If Ninja Gaiden 2 was a bully, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a bully out with his mum. He's on his best behaviour, with easy modes to give beginners a chance, but he's still itching to give you a dead arm. A corridor brawler in the Devil May Cry and Bayonetta vein, there's a satisfying system powering Ryu's battles.
It's a good job, too - there's no weapon upgrades or character development in the story mode. Each of the many combat rounds builds in momentum from a cautious combo stab to a set of chained moves, until you're bouncing around delivering obliteration combos like a deadly rubber nutjob. The eight levels travel the world, but the backdrop is only ever just that - a series of platforms on which to gut, splay and rend enemy innards.
On easier mode, the repetition is obvious. On Ninja Gaiden's native Hard mode, it's a matter of survival through mastery, which is what we want. Fighting is simple in theory. Classic light and heavy attacks combo together, dodge and block with the left trigger, and distant enemies can be taken out with your bow. The Ultimate Technique is earned by dealing damage, and spells hands-free instadeath for four or five enemies.
Your nin-po bar fills as you fight, too. Swap a full bar to transform into a dragon, killing everyone and refilling your health. What makes this tough is the long list of nameless combos, the sheer number of enemies and a loose camera that doesn't keep you the centre of attention. Learn the audio cues well, because you frequently won't see attacks coming (playing online, this confusion is exacerbated).
However, a fair check-pointing system means you're never punished too dearly, and the majority of Ninja Gaiden 2's cheap deaths are gone. If you're looking for a tutorial, the closest you'll get is Shadows of the World's Ninja Trials. It's not terribly helpful. You're told to deploy "Steel on Bone" by "pressing X and Y repeatedly". Thanks. That's what we've been doing for the last six hours. Perhaps a word of explanation in the massive technique list would have been friendlier?
Ninja Gaiden serves up some Hollywood setpieces with a rock-solid combat system. Forgive the hyperactive cameraman and choose the right difficulty, because the wrong one will ruin your game.
A good addition, but a bit of a departure
- Satisfying sliciness
- Difficulties for everyone
- Far fewer cheap deaths
- Location and enemy fatigue
- The camera's still a bugger