Preview: Ninja Gaiden 3

Ryu Hayabusa has plenty of kills under his belt, and Team Ninja are looking to play off of that as they look to the past in Ninja Gaiden 3, as they explore the fan-favorite character’s past and personal history. As I sat down with head of Team Ninja, Yosuke Hayashi, for a brief chat about the upcoming hack-and-slash ninja nightmare, Tecmo Koei was kind enough to allow me to play through a demo on the PlayStation 3 aided by Hayashi-san’s expert advice.

I guided Ryu through an urban jungle filled with wave after wave of agents out for blood. Amidst the high-rises, rubble, and vehicles I fought for my life using nothing but Ryu’s famous ninja moves and bloodlust. As per usual, the English voice acting left much to be desired, so I did consult Hayashi regarding optional Japanese voice track and subtitles — he did inform me that both audio choices would be available. As Ryu descended into the streets of the city he was immediately thrust into battle, which was exactly what I was waiting for.

As I had chosen to play on “normal” in order to avoid potentially embarrassing scenarios (the head of Team Ninja looking on as I played — no pressure!) I anticipated some fairly difficult brawls, as even “normal” delivers multiple deaths, at least with past experiences. However, something felt remarkably different – one of the newest features for the game, a heightened sense of brutality attached to swordplay and blades connecting with bodies, really shined. In the past as Hayashi mentioned it never really truly felt as though your sword made contact with enemies, though as I slashed my way through those poor miscreants I could tell great care was taken to ensure players could feel every subtle swing of the blade as it cut through human beings like a hot knife through butter. And it felt great.

I realized even though it only took a few presses of the attack buttons to make Ryu behave like a ninja killing machine, I felt as though I was really accomplishing something, something I rarely felt during the game’s previous installations. I was effortlessly demolishing cookie-cutter enemies left and right, charging Ryu’s special attack, and massacring tens of soldiers without even thinking. Offhand I mentioned to Hayashi the only way this could get better is if Ryu tossed in a few decapitations for some more bloody goodness. His smile told me everything as I engaged in a few quick-time events leading up to the final boss of the demo, a mechanized powerhouse slinging missiles and electrical charges at me, which I deftly maneuvered through as Ryu, ending the demo by demolishing the mechanical behemoth with a huge grin on my face.

Ninja Gaiden 3 was bloodier and smoother than ever, and as I left to exit the small private booth in which I interviewed the head of Team Ninja, I could tell there would be great things ahead for the series, especially in their eschewing Kinect support in lieu of making the game fun. And I’m all for that.

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