E3 2011 Preview

E3 2011: Ninja Gaiden III Hands-on Preview

Ryu Hayabusa is back, and he’s as bloodthirsty as ever. In Tecmo Koei’s Ninja Gaiden 3 demo at E3 2011, Team Ninja’s slick hero shows off a few of his old tricks — and some new ones, too.

It begins with Ryu base-jumping off a massive building — without a chute, of course. In past Ninja Gaiden games, these sequences were always cut-scenes. Now, they’re playable. I controlled Ryu’s descent, setting my sights squarely on an unsuspecting gunman. When I was close enough, a button prompt popped up and I pulled off a brutal execution. Flying sword-first into the poor sap’s chest, I effectively used his torso as a landing pad. Ryu was fine. The enemy, unsurprisingly, was not.

The action that followed was, for the most part, standard Ninja Gaiden fare. One key difference was difficulty — or, more accurately, lack thereof, especially compared to the first two Ninja Gaiden games. I played it on ‘Normal’ difficulty, but it felt like ‘Easy’ from past games. I wouldn’t worry about it, though; the E3 build was probably from an early section of the game, and may have been watered down to ensure expo attendees could complete the demo.

The enemies, most of which brandished machine guns and short swords, were no match for Ryu’s cold, hard steel. Old standby attacks like the Izuna Drop and Flying Swallow returned, but Ryu had some effective new maneuvers, too. After executing a certain combo string, a button prompt would appear. Successful execution of these quick time events — to be clear, they were never more than one button press — resulted in some flashy finishing moves. The charge combo chains were also as vicious as ever, with Ryu slicing and dicing several enemies at once with ferocious dexterity.

The camera still wasn’t superb, but it was noticeably improved from earlier installments in the Ninja Gaiden franchise. This made platforming segments a fair bit more enjoyable. Ryu can now slide under objects and climb up walls — but only in certain scenarios. Meanwhile, the visuals aren’t stellar; specifically, the shading and textures still needs a lot of work. The character models look great, though, as do the animations and other effects like motion blur.

After dispatching a seemingly endless amount of enemies, I finally faced off against a boss — a giant mechanical spider. Unfortunately, this boss encounter ended prematurely; before it concluded, I had to leave for my next appointment. Nonetheless, I came away pleased with how the game is shaping up, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full experience come early 2012.