Am I living in a fucking nightmare? I have been pinching myself so hard I have airplane sized welts all over my body, so I suppose that I am in fact awake, which means I really am witnessing the destruction of the Ninja Gaiden series. IGN has just weighed in with a hilariously bad 3/10 review (yes, 3/10), player feedback on the forums has been mostly bad to downright terrible, and frankly, I fucking toldyouso.
Let's take a step back for a moment and consider that in 2004, Team Ninja, with Tomonobu Itagaki (the man behind the Dead or Alive franchise) at the helm, crafted a technical, difficult, beautiful, deep, challenging, complex, lengthy and rewarding reboot of the classic Ninja Gaiden video game franchise. The game averaged mid 9's across the board, and it blew away every other action game on the planet. Then, a year later, it was followed up by a director's cut of sorts titled Ninja Gaiden Black. I have gone on and on and on about how ridiculous NGB is, so I will spare you all here, but just know that it averaged mid 9's as well, and it kept people like me enraptured for hundreds upon hundreds of hours (I still play it) with its finely tuned gameplay and challenges.
Fast forward to 2008. Itagaki and co. release the magnificent, but heavily flawed (due in part to major turmoil at the studio and a rushed release, as well as some odd decisions) Ninja Gaiden II. The game improved on the formula established in NG/NGB by expounding on the already awesome roster of weapons and combat variety, taking both to a ridiculous level, and ratcheting up the already insane difficulty (although they fucked up here and lost the sublime balance that was the challenge in the original). A lot of mistakes were made, however, and not just in terms of balance. Still, even though the game was a step back in terms of enemy, level and boss design, the combat was even faster than the already fast original game(s), the weapon list was deep, the combo list insane, and it took the already impressive violence level present in the first game and brought it to absolutely outrageous levels. The game reviewed in the 7-8 range, and left most of us with mixed opinions, but overall it was pretty badass.
Now, 4 years later, we have the third game, this time sans Itagaki. In his place, Yosuke Hayashi, the dumbass in charge of the PS3 and PS Vita NG ports/spinoffs known as the Sigma series. While not terrible, the 'Sigma' version of Ninja Gaiden one was a step back from the supremacy of NGB (although a few small improvements were admirably made). Still, it was clear that something was amiss, and Hayashi did not 'get' Ninja Gaiden. This was made all the more evident with his butchering of Ninja Gaiden II. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 once again made a few small improvements, but this time took a horrendous turn for the worse and really demonstrated to the more discerning Ninja Gaiden fan that he clearly did not 'get' Ninja Gaiden at all. This had me very worried about the inevitable Ninja Gaiden 3.
And then the previews, interviews, screens, videos, etc. started trickling out. Get this: Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 had several weapon types. Swords, staffs, flails, nunchuks, tonfas, claws, bladed chains, etc. Ninja Gaiden 3 has one. ONE. Ninja Gaiden one and two had several different ninpo (magic attacks) at Ryu's disposal. Ninja Gaiden 3 has one. ONE. Projectiles? Gone are the multiple shuriken types. You know have one type, plus the bow. Enemy variety has been decreased. Difficulty has been decreased. Boss difficulty has been decreased, and the boss designs even more lacking than in NG2. Fucking QTE's have been added. Stealth has been added. Exploration, puzzles, the economy, upgrade system, and the karma system are gone. The focus of the game has been shifted from stiff challenge and deep gameplay to “immersion,” “cinematic gameplay” and the story (which still sucks). Ryu wears a fucking HEADSET and takes direction through it. You now slowly climb walls via kunai as opposed to just bird flipping up them in seconds like an acrobatic badass (this is still in the game, at least).
This is utterly reprehensible and I hope Ninja Gaiden is wrested from these imbecilic hands and either sold to Itagaki and co. over at Valhall games, or at least given to people who understand what made the first one so incredibly sublime and the second one (at least partially) so spectacular. Until either of these happens, Ninja Gaiden is dead :(