Culminating with our fabulous ninja week, I'd like to devote a few minutes to my first thoughts of Ninja Gaiden 3. Here's the short of it: my first impression is positive. Somewhat incredibly, a lot of them elements that disappointed in Ninja Gaiden 2 have changed for the better. It's as if the designers read my review! Before I wrote it, in some sort of space-time paradox. And now, here's the long of it.
That looks painful
The graphics are quite improved over Ninja Gaiden 2, and definitely are more worthy of the fabled Ninja Gaiden mantle. There are some stealth sections now! Although it just involves walking slowly behind enemies, it's usually a nice change of pace from the fast action. The obliteration moves have returned, sometimes with QTEs, sometimes without. I'm still not 100% sure how they work. The camera seems a bit better, but I haven't been caught in narrow or closed spaces yet. There's more variety in gameplay, as it's not just wave after wave of enemies. Well, it still is, but the fact that there's a bit more platforming and stealth sections sprinkled in every now and then helps keep it fresh. You get into battles with planes and helicopters, and though it sounds ridiculous (and yes, it is ridiculous) it is really refreshing after having face wave after wave after wave of enemies in Ninja Gaiden 2. You can now climb walls using kunai, kind of like how Wolverine does with his claws.
As far as I can tell, recovery items are gone, but you still regain some health after battles like in Ninja Gaiden 2. The amount you get back depends on your ki meter, which replaces the old ninpo system. As of the first three levels, Ryu can only perform the Inferno ninpo, though it doesn't bare any resemblance to the Inferno of old. A massive dragon will swoop over the battlefield and kill everything in sight. I suspect there are no other ninpo skills available. Instead of having a set number of spells available, you have a ki bar that charges as you kill enemies.
There is a bit more variety in the enemies, even in the early stages. I had a hard time lifting certain enemies to line them up for Izuna drops, so I couldn't just spam that move like in NG2. I have only seen one demon/monster type enemy after 3 levels, but there's still a surprising amount of variety between the different human enemies that I have seen.
Essence is gone, and so is Muramasa's shop it seems, though the shop's song plays from a jukebox at some point. Ultimate techniques don't function quite the same; because there's no essence, you can't accelerate the charging process by absorbing essence. As far as I can tell, you can't actually stand in one spot and charge until you're ready to let go. Like with ninpo, Ryu's right arm has a bloody aura that builds up until the ultimate technique is ready to be used, at which you can unleash an attack without delay.
I suspect that you only have access to a sword as your main weapon in the main story, though I've seen pictures of alternates online. I'm intrigued to see how those are going to be implemented; I assume they are going to be only available in non-story modes of play however.
Do I really get to use these weapons?
Story wise, Ryu's out to save the world again, though he's not on a mission to recover a lost artifact that was stolen from his village. That simple fact - that the story isn't completely recycled - makes it immediately superior to the story from Ninja Gaiden 2. The new bad guy is mysterious and really charismatic. He's a twisted son of a bitch, and he's been incredibly entertaining in the brief airtime he's had. The female lead, whose name escapes me sadly, actually has clothes to wear this time. Itagaki-san must be wincing right now. There's actually dialogue during chapters, usually between Ryu and what's-her-name, through a live feed, secret service style. I like it.
The game starts in London, where terrorists have taken some politicians hostage. I'm actually somewhat intrigued at this point. I suspect it will turn cheesy at some point, yet I was just left itching for more as chapter 3 ended with a cliffhanger. I'll have to wait and see if the plot turns out to be generic or not.
So that concludes The Pause Button's (un)Official Ninja Week. Let's also ignore the fact that the week lasted more than seven days. Details, details.
Expect a full review within a few weeks.