Team Ninja lead Yosuke Hayashi said one of his goals is to show players see Ryu’s human side in Ninja Gaiden 3. The story begins in London when terrorists takeover Parliament and demand to see Ryu Hayabusa. For trained mercenaries they don’t put up much of a fight. Even though they are armed to teeth, players can easily cut through enemies with a few sword slashes and the occasional slide out of harm’s way.
Midway through the opening stage, the action slows down as a soldier takes off his ski mask and pleads for his life.
Ryu is supposed to be a badass dark hero, but he comes off as a bloodlust fueled jerk since your only option is to slash the now helpless man. OK, he did try to kill Ryu, but since he’s disarmed what threat does an average grunt pose to Hayabusa? These guys couldn’t even kill Ryu with rocket launchers since each blast only takes off a sliver of health.
Hayashi said in one of our interviews he wants players to get their hands dirty, which is probably we he added this scene so early in the game. Enemies cower too and try to escape Ryu’s rage, but players have to be cautious if you want to avoid chopping them up. After a rumble with the Regent of the Mask, Ryu is cursed the bloodstained Dragon Blade is fused into his arm causing him to feel each kill. Team Ninja’s message is loud and clear – you should feel bad for killing these digital dudes. Got it, but Ninja Gaiden 3 also glorifies violence by zooming in on the carnage with quick time events. So, are players supposed to feel bad after each slice?
The question never came up when Ryu was chopping up werewolves and since Ryu doesn’t have friendship ninpo to calm assailants down your only choice is to fight. But, hey fighting, not Ryu’s drama, is really what Ninja Gaiden games are about. The problem in Ninja Gaiden 3 is combat doesn’t have as much variety. Team Ninja focused on swords so you end up using the same combos over and over with QTE kills in the mix. Ryu’s other weapon, introduced in the second level, is a bow which slows down time for players to aim. Enemies aren’t as challenging either and when you crank up the difficulty to hard Ninja Gaiden 3 adds more fodder in the early levels to kill instead of smarter foes. The combination of repeating the same attacks (with bits of archery) on enemies with simple patterns kind of reminded me of Dynasty Warriors.
Well, a glitzier version of Dynasty Warriors. Ninja Gaiden 3 has more flair than previous entries with Ryu swooping in like a flying squirrel and cutting enemies in mid-air with yet another quick time event.
Ryu can also clear the screen using his ultimate technique or transforming into a man-eating fire dragon. I suppose these changes were made to make Ninja Gaiden 3 more welcoming, but the change in gameplay mechanics doesn’t give this game a unique edge to separate from other stylish action games. At the end of stage two, it’s man versus helicopter. Ryu needs to use his bow during this boss battle to shoot it down while dodging missiles. The fight ends with God of War style where Ryu jumps on the helicopter to finish it off. Later, Ryu fights a cybernetic T-rex that occasionally turns into metal. A ninja versus dinosaur fight? I thought this would be the highlight of the game, but it was just a lengthy fight where you have to dodge until the T-rex runs headfirst into a wall.
And after you defeat the dinosaur, Ninja Gaiden 3 tries to get dramatic again, but it’s hard to take the plot seriously. Maybe the game would have been better served with a totally over the top plot? Making Ninja Gaiden 3’s stages less like long corridors and adding new techniques for Ryu to learn would have helped the game too. At least the repetition issue should be addressed later on when Team Ninja releases extra weapons as free downloadable content. However, even with these changes, Ninja Gaiden 3 still wouldn’t play like the past titles. It doesn’t seem like Hayashi wants to go back to tough as nails gameplay either because Ninja Gaiden 3 emphasizes eye candy over player expertise.