All flash and no substance: Ninja Gaiden 3 is a shallow action game with little of the series’ challenge and depth.
Flashy, brutal swordplay is always a pleasure to watch
Online play instills a sense of progression
A few memorable encounters.
Shallow action lacks the depth and challenge of previous Ninja Gaiden games
Intrusive story elements bog down the pace
Recycled boss fights require too little skill
Terrible PlayStation Move support
Previous Ninja Gaiden games assumed you were a master swordsman. They gave you the tools to succeed and expected you to use them, having you bounding from walls before plunging a sharp blade into your enemies’ bowels in a series of dizzying attacks. The challenge was steep but surmountable, and the thrilling acrobatics you witnessed onscreen were a direct result of your skill and finesse.
Ninja Gaiden 3, on the other hand, has little faith in you. On medium difficulty, you don’t need to do much but hammer on a few buttons and occasionally block or dodge, yet every last kill is a cinematic event. Where previous games rewarded you for how adeptly you manipulated the controller, this one rewards you for pressing X. Forgot how to climb a wall? Ninja Gaiden 3 reminds you every time. (Do yourself a favor and turn off tutorial prompts after the first few levels.) Was your mind boggled by having multiple weapons and ninpo attacks before? Never fear: Ninja Gaiden 3 gives hero Ryu Hayabusa only a single weapon and a single ninpo. If you came to this series for deep, challenging combat, be prepared: this is no longer your Ninja Gaiden.
If you’re more interested in visual spectacle than combat depth, however, you’ll find plenty of it here. You don’t lop off any heads or arms, but you certainly get your fill of dramatic brutality. With each assassination comes a cinematic animation in which the camera swoops in close as Ryu eviscerates and emasculates. Quick-time events intrude at every turn, giving you heaps of time to react and dramatizing spittle-flecked boss confrontations and graceful dives onto enemy aircraft. Every so often, you can hold a single button, and Ryu races from one fiend to the next, slicing and dicing without your having to lift an additional finger. If you prize form over function, Ninja Gaiden 3 might be enough to tide you over until the next mindless action game comes along.
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