I’m not going to sugarcoat this review—Ninja Gaiden 3 is a bad game. Borderline awful, even. There’s no amount of DLC, no number of patches, and absolutely zero justification pronounceable in human tongue by any sentient being that could somehow make Team Ninja‘s latest “effort” even remotely okay.
After two incredibly brutal games, Team Ninja return for the third chronological entry of the Ninja Gaiden series, Ninja Gaiden 3. Though Tomonobu Itagaki was not directing the title, leaving Team Ninja altogether to pursue The Devil’s Third with a new team at Valhalla Studios, Yosuke Hayashi, designer on all of the Sigma games, stepped up as the lead, showing a great deal of promise, though inexperienced.
There’s virtually no point to touch on anything that doesn’t have to do with combat as far as the series is concerned. I mean, really, who gives a damn about the enemies’ intentions or the purpose of Ryu Hayabusa’s adventure therein? Ninja Gaiden has always been—and always should be—about rage-inducing, visceral combat, laden with bombastic attacks, varied combos, and a heightened sensory connection with your on-screen ninja avatar as you predict your foes’ wild moves in an attempt to survive.
I can say this about Ninja Gaiden 3—this newly restructured Team Ninja have created a rather decent Dynasty Warriors title, but have completely failed at making a Ninja Gaiden game. One of the most glaring issues that Ninja Gaiden 3 carries is that quality has been traded for quantity. Rather than finding yourself against normal foes who make you think on your ninja toes, wave after wave of generic soldier guy will come at you ready to be cut down with what feels like WAY more slices than necessary, especially for how lightly armored the majority of them are.
As such, combat feels dumbed down, having you execute the same unimpressive series of strikes intermittently slashing a more powerful blow to add some variety, but outside of that, you’ll find Ryu repeating the same combination again and again, with the same animations again and again, and the same lack of satisfaction again and again.
This is a combat-based game with no heart or soul in its most important aspect—combat. Despite everything else that could be considered average to above-average, like the sound, graphics, music, and story, the combat falls flat on its face and has a hard time getting and staying up. The worst part? The control scheme for the game rivals some of least responsive titles I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. Pressing an attack button does not always elicit an on-screen response, whereas jumping and dodging are surprisingly on point.
A stripped down battle system doesn’t just stay at sword play, either. User upgrades have been completely done away with in favor of story-implemented weapon upgrades for your sword and mystical arrows for your bow, alongside an unlimited supply of shuriken that seem to do very little outside of slightly impairing enemies for a microsecond. After that, all but one of the Ninpo have been removed, the remaining mystical power transforming Ryu into a dragon to destroy all on-screen enemies and regain some health in a respective ratio.
There’s nothing to talk about regarding the multiplayer, either, being just another mundane offering from an already vapid contribution to the continuation. It’s just one more way to be tortured, but using an online pass and being able to do so with more than one person.
What is there to say about a series that has been neutered, losing any bit of flash and flair from the most essential of conditions? Outside of the graphical update from the last entry and a sound design that can only be described as adequate, there’s nothing here saying, “Hey, look at me!” in regards to Ninja Gaiden 3. What could’ve been a great display of fireworks after having the proclaimed series’ visionary depart ended up being little more than a lit sparkler.
This review would’ve probably been better suited by a short video of me stabbing myself in the eye. Repeatedly.
Ninja Gaiden 3 is currently available from Amazon for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at the price point of $59.99. For more information on how we review games, check out our criteria here. An Xbox 360 version of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. If you have any questions about this title, feel free to ask in the comment section below.