I’ve seen the teaser trailer and the first handful of screens, neither of which say much of anything. I’m hoping to get a meatier glimpse of the game in the coming days as E3 gets into full swing, but in the interim, I’ve been thinking about the possibilities of the now Itakagi-less Ninja Gaiden series. What do I want to see in the third game? What do I hope never happens? Some of my ruminations are probably obvious, but I’d say the series is at a sort of crossroads at this point. Team Ninja is under new direction and has an opportunity to do something different. At the same time, they’re dealing with a franchise that is probably the greatest pure action game to ever grace consoles. So, with that in mind, here’s my two cents:
- Unchanged difficulty
I don’t know how much of the difficulty in the Ninja Gaiden series thus far is due to Itagaki, so I might not have too much to worry about here. All I ask is that normal difficulty be roughly the same as it was in the previous two games. That’s not too much to ask, is it? There’s an easy difficulty for a reason. I’ll be the first to admit I get my ass handed to me repeatedly on higher difficulties, but as Rocky Balboa put it so succinctly, ” But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” Fuckin’ A, Rocko. Although, in an interview with IGN, Yosuke Hayashi, the game’s director, had this to say about the difficulty:
“We are trying to design the game so that anyone can take it on and experience the action. You can expect it to be less demanding than Ninja Gaiden II, it won’t be as hard as that. It might taste a bit different, but it will still stay Ninja Gaiden, and we don’t think the difficulty is a big issue.”
Christ, that doesn’t sound good. I don’t see why they have to dick around with the difficulty. Like I said, there is an easy mode. If you don’t want to play your games on easy, then either practice and get better, or simply play something else.
- Strength in lack of numbers
Ninja Gaiden doesn’t really throw a whole lot of enemies at you at once. In fact, a lone enemy could kick the living shit out of you if you give him half a chance. The enemy AI is brutal yet fair, and skill is rewarded. That’s one of the big reasons I love the first two games. Contrast those enemies with the ones in, say, Devil May Cry (or the last Prince of Persia, for that matter), and the difference is readily apparent. Don’t change that. Don’t remove the brains that fuel the brawn. It’s very easy to just throw a bunch of cannon fodder at you in the hopes that their sheer numbers will deal out enough damage to make encounters “challenging.” Team Ninja hasn’t settled for that philosophy so far, and I don’t expect them to do so in the future.
- More human enemies
I might be in the minority here, but I never really cared for the larger, more monstrous enemies. I much preferred combat when it was against enemies with a similar skill set to Ryu’s. The blocking, parrying, and general acrobatics that came from those encounters were always the most satisfying to me. So I say get rid of the enemies that only require you to beat on them mercilessly until they drop. Fuck them; I want to fight against more opponents like Murai, or the evil twin-whatever Ryu from Mission Mode.
- A real story
Let’s face it, the story so far is, well…I couldn’t explain it to you. I just don’t care. Team Ninja seems to have taken themselves seriously, but the fruits of their labors aren’t very flattering. If they’re either incapable or unwilling to make a more convincing narrative, then just drop it all together. Just give me the bare bones necessities in order for me to know where I am and what I’m doing. Believe me, I’d much prefer them churning out a decent yarn, but I just doubt their abilities. Sorry. I guess I would rather they give up the pretense of having cool lore as opposed to everyone pretending it’s up to snuff.
- Quicktime events/button mashing
In the same IGN interview, Hayashi said,
“In Ninja Gaiden III, you’re going to experience something new regarding the feeling of cutting people. This is going to be new because you’ll actually feel how it is to cut through someone; you’ll feel the bones breaking. We’re going to focus on the feeling of cutting someone more than dismembering them.”
Interesting. But what the hell does that mean? Some clarification was needed, and he obliged. Sort of.
“Yes, you’ll have to press buttons, things like that, to have your katana go through the bodies. There will be force-feedback also to reinforce the idea. There will be work to cutting somebody. The intention for this title is to focus on the feeling of cutting someone instead of just going through entire armies of bad guys.”
Right. So…does that mean QTEs? If so, that’s a huge, huge disappointment. One of the laziest design choices anyone could make is to just toss in a button matching mini-game. I’d like to think we’ve evolved past Dragon’s Lair.
- Buying multiple versions
I’m guilty of purchasing every version of Ninja Gaiden since the first Xbox game, but in each case I felt it was warranted. Still, to continue that path for every single release would just make it seem like Tecmo was milking it. Don’t come back to me in 6 months or a year and try to get me to buy another full-priced game when that crap could have a)already been on the disc, or b)been offered as DLC. I don’t regret my past buys, but I think I’ve reached a point where I’ll only buy a game once for full price.
I really don’t know what to expect from Ninja Gaiden III. After looking over my little list there, I think it just boils down to not fixing what isn’t broken. As long as obviously stupid design choices aren’t made, I see myself thoroughly enjoying myself yet again. Team Ninja has a few games without Itagaki’s supervision under their collective belt, so this should be interesting. I’ve also yet to conquer Master Ninja, but maybe the third time’s the charm. Maybe.
What are you looking forward to with the game? Any apprehensions? I’d love to hear some thoughts from all you fellow blood-letters out there.