Ninja Gaiden 3 is one of those games that people seem to hate before they
even play it. After all, many people have played the first two...but have
"heard" that the third one is awful. Although it is true that it doesn't
meet the standards set up by this awesome series, Ninja Gaiden 3 is still
a game worth checking out.
Well, one of the most important things about Ninja Gaiden is its plot. In
the intro, Irene Lew (CIA agent who helped Ryu Hayabusa in the previous
Ninja Gaiden games) is killed by a Ryu look-alike. It's up the real Ryu
to investigate the scene of the crime. It is here that he discovers a lab
with all sorts of horrible experiments. After some more adventures, Ryu
meets up with some strange guy who tells him to check out the "Castle Rock Fortress".
Ryu, being the gullible chap that he is, follows this guys advice through
more mayhem and madness. Eventually, a whole plot is revealed about Foster
(the FBI guy in Ninja Gaiden 1) has been experimenting with something called
Life Energy, which he can use to create powerful creatures known as Bio-noids.
He also happened to stumble upon another dimension with so much Life Energy
that he could destroy the world! He plans to do this with an ancient battleship...
yep, you guessed it, the Ancient Ship of Doom from the title.
It's not the worst plot in existence, but I expected a little more. Even though
Ninja Gaiden 2 had the basic "save the girl" plot, this one seems to have
little of the flavor, or drama, of the previous two games. Plus, it seems
to have come out of nowhere. What happened after Ryu resurrected Irene
at the end of Ninja Gaiden 2 by sacrificing his Dragon Sword? There is
absolutely no mention of Ashtar or any of the events in Ninja Gaiden 2...it's
like they ignored it. The dialogue
is also very poorly written, like the translator had only taken a years worth
of high school Japanese.
On to the game itself: first off, you'll notice that it plays a bit slower.
Ryu doesn't walk as fast, his jumps are more "floaty" and enemies don't
come at the speed or ferocity of the original. I prefer the speed of
the other Ninja Gaiden games, although the slower pace does help you
defeat many enemies at key points, and makes jumping a bit easier. On
the plus side, you don't fly back as far when you get hit, and when you walk
backwards off the screen, the enemies don't reappear. Additionally,
you can now grapple onto certain surfaces and hang on from underneath them.
Vertical areas have now been introduced as well. Unfortunately, the spirit
doubles have been removed and replaced with a sword extension. Although
very cool, I miss the shadows! The normal shuriken has also been replaced
by the Vacuum Wave, which shoots two waves of energy up and down, like a limited
Ninja Gaiden has been known for frustration, but not at the level in which
this game takes it. Enemies give you much more damage now. Instead of
respawning at the last screen change when you die, you must start at the
beginning of the level. Many of the levels are very long, so this gets old
quick. Continue, and you start at the beginning of the act.
Worse yet....there are limited continues. The whole point of this series
was to learn, through repetition, the patterns of the levels and enemies.
It's gets incredibly annoying when you must restart the game from scratch
before you get enough practice at a level. The real bitch about
this is that the Japanese version, Ninja Ryukenden 3, is a much easier
game that even included passwords. WHY?!?!?
Now, the graphics, at first glance, looks much better and more detailed.
They are nowhere near as grainy as the other games in the series, and
they even gave Ryu a little animated bandana. The backgrounds are even
better, especially in Act 2-1, with the background and foreground scrolling
of rocks. Unfortunately, the game
looks very 2D now...they got rid of the isometric surfaces and all! The
game looks great, but it doesn't look much like Ninja Gaiden anymore! The
cutscenes aren't drawn very well, and very seldom is a background other
than plain blue used...so most everything looks rather sterile. Most
fans of this series remember the music as being great, and this one is no
different. Unfortunately, the music in the cutscenes is nowhere near as
stirring as the other games, so that knocks it down a notch. Sound wise,
one of the biggest inclusions is the voices that Ryu yells whenever he attacks
or gets hit. Pretty cool. There is also a great variety of drums in
I know, this entire review has been a comparison to the other games in
the series. But it's hard not to compare when the game falls
so short of expectations. It's a fun game, but the frustration factor,
as detailed above, really kills it. Some of the levels, like in Act 7,
can get incredibly hard. They could be tolerable if you were allowed to
play them until you got sick of it...but only having five continues will
probably just make you get more ticked off than necessary. The game
gets pretty hard by Act 3-1, and skyrockets by Act 5. Ninja Gaiden
3 is still a very fun game, with plenty of the die hard action you'd expect,
just don't expect to win.