Ninja Gaiden 3 review: Sometimes being too epic can be a bad thing

Back during E3 2011, the Ninja Gaiden 3 demo was impressive. It showed off the first stage while keeping the hack-and-slash style Ryu fan’s have been familiar. Oddly, the ability to decapitate and slice off opponents limbs and all the blood were gone.

In anticipation for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 3, I bought Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus for the PS Vita to replay the game on the go. Once the game was released, it was time to pick up the sword once again and cut down everything in my way with Ryu Hayabusa.

Sometime after the events of Ninja Gaiden (Sigma) 2, a group of terrorists take hostages including a diplomat. Of course Ryu is requested to help, as the terrorists want Ryu. He attempts to make the save when he faces a mysterious enemy who fights unlike anything Ryu has ever faced. In the end Ryu’s Dragon Sword disappears, and his arm changes as he becomes cursed with the Grip of Death, a curse that will slowly kill him. He must face this new threat and find a way to lift the curse before he dies.

There were some big changes made in the game since original game designer Tomonobu Itagaki left Team Ninja. As a Ninja Gaiden fan myself, I found myself in quite a pickle when playing this game.

Some notable changes include the omission of orbs. These were heavily featured in the first 2 games. Now there is no way to power up weapons or buy items, instead you deal with what you have, almost as if you were in a real battlefield. Ryu carries no heals or power ups and doesn’t upgrade anything in this game. He is equipped with only one Ki attack which summons an almighty dragon that kills all enemies on the screen. This also means that life orbs are gone from the game entirely. Health is restored by either killing all enemies on screen or activating your ki attack. This makes fighting new rounds of enemies easy, since you’re fully restored.

As a whole, the story was very interesting, showing off a different side of Ryu. In the first two games, Ryu’s emotion are almost non existent. In part 3 Ryu’s human side comes into play, allowing fans to know ninjas have feelings too. Toss in an innocent little girl and an enemy that calls Ryu a bloodthirsty murderer and we got the basic story.

Ninja Gaiden 3 also features Move support to make you feel like you’re actually wielding a sword. It was a nice addition, but I found myself using the controller more.

Let’s start with the good:

  • Steel on Bone finishers are a nice addition. If we can’t slice off limbs from enemies, we might as well slice them in half. This does require you to mash buttons, and if you’re not successful, your enemy can break away from the fatal kill. This also applies for online mode.
  • The addition of a slide technique. This is pretty helpful, especially when you’re surrounded by enemies and you need to get away from them, or to use as a combo.
  • Pretty awesome boss battles that require you to pay attention and find a weakness or pattern. This time you won’t know how much life they have.
  • Online Mode – Pretty fun feature, but I will discuss more into that in a bit.

And now for the bad, and these are bad enough to make me want to stop playing:

The Steel on Bone closeup works great for closeups, but every time you finish off an enemy, the camera zooms in and shows Ryu doing an epic kill. The epic kill zoom gets very annoying when you are surrounded by multiple enemies. To combat this, slice enemies constantly to build that Ki bar and use the Ultimate kill technique so you won’t have to waste your time killing enemies that respawn. It even happens constantly in online vs. mode, leaving you wide open for an attack.

Next up is the lack of weapons and sub weapons. In the first two Ninja Gaiden games, Ryu had an arsenal of weapons as he progressed further in the game. For Ninja Gaiden 3, not so much. You only have one weapon at your disposal at a time. At first it’s the Dragon Sword, but then it was fused into Ryu, creating the death grip that makes him get another sword. He gets some few others before getting the Dragon Sword again. The only thing that changes are the combos and the animation for the Izuna Drop. As for sub weapons, the ninja kunai and a bow is all you get. The bow has a great auto lock and is able to slow down time, but it makes the game even easier by having unlimited rounds. Luckily via the DLC, extra weapons will be added. Adding them after you beat the game seems kind of late.

In previous games certain moves or combos sliced off opponents limbs or heads, but in Ninja Gaiden 3, all of that is gone. Ryu does slice right through enemies and can even impale them in the chest, but that alone won’t kill them. Hell, even doing the Izuna Drop is weak, since an enemy with low life can still survive that move. What most of the injured enemies will do is crawl around and eventually die, but others try to grab you and commit a kamikaze attack. Either stay far away or enter the Epic Kill to finish them off.

Lastly the final battle almost made me quite the game. Not because it was annoying or hard, but because I got dizzy as the final boss had purple balls of flashing light that came at me all the time. Plus, the game lagged big time when he was summoning his minions. By the time I was ready to slay the boss, my eyes and head were hurting (including my friend who witnessed it) to the point the final assault by the boss killed me.

You can even Slice online

Online Mode

A nice addition to the game was the online mode with two different modes. First off is the co-op or single player mode where you build up your Ninja from level 1. By completing missions you level up and unlock new abilities, techniques and items to customize your ninja. You start out with basic sword slashes. As you level up, more moves and combos become available in your fight. The second mode is team battle where you get to use all your skills. As you’re working with your teammates, using stealth to move around helps in sneaking up behind your opponents and stealth kill them. There are some twists; everything carries over to both modes, so leveling up in your missions can be key in staying alive and winning.

Ninja Gaiden 3 tries to revamp the series. In the end it left a lot out that made the previous games so much fun. The online mode itself is fun and gives you more to do when you are done with the game. Tecmo Koei is adding DLC to the game, which will add more to the main game and side. Time will only tell if the game will get better; and if so, expect a follow-up review.

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Chris Del Castillo
Chris Del Castillo 2588 posts

Growing up Chris watched a lot of the original Saturday morning cartoons and developed a love for arts and animation. Growing up he tried his hand at animation and eventually script writing, but even more his love of video games, anime and technology grew.