Why do you play Ninja Gaiden? Are you a masochist who enjoys the thrill of being repeatedly pummelled five or ten times at the introduction of a new enemy until you can finally figure out how to dodge their attacks? Or are you a wanton sadist who delights in the carnage and mayhem you can unleash? Perhaps it’s the style of the series, which it oozes in droves?
Whatever the case may be, our dear friend Mitch Dyer over at IGN has made that decision for you in his review. He asserts that the unrelenting challenge is the only reason anyone is a fan of the series, and goes on to rip Ninja Gaiden 3 apart, stating it:
- "Betrays fans"
- is “a gash on the face of the franchise and one of the worst games the action genre has yet suffered.”
- “has no consideration for its fans’ wants or what a new audience may have enjoyed.”
And the grand conclusion to the rant is the unequivocally stark: ,"Under no circumstance should you ever waste your time on this self-indulgent and abysmal wreck."
Three out of ten.
Now, reviews across the board have been fairly unanimous in labelling NG3 the poorest in the series, but it’s been interesting to watch the reactions from undoubtedly hardcore fans uniformly heap scorn on this latest instalment for reasons which totally fly in the face of my (and therefore I must assume it’s safe to assert) and other fans’ enjoyment of it.
At this point I feel I must direct you to a brief, funny manifesto of sorts by a busy guy with not a lot of time on his hands who may have grown up as a hardcore gamer who could dedicate dozens of hours to learning the ropes of each new RTS, but who, over time, had less time to offer, but had absolutely zero inclination to immerse himself in (shudder) casual games.
I sat down to play NG3, selecting hard mode out the gate, as I had done on NG2, getting my ego all stirred-up and preparing for the onslaught. After managing to get my ass kicked in the first level before the first major save point, I rescinded, started a new game on ‘normal’ mode and had a second crack. It’s not that I felt incapable or that the game was unduly harder than previous iterations – it was just that while I’m very excited about the shuriken-throwing, bow-wielding, sword-slashing, blood-curdling and mind-bendingly gory experience a Ninja Gaiden game has to offer, these days I’m happy to just kick back, let the aesthetic glory wash over me and bask in the soothing splatter of a million enemies’ blood. Mmmm… delicious.
So here I am, only a couple of play sessions later and I’ve got my fix: the game is completed, the forgettable story behind me, but my ol’ memory banks are stored up with yet another bunch of the most stand-out moments of shock, awe and action aplenty from a new Ninja Gaiden experience.
Many complaints Dyer raises in his review are quite valid. The story is poor (but no worse than any other NG game to date), the weapon selection is very limited (although it’s not ONE weapon as he suggests), the difficulty has been changed up to appeal to a more mainstream audience, the camera is as usual a bit of an interference (although the lack of precision required to land each blow mitigates that), and the slow-motion sections where Ryu’s arm become hugely painful don’t add anything to the gameplay (Dyer seems to have missed that these points were designed to make the player feel simultaneously helpless and yet able to persevere, which they do exceedingly well).
But these problems, if you’re a player like me who enjoys the fluid motion, the feeling of power, the fretful swordfighting and the reward of some nonsensical over-the-top action cut scenes, and doesn’t particularly like the ‘challenge’ of not having any health after a boss battle and still being forced to trudge an extra few hundred metres to a save point, are moot.
I was almost half way through NG3 before I even *noticed* that I hadn’t had a chance to pick up a new weapon yet. Playing a game ‘correctly’, playing to ‘win’, and playing to conquer a challenge have lost their appeal over the years. These days, I like things to be challenging enough, but I don’t want to have to grind, allocate experience points, level up, repair weapons, die repeatedly, be ‘challenged’ by harsh save points or smash every bit of pottery in the nearby area for extra XP.
Bottom line is this: Dyer doesn’t speak for everyone, even if his review asserts its righteousness as though he does. If you’re a Ninja Gaiden fan and you don’t take life too seriously, NG3 is a valid entry into a great series. I agree that it’s the poorest title in the series so far. But I’m still one of those folk who believe a 3/10 game is one which is fundamentally broken, borderline unplayable.
Ignore the haters on this one – it’s still Ninja Gaiden and there’s still plenty to love.
By Leigh Harris - Tweet @leighformayor