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Critical Reception: Team Ninja's  Ninja Gaiden 3
Critical Reception: Team Ninja's Ninja Gaiden 3
March 28, 2012 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Team Ninja's hack-and-slash action game Ninja Gaiden 3, which reviews describe as "the most disappointing title in the series." Ninja Gaiden 3 currently earns a score of 58 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Official Xbox Magazine's Ryan McCaffrey scores Ninja Gaiden 3 at 8 out of 10.

"Ninja Gaiden 3 [is] a fast-action romp created by a new generation of Team Ninja developers in the wake of a massive studio shakeup that included the controversy-drenched departure of team leader Tomonobu Itagaki," he notes. "And like [Modern Warfare 3] before it, Ninja Gaiden 3 is an excellent follow-up that's well worth your time and money. Its problem, as we'll explain, is that perfection is a tough act to follow."

"The differences between Ninja Gaiden 3 and its predecessors are immediately apparent," McCaffrey continues. "As soon as you press Start, you're greeted with a button-mashing quick-time event as part of the intro sequence. If you're worried this sets a bad precedent for the rest of the game, well…you're half right. [...] These loathsome, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the-screen QTEs are frequent."

"But what of the action -- the rapidly beating heart of any Ninja Gaiden game?" McCaffrey asks. "Laudably, it still pulses with an unmatched vigor. [...] Ninja Gaiden 3 doesn't walk the line of challenge versus fun as carefully as the previous games. Here, Ryu's foot is clearly on the fun side of things, meaning you won't die nearly as often as you're used to in this series."

"Given the rare and tumultuous circumstances that led to such turnover at Team Ninja, it's fair to wonder what Itagaki's Ninja Gaiden 3 would've been like," McCaffrey admits. "Still, this version of Ninja Gaiden 3 [...] may not live up to the series' impossibly high standards, but it's still a gem in its own right."

Dan Ryckert at Game Informer rates Ninja Gaiden 3 at 6 out of 10. "Many of the decisions made during Ninja Gaiden 3's development have raised the eyebrows of fans, and the end product is a mixed bag as a result," he writes.

"The first two 3D games in the series required razor-sharp reflexes, a healthy knowledge of useful combos, and the patience to endure countless deaths," Ryckert continues. "Back then, you'd get killed by new enemies a few times over before you started recognizing their patterns. In Ninja Gaiden 3, you're usually safe as long as you keep mashing the attack buttons and utilizing your screen-clearing dragon ninpo."

Other elements are similarly lacking. "Combat isn't the only thing that's streamlined," Ryckert warns. "Previous games featured a large assortment of collectibles, secrets, and upgradeable weapons. Ninja Gaiden 3 features one non-upgradeable sword (although two free DLC weapons are available), no currency system, and no collectibles. That satisfying feeling of leveling up your sword after saving up several levels' worth of orbs is gone, and it's a definite detriment to the experience."

"Ninja Gaiden 3 is not a complete train wreck, but it does suffer from a multitude of problems," Ryckert says. "The action can be fast-paced and engaging at times, but many design decisions significantly bring down the experience. Dumbed-down A.I., a limited arsenal, the series' notoriously difficult camera, no inventory/currency system, and an incoherent story combine to make this the most disappointing title in the series."

Giant Bomb's Alex Navarro gives Ninja Gaiden 3 2 out of 5 stars. "Ninja Gaiden 3 is a sequel that tosses aside nearly every single thing you might have liked about its predecessors," he begins. "It's ill-conceived from top to bottom, seemingly completely unaware of what it was that made Ninja Gaiden interesting to begin with. Namely, its stiff challenge, deep and brutal combo system, and overwhelming sensation of ninja bad-assery."

Navarro finds that higher difficulty levels do not address the game's core problems. "Yes, there is a hard difficulty, and while that does make the enemy AI tougher, it fails to address the fundamental problem with Ninja Gaiden 3: there is just no depth to it," he observes. "The combat system, long the standard-bearer for action games of this type, has been reduced to a miserable, button-mashy bore."

"It certainly doesn't feel like Team Ninja really gave too terribly much of a damn about any of its ideas here," Navarro continues. "It got them working well enough to be functional (though sometimes camera glitches and unresponsive controls negate that), and looking reasonably good (the game is pretty sharp visually).

"That's especially true of the game's inexplicable multiplayer component, which allows players to fight each other in arena battles, or take on wave after wave of bad guys with a co-op buddy. You may be shocked to learn that these modes reek of non-effort. They work, but the twitchy camera, combined with the cramped-feeling environments, pretty much kills what little fun there was to be had."

"Killing the combat system that made this franchise so enticing, and robbing it of any modicum of challenge was so far beyond what was necessary that it leaves Ninja Gaiden 3 feeling like little more than a stripped-down husk of its former glory," Navarro concludes. "If the previous Ninja Gaiden games were like carefully built, brutally fast hot rods, Ninja Gaiden 3 feels like it should be up on bricks on somebody's lawn."


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