Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
by Polly

It's not a big secret that I'm a Ninja Gaiden fangirl through and through. I was hooked almost immediately after I played the first one for NES shortly after its release. I pleaded and pleaded when Ninja Gaiden II came out and I got it that year for Christmas. I saw early previews for Ninja Gaiden III and immediately wanted it as well. I got it that year for my birthday in 1991. I was so happy! I could hardly wait to rip the packaging off and plunk it into my NES! I was elated to don the ninja garb of Ryu Hayabusa once more and cut my way through an intricately laid out set of levels, just waiting to test all the patience I had. God damn I was so excited! Then I turned on the system...

"What the fuck," I said almost halfway through the first stage. Yep, I had quite a potty mouth back then, and have detention slips from 4-6th grade to prove it. This just felt all wrong. It wasn't anything like what I'd played only nights before in anticipation of receiving the third chapter. I wanted to believe the cart was damaged so badly, but I knew the truth.

Ninja Gaiden had gone shitty. Not completely hopeless and unplayable shitty, but the kinda shitty where you know it's shitty, but don't wanna admit how shitty it is, so you ignore the shitty. So you keep playing anyway, digging deeper and deeper into the shitty until the smell of the shitty is so bad that everyone around you says "MY GOD YOU SMELL LIKE SHITTY, YOU MUST HAVE BEEN PLAYING NINJA GAIDEN III." Alas, I had been. Swimming in a pool of shitty, hopelessly trying to make the shitty not seem so shitty. But shitty's smell doesn't go away. It just gets shittier and shittier.

Take everything that Tecmo struck gold on with Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II, and flush most of it right down the toilet. (Wow..there's some really strange theme going on here isn't there?) Where does this game go wrong, you ask? Let's start with the gameplay.

Ryu must have aged about fifty years between the events of Ninja Gaiden II and III, because he moves, attacks, and jumps are as slow as molasses. This completely fucks up and breaks the game, since the first two were based around quickly-paced twitch gaming situations. Your jump is now very floaty and you travel a bit further, but veeerrryy sloooowwlly. Ryu's running animation hasn't changed whatsoever since the first game, yet as you make your way forward, the stages just seem to creep by making your run speed look really ridiculous. Slashing at enemies just feels muddy, and you can't seem to intricately dispose of many foes in a short amount of time due to the "cool down" time of your swing.

Ryu now has a sword powerup which increases the length of his swing, and means that he won't have to kneel down to strike enemies on the ground. It's a nifty feature, as is the ability to hang from the bottom of ledges and hop up to surprise attack enemies, but it's not really utilized enough to mean anything. Ryu's Ninja Arts are pretty much the same, except they completely omitted the Clone art which was a huge let down, as it was always neat to have a couple other Ryu's running behind you mimicing your moments and flooding the screen with fireballs and ninja stars.

Another problem with the game is the ridiculous difficulty. I'm not one to complain about difficulty when what I'm being presented with is FAIR. But Ninja Gaiden III just is not fair at all in a lot of areas. For one, all damage that enemies do to you has been doubled and tripled from the Japanese version. Also added were new enemy placemnts. The placements are sometimes unfair because Ryu's attack speed isn't enough to get you out of the situation. Sometimes you just have to take the hit and move on. The Japanese version's enemy placement was far too sparse and the game was too easy, so I actually think the new placements was a good thing and would have worked better had the damage not been tinkered with.

I don't mind dieing. It's part of the game, and I shouldn't be able to pass a stage on my first try. But the punishment for dying is just incredibly fucking stupid. The game will send you ALL THE WAY BACK to the beginning of the stage, even if you've made it through 10-12+ screens, if you happen to die at the boss (or anywhere in the stage for that matter). That's just irritating and far beyond frustrating. Making matters worse is that they decided to add a 5-Continue-Limit to the game, meaning if you don't finish it all in 5 continues, you're fucked. Start all over.

Ninja Gaiden III still looks good, but the art style is all different. The isometric backgrounds from the previous games are now gone, and everything is strictly 2D looking. Backgrounds are probably STILL some of the best I've ever seen on the NES, but I can't understand the nixing of the isometric stuff. Ryu has a tad more animation than he did before, but it's nothing to gush over. The anime cutscenes are just pitiful now. They lack background art most of the time, so it's usually just characters yelling at each other in front of a blue background. It's easy to see now, that this game was just rushed out without much thought. Oh and the story? Well it's complete shitty nonsense. If I ever hear the word "BIO-NOID" used in another videogame before I die, I'm gonna fucking hunt and kill whoever does it.

The soundtrack is alright, but isn't as impressive as the previous games. If anything it's just "there." Typical action game music with no real memorable melodies and the drum sounds get on my nerves. Ryu now yells when he swings his sword, which will get on your fucking nerves real quick. Most of the other sound effects were taken directly from the other games in the series, so nothing much to complain about there.

Ninja Gaiden III is a bit of a mixed-bag for me. It's not a horrible game by any means, and would probably be a decent action title if it didn't have the Ninja Gaiden name slapped on it. It just didn't do anything new for the series at all, and completely wrecked all that was good about it.

And THIS certainly explains a whole hell of a lot. It's not shopped. Beat the fucking game. It's there. In both the Japanese and English versions.

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