The Ninja is arguably the most clandestine of all adversaries that any army could face, terrorists are looking to take over the world so who would be better than to wipe out the threat but the stealthy, ruthless killer?
Cinematic cut scenes, movie-esque loading screens, and the obligatory stereotypical Asian look in everything but the lead character certainly gives you the sense that this could be a film albeit one ladled full of cheese. This game instantly feels like a sort of Metal Gear Solid / Devil May Cry hybrid (MGS in the presentation and story telling, and DMC in the relentless swash buckling, sword swinging action). It does neither very well though and that’s the game’s biggest problem; it’s trying too hard to take elements of two very good titles without matching them.
The cut scenes look very good and it comes across as quite a polished title but in the most vital of all aspects, gameplay, it falls short of the mark. Initially the hacking action doesn’t seem to be all bad, with helpful tips to defeat your enemy whilst floating down from on high, instructions on how to block the advances of the gun toting terrorists who are hell bent on watching you die a slow painful death before you take out a group of them amidst a fine display of graphical bloodsplatter across the pseudo camera lens. However within ten minutes or so of play you get the feeling that you know what’s coming next. There’s no real variation in the pattern of attacks and the only difference is that the odd enemy has the ability to block your advances, occasionally. The repetition extends to the voice acting too, with the gun-toting enemies seemingly only having the odd line of profanity to express their fear or their plans to derail your mission.
After defeating a number of assailants you get the chance to use your ninja magic and unleash an ‘inferno’ which brings a swooping dragon of fire across the screen wiping out almost every one of the enemies in your path. Other than that though you see a little bar at the top of the screen where you don’t really get the feel that your combination of kills is really achieving anything, and in this style of game a combo or hit counter would enhance what it’s trying to be. It gets very manic and when you do defeat a group of enemies you do get a sense of achievement but it also seems a little random too, button bashing more than calculating moves can see you through the initial levels.
It looks very good, it has an oriental feel in how it’s set and it has a dusky, hued and sinister backdrop with the end of level bosses being typical fare in this sort of title, from the Spider Tank to the eerie looking ‘super ninjas’ who have brought you to London on your quest and the soundtrack is quite thumping even on the title screens.
Take it online and there are co-op and clan modes to take on the enemy with more suits and more clan modes are available as DLC. It just feels as though they are flogging a dead horse though. It doesn’t really enhance the game other than aesthetically. This is no doubt a title which will have a loyal following as it has a manga / oriental feel but that cannot carry the game by itself.
Ninja Gaiden 3 isn’t what you’d expect from a game about the stealthy secret martial art. It’s big and brash but if you have played any of it’s predecessors you will know that already. It’s like a coin op, it has instant gratification and is visually attractive and would certainly make you throw a pound into it if it was in a cabinet in the local arcade. At home though we need more substance than the glossy exterior for our money.