The Average Gamer

Ninja Gaiden 3 Review (PS3)

If there is one thing that Tecmo Koei know how to do, it’s how to release a fast-paced action title laced with Eastern influence, from the feudal Dynasty Warriors to the franchise-melding Warriors Orochi. Ninja Gaiden 3 is the latest outpouring from Tekmo Koei’s very own Team Ninja studio. Responsible for titles like Dead or Alive and Metroid: Other M, Team Ninja are certainly masters of their craft, but does Ninja Gaiden 3 live up to its heritage?

You take on the role of series protagonist Ryu Hyabusa, after his previous adventures fighting rival ninja clans and defeating the hellish archfiend in Ninja Gaiden II. Hyabusa faces a new challenge in the form of a laughably English robed man in a mask. With a horde of soldiers and other creatures in his way, Hyabusa must fight his way through and destroy the enemy before the world is destroyed.

Blood, guts and fast swordplay are the order of the day where combat is concerned. Light and heavy sword attacks form the core of your combos with shuriken adding a ranged option and early in NG3 you gain access to a bow to take out ranged enemies, thus rounding off your skillset. While button-bashing can be a successful option, taking the time to master your timing makes tackling NG3 and its difficulty curve much easier. Difficulty curve doesn’t quite cover it; from the offset enemy AI is clever and daunting. Even on the lower settings, inexperienced players will have trouble defeating some of Hyabusa’s earlier foes.

Despite the sometimes obscene AI, bosses often turn into repetitive battles of dodge, slash, dodge, slash, quick time event (rinse and repeat). Taking down a 10ft tall spider tank should feel amazing yet Ninja Gaiden 3 makes it feel underwhelming. The fluid action that group encounters attempt to instil are left by the wayside and replaced with frustration and a much slower pace. Although Hyabusa has the strength to slice through the cockpit of a helicopter or cut the hand off a demigod, boss battles and even sometimes standard encounters leave you with a sense that, despite Hyabusa’s obvious superhuman skill, the entire world is stronger than him. Combat is broken up with some pretty standard platforming including the ninja staples of wall-running and kunai-climbing up walls. These sections never last long before coming across something to run your sword through.

Visually, Ninja Gaiden 3 is impressive. It’s certainly no Final Fantasy but still manages to convey a sense of scale. Locales include busy cityscapes, arid deserts and greenery-filled jungle, however once filled with some of Hyabusa’s adversaries, these just become a backdrop for blazing death. With 15 enemies on screen, rockets firing everywhere and Hyabusa flitting from enemy to enemy it’s easy to get confused about who you are attacking and where. Dodgy camera angles during battle doesn’t always help but they serve to add to the feeling of high pace. Moves such as Hyabusa’s Ninpo Fire Dragon can clear a large amount of enemies at once and are pleasing to watch. Who doesn’t want to watch a ninja turn into a dragon and eat people?

The soundtrack itself is varied to say the least, ranging from Metal Gear Solid-esque ambience in the loading screens to standard metal hack-n-slash fare.

For those looking to show off their flashy swordsmanship outside of the single player campaign, Team Ninja have thrown 2 multiplayer modes into the mix. Clan battles pit large teams of players against each other in brutal deathmatches while Ninja Trails allow you to test your skills against a set list of challenges either alone or with a friend. These challenges often require you to master the sometimes confusing control system which, personally, is a blessing for series newbies.

New weapons and moves are unlocked as you rank up and anyone who invests the time and effort needed will become a formidable force on the battlefield. While a nice addition to the series there doesn’t seem to be much to keep players hooked on the online modes at the moment. Team Ninja have promised several DLC packs adding more weapons and skins to the current roster and the first pack is available

Team Ninja have worked hard to keep the spirit of Ninja Gaiden going with this latest release but some rather hilarious voice actors and tedious boss fights make it hard to justify at full price. If you like the idea of running a sword through a helicopter, diving a few hundred feet and then plunging yourself blade first into an unaware soldier then NG3 will not disappoint. It’s not for everyone though.

Ninja Gaiden 3 is available on Xbox 360 and PS3.

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