengthy sections like boss fights had to be restarted from scratch.
On a few occasions Ryu is overwhelmed by an infection which severely limits movement. It’s an interesting idea that doesn’t quite fit in properly, due to the fact that it makes it slow and draws attention from the fantastic fights.
Oddly enough, this third instalment is quite tame when it comes to enemy designs. Other Ninja Gaiden video-games have offered such delightful sights as epic fights with giant killer worms. Ninja Gaiden 3 has Ryu going up against the likes of British sounding mercenaries that beg for their lives.
This does humanise them but at the same time might make certain players feel horrified by Ryu’s actions. It feels intentional at times and it all makes sense as the story develops.
Boss fights aren’t as motivating and don’t last for long either. But it does take some strategy to beat them, so it’s best to spend a few minutes observing them, in order to find any weak points. What makes them more interesting is the inclusion of clever quick time events. These are also spread out throughout other sections of each level. It’s an idea that many video-games use these days, but helps to replicate some of Ryu’s more tricky ninja moves.
One of the few new features Ninja Gaiden 3 offers is the addition of a multiplayer mode. It’s now possible to compete in online fights against other players or even take on trials with a friend. The addition of a second player does make the trials much more fun to plough through.
However, it’s a shame that the number of missions offered is rather limited. Each player is able to customise a ninja and experience earned unlocks new rewards. It’s not a breakthrough in the world of online gaming, but it’s also not a bad addition, to a video-game that has focused solely on the single-player experience.
Night Gaiden 3 is not the best in the series but it’s also not the black sheep of the family. If anything, it’s nice to see the development team go back to basics and try to work on what made Ninja Gaiden, so appealing in the first place. A
ll the changes made to ensure more players can enjoy it are effective. The story is interesting enough to play through and all the locations add something new to the experience.
Ninja Gaiden 3 is a worthy gamble that proves Team Ninja is still a force to be reckoned with.