Bitpicking: Sequel in Name Only
When I was a child, I clamored for sequels left and right. After all, who wouldn’t want a sequel to an excellent game? Sequels can great things in the game industry, since they appease the insatiable appetite of gamers while allowing publishers to play it safe.
However, not all sequels are created equal. Some are so atrociously bad, or just fail to meet their predecessors' standards, that they get left in the dust. Additionally, there are games that change things that made the original great, making them not sequels so much as something else entirely.
This week we’ll take a look at two sequels that don’t do their predecessors justice.
The first is Ninja Gaiden 3. The Ninja Gaiden series has been known for its visceral combat, excellent enemies, deep tactical fighting, and brutal difficulty. Ninja Gaiden 3 has none of these things. Perhaps everything went wrong when Tomonobu Itagaki left Team Ninja. Either way, the sorry excuse that is Ninja Gaiden 3 tarnishes the developer’s great history. Ninja Gaiden 3 isn’t simply a bad entry in the series but a bad game period. It throws out everything that made the series great and just runs with a barebones version of the game. In fact, it was barebones enough to justify a re-release under the name Razor’s Edge.
The enemies aren’t challenging in the slightest. In previous games, they'd hit Ryu hard and fast. The diversity in enemy types helped as well, since it further complicated each encounter. In Ninja Gaiden 3, however, there are only a handful of enemy types that all do pretty much the same thing: shoot guns or hit you with melee attacks. Cutting down all projectile-based enemies first and then dealing with the melee ones becomes tedious. In addition, the enemies don’t do much damage, so getting hit doesn’t mean life or death. Rather, it’s a simple process of how much can you take until you survive the encounter.
Dispatching these enemies is also relatively easy considering the game gives you a free kill move that you can take advantage of quite frequently. Using it will kill any enemies within a certain distance of you. Since you get it so often, there's no reason to hold back.
In addition, the combat feels empty. Each attack feels like any other, and there's no “oomph” in the hits. As a result, there is no real depth to the combat system, so it relies more on cool aesthetics to catch the gamer’s attention.
Perhaps the most offensive thing about Ninja Gaiden 3 is that the boss fights are horrendous. All of the bosses in the game are extremely large, and since their attacks are so limited, it’s easy to predict what they’re going to do and plan accordingly. Instead of a game of quick reflexes where you have to carefully analyze each boss, it’s a simple game of “can you dodge this huge attack?” It’s not a culmination of all the things you’ve learned in the game thus far - though, in reality, there isn’t anything of value to be learned in the first place - but a bonus question at the end of an exam to make you feel smarter about yourself. In this case, it just makes you sad that the test was so easy. At the end of the day, Ninja Gaiden 3’s bosses just leave an awful aftertaste.
Nearly every facet of Ninja Gaiden 3 is horribly executed, destroying the series’ prestigious legacy.