This is the first core Ninja Gaiden title without Tomonobu Itagaki's leadership. Sure, he didn't have a hand in the Sigma titles, but they were little more than ports of his games. This time around, Team Ninja has been free to take Ninja Gaiden 3 in a different direction and - for better or worse - they have.
Ninja Gaiden 3's story focuses on Ryu's struggles with his infected arm, which is trying to take over his body. Said arm forces him to perform evil deeds such as kill men as they plead for their lives. This action takes place in first person, and it may disturb some people. Lovely.
To add to Ryu's troubles, a mysterious masked man shows up, introducing himself as Ryu's brother, and he seems to be interested in world domination... as you can probably tell from the arm, the story is as silly as every other Ninja Gaiden title.
One odd change from previous games in the series is that, to swing along pipes or climb walls using the kunai, you need to alternate pushing the shoulder buttons; previously, you only needed to push the stick in the direction you were going. Although awkward, the new scheme allows players to take out threats while in transit.
A PlayStation 3 exclusive feature in Ninja Gaiden 3 is the use of PlayStation Move. Unfortunately, the control style feels awkward - like button pushes had been replaced by waggle instead of actual 1:1 motion control. In addition, you can only use the Move in Hero mode, and it disables the Ninja Cinema recording.
Ninja Gaiden 3's main problem is that the gameplay is far more linear than in previous titles; there are no shops to buy new weapons, or chests to open. Everything Ryu needs is provided within the story. You move from area to area fighting mobs, going through quick-time events, and fighting boss battles. In some battles you can get overwhelmed by the number and strength of the mobs, however there are checkpoints so frequently the battle is usually reset. Save points are represented by glowing gold falcons, which restore your health and allow you to save the Ninja Cinema recording of your last battles.
While pounding through mobs of grunts can become repetitive, the fighting mechanics are set up to make the battles end as quickly as possible. Ryu has a ki gauge that, once filled, enables him to summon a dragon and devour the surrounding enemies. It serves to clear a good chunk of his foes, while restoring his health. In addition, if his sword glows red during the battle you can perform a charged attack in which he kills everyone close enough to fill the Ki gauge quickly.
As far as tools of death go, Ninja Gaiden 3 is quite limited compared to its predecessors; it has the dragon sword, a bow, and shurikens. The latter are used primarily to reveal cloaked enemies, while the bow handles long range attacks.
Visually Ninja Gaiden 3 looks on par with Ninja Gaiden 2. One notable change is the lack of evisceration. That isn't the result of censorship; it's something Team Ninja decided against in development. That said, it seems strange to take swipes at an enemy and not remove limbs. Although it's not really a complaint, given how many strikes it takes to kill a grunt, it looks a bit off if they aren't falling to bits.
The camera also zooms in if you impale someone; with so much blood spilling, the camera occasionally gets a bit of the 'red juice' on it - although it quickly fades to avoid obscuring the action.
In case you can't tell, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a little bit violent. Just a little. Apart from all the action, there are plenty of little set pieces scattered throughout levels that give nods to previous Ninja Gaiden titles, such as the dinosaur skeleton from Ninja Gaiden 1 on the Xbox. Ninja Gaiden 3's only graphical problem to speak is the lack of anti-aliasing, leaving the world looking pretty swimmy, scarring otherwise crisp graphics.
Ninja Gaiden 3's multiplayer modes include ninja trials, in which players can take on various challenges alone, or with a friend; and Clan battle, in which up to eight players ninja it out. The clan battles can be recorded for playback in Ninja Cinema mode.
As with the previous titles, Ninja Gaiden 3's battles are fast-paced and boss fights are as epic as ever. Streamlining the gameplay, however, removed a lot of the depth that came with collecting dozens of melee and ranged weapons, and upgrading them at the Muramasa store. In the end, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a step back from its predecessors.