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.
6367308You can pull off these fancy moves while barely breaking a sweat--or even moving your thumbs.None
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.
Pepto Bismol is not helping that stomachache.
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 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.