We are- no, I am going to use the word “I” this week. Wow, now that’s refreshing!
Let’s give it a test run: I think Ninja Gaiden 3 is repetitive and boring. OK, that felt pretty good, let’s try another: I find Ninja Gaiden’s story to be impenetrably nonsensical and irritatingly in love with itself. That one felt a bit off, I’ll do one more: I think the best thing the Ninja Gaiden series had going for it was its’ difficulty, which was, for some reason, almost completely removed in this iteration.
Right, all warmed up now, let’s get started!
In my mind a game like Ninja Gaiden 3 falls into one of two genres: An “action adventure” fighting game, or a spectacle fighting game. Up until the series’ third installment, Ninja Gaiden fell into the the former category, which emphasizes memorization of button combinations, limited health regeneration, and a high difficulty level. Video games like Heavenly Sword and Shinobi fall under this category.
On the other hand you’ve got “spectacle” fighting games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, where the focus is on outlandish visual absurdity during battle, as opposed to any great difficulty. To a certain extent, “spectacle” fighters are a natural evolution of the “action adventure” fighting genre, much in the same way the real time strategy (RTS) brand was derived from turn based strategy games.
I think Ninja Gaiden was kind of the last bastion for fans of “action adventure” type games, and Ninja Gaiden 3 is almost indistinguishable from its’ predecessors.
Regenerating health? Strike one. I’ll buy that “master ninja” Ryu Hyabusa could find a few health power-ups hidden in crates or something during his summer vacation of globe trotting genocide, but suddenly being back at full health after every fight? Every time you save? Every time you use a special move? When you sneeze? Little bit too far.
Once again the plot is utterly ridiculous, but knocking Ninja Gaiden for having a dumb story is like yelling at a puppy for piddling on the carpet; they can’t help it, so you’re just being mean. I even sort of liked the main antagonist and his tendency to solipsism, even if he was –as the English put it– barking mad.
But easy combat? In a Ninja Gaiden game?! That’s a big strike two. Once I took a good five minutes and mastered the dash uppercut, and jumping pile-driver move, I found myself entering battles with a resigned sigh rather than any excitement.
You get a bow and kunai knifes –both of which have infinite ammo, because screw resource management– but you’ll only use them to kill far off, obnoxious enemies using rocket launchers. After they’re dealt with, you can get back to the dull business of murdering men who thought it was a bright idea to go into melee with an UZI.
If the combat ever becomes too unbearable, you can simply deploy one of the game’s two special attacks. The first utilizes Ryu’s arm, which was cursed by his enemies and gives him the power to rapidly kill a large group of people in a blood haze. By the way, great plan guys! I’m sure that won’t come back to bite you anytime soon.
The second special attack summons a dragon which eats every enemy on screen. Ninja Gaiden, you’re not even trying anymore are you?
Fortunately for Ninja Gaiden, I don’t have a strike three. There’s nothing execrably wrong with the game, it just isn’t very fun to play.
The problem is, Ninja Gaiden used to be a really good “action adventure” fighting game, now it’s just a mediocre and simple “spectacle” fighter. We have plenty of those already!
I don’t need you to steal my lunch money, rack me, and call me a wuss, Ninja Gaiden 3 –I’ve got Dark Souls to do that for me– but don’t act like a fussy little league coach who hands out “participation” trophies either.