Review by Psycho Penguin

"It's not as bad as I first thought, but..."

Ever why the Ninja Gaiden series died? There's probably a few reasons for it, mainly company related, but Ninja Gaiden 3 certainly did not help the cause. It's the worst of the 3 Ninja Gaidens by far, as Tecmo tried out these new ideas that just were not suitable for Ninja Gaiden games, as therefore the series bombed. It's still not a horrible game, however, and I enjoyed it for the most part. Just don't expect a high-quality Ninja Gaiden game.

Storyline? In a Ninja Gaiden game? Surely you jest!

The graphics are decent...


What? There IS a storyline? Oh, yeah, those annoying little scenes in between stages. Those are story scenes? Innovative? What? WOW! Anyways, Ryu tells Irene to kill herself, but it turns out that wasn't Ryu, and blah blah. This is the worst possible storyline Tecmo could have implemented in this game. The first two were awesome and I got into them. With this, I just wanted the story to be over with. It barely made any sense. At least it had some sort of continuity. That helps.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, the graphics are decent, but I don't like them nearly as much as I did in the original two. The backgrounds are creatively designed, I'll give them that much. I actually loved the backgrounds, as they were pretty innovative for the time. The moving background of the desert in stage 2 was definitely a sight to behold back in the day.

So, the backgrounds are pretty strong, but sadly they also made the action on screen hard to see at times. For instance, in stage 2-2, the background is this fiery underground cave. Sure, it looks nice, but then you'll start to realize you can't see what the hell is going on at times due to the fact it keeps flashing back and forth and does not do a very good job at blending in with the enemies at all.

And speaking of enemy designs, boy did they take a backseat in this game. They don't look nearly as good as they used to. Tecmo tried for some innovative enemy designs and failed for the most part. The alien creatures in the 1st stage lack detail, and later enemies look like retarded zombies. Especially the ninja characters, who look even worse then they did in the original Ninja Gaiden.

I love the music in Ninja Gaiden 3, however. I really do. It has this quirky sound to it that blends in perfectly with each stage. When some stages try to convey a sense of urgency, an upbeat, fast beat song plays, and when the stage tries to get off a feeling of sadness or slowness, a melodramatic theme plays. It's really good, and I love how the game has this perfect blend of music.

The boss themes are generally good, although a tad disappointing. Plus, the music is just plain old good to listen to, but I've come to expect that from a Ninja Gaiden game by now. It's too bad the sound effects aren't as good, but you can't have everything, I guess. The music is just too good to have to worry about the limited amount of sound effects, anyways.

Ninja Gaiden 3 has gotten a bad rap based off gameplay, and I can sort of see why, but when you get into the game you realize it is still just as fun as the other games. You still get the power ups, you still go from challenging stage to challenging stage, you still get to climb on vines and swing around, all that fun stuff. It's all here.

So, why is Ninja Gaiden 3 worse than Ninja Gaiden 2?

For one, the new power ups suck for the most part. I like the Super Sword, which now gives you the power to have a longer and more powerful sword, which definitely helps, but I don't like Up and Down or the Fire Wheel. They don't add much to the game, and I really miss the clones from Ninja Gaiden 2. Why Tecmo took them out is a mystery that remains with me to this day.

Also, the game now has a futuristic feel to it for a while for whatever reason. Ryu battles alien creatures in the 1st stage for christs sake, with no explanation, and then from there on, the game goes back and forth between regular enemies and aliens without rhyme or reason. Again, there is no reason for this.

But perhaps the most damning reason why Ninja Gaiden 3 is not as good as the others is because of the challenge. Now, we all know Ninja Gaiden games are hard. Brutally hard. Throw the controller against the wall numerous times during playing session hard. And Ninja Gaiden 3 is just as hard.

But no, it's not challenging because you have to make precision jumps or the enemies are so hard. It's challenging because the enemies hit you for an extraordinary amount of damage, then the game throws waves of enemies at you and expects you to survive. If you survive that, then they throw the old classic enemy next to the pit, with birds flying at you. It's truly madness.

Fortunately, the steep challenge has nothing to do with the controls, which are some of the best the NES has to offer. Doing your special moves is a breeze, precision jumping's painfulness has nothing to do with the smoothness you'll be controlling them at, and you can jump in the air longer now. The controls are truly good, which is a must for a game like this which relies so much on jumping and slashing.

The game has 20 levels, so you'll be playing it for a while, but with no password or save feature, you'll soon grow tired of going through all the levels. Especially with the lack of unlimited continues, which is another way Tecmo screwed up the challenge. I'd actually prefer to play the Japanese version of the game, or the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy version (even with the dumbed down music), simply because I don't have to waste time going through 10 levels to get back to where I was before.

Ninja Gaiden 3 really missed the boat. It could have been a truly great and revolutionary series that people would have been sad to see go. With this decidedly disappointing entry, the series got less fans. I like the game enough to give it a 7, but make no mistake, this is not a great game.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/15/00, Updated 05/13/03

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