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Title: Ninja Gaiden 3
Rom Player: Rock NES
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: In this, the last game of the Ninja Gaiden trilogy, our heroic ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, had just finished laying the smackdown on Ashtar, then on Jaquio again, and then on the freaky demon from the first game. Now, after an undetermined amount of time, bad stuff is happening again. This time, Ryu gets some unsettling news: Irene Lew, his main squeeze, has been murdered while on an assignment. Not only that, but it seems that HE is the one who killed her. Being at least 80% sure that he didnít, he does a little research of his own and finds out that she was investigating a lab of some sort. He heads for said lab, and thatís where you come in.

The plots in the previous installments of the trilogy have been a driving force and a fine motivator to play the game. Ninja Gaiden 3, however, has finally caught a bad case of sequel-iosis that the series had successfully avoided up until now. The plot for the game is along the same lines as the first two, but the problem is that there are numerous plot holes and continuity errors peppering the story. One of the most prominent of such gaps is the fact that the Drgaon Sword, Ryuís nifty sword, vanished at the end of the second one, yet now it returns without even a hint of explanation. Second to that, but equally noteworthy, is the fact that the first two games would mention the place youíll be heading for and then put you there for the next level. Here, though, you are placed in levels that donít look familiar and are not the places you are trying to get to.

Inconsistencies aside, the game still maintains a high degree of action, at the cost of the plot, in this case. Yet again, our hero has been blessed with some brand new shite to help him conquer monsters and avoid falling into those same pits from the first two games. Originally, he started with no special weapons, then he started with the wimpy shuriken, and now he starts with the almighty windmill throwing-star! Now, not really an improvement, but something new nevertheless, you can grab onto the bottoms of overhanging pipes, vines, and the like. Plus, you could climb up walls easily in the second one, but youíd have to do some strange jumping maneuvers to make it over the top off the edge. Now, all you have to do is climb to the very top, and you can easily vault over the edge. Along those same lines, Ryu has also found a way to add a bit more loft to all of his jumps. All these are well and good, but perhaps the most useful thing that Ryu has learned since the first one is the ability to limit the distance that he flies back when an enemy hits him, thus greatly reducing the amount of deaths caused by relatively harmless enemies knocking you into pits. Take that, winged death birds!

Ahem, moving on, your powerups have also been boosted once more. All the powerups are still contained in the floating red orbs from the second game, only now the orbs flash from their normal solid red color to reveal what they hold inside so that you can decide whether or not to risk your neck to get it. As an added bonus, there are no more worthless bonus bags to take up valuable item spaces. In terms of weapons, theyíve completely phased out the shuriken, and I say good riddance. The windmill throwing-star does all of its work and more, thanks to its ever-present boomerang qualities. Next, there are the Art of Fire Wheel and Fire Dragon Ball special weapons. Now, these babies toss out three projectiles for the price of just one. The downside is that only one of the projectiles can hit a boss. Also carried over is the Invincible Fire Wheel. It has remained untouched, except for the fact that it now simply appears on you, rather than flying up to you from the bottom of the screen. Ryu has also obtained a new special weapon call the Vacuum Wave Art. This sends two white waves shooting straight up and straight down from your person, which makes climbing walls much less dangerous.

In terms of items, you have all the ones from the second game. The blue and red ninja energy boosters still add their respective amounts, five points for blue ones and a total refill for red ones, scrolls still add ten points to your maximum amount of ninja power, the ultra-rare recovery medicine adds six points of health back onto your life bar, and a 1-up is still a 1-up. The one thing that hasnít been kept from the second installment is the powerup that granted you those orange body double guys. Instead of them, you have an infinitely more valuable powerup, one that should have been introduced much sooner because of its usefulness. This terrific item is call the Dragon Spirit Sword. When you get it, it causes you to swing your sword just like the title character from Strider; instead of the normally thin area covered by your sword, you can now cover roughly all of what is directly in front of you, making it much easier to hit even the smallest foes. It only appears once per level, and it only lasts until you either die or beat the level, but let me make it clear that you should do whatever it takes to get this baby, as it will make you life much, much easier.

Speaking of carried over things, the enemies are back with the same patterns from the first two, The only difference is that there are now a few new, but not necessarily innovative, patterns, such as flying enemies that move slowly in a straight line, but pick up speed when you step in their paths, jumping fish, and some flying that bob up and down in the air at heights based on where you are in regards to their location, meaning that if you move high or low enough, they simply fly right off the screen. Also, on a relieving note, the flying death birds are back only in spirit, as they have been replaced with things that have the same pattern, only they are much larger and easier to hit, especially with the Dragon Spirit Sword powerup. There arenít any more of those really tiny old boss characters like they had in the second one, which is kind of disappointing. What you do have in terms of regular bosses is just disappointing. Most of them have set patterns, unaltered by anything that you do. I guess the semi-intelligent bosses from the second one just left me spoiled.

The music remains constant in its excellence, with action-packed tunes for the levels, and mood-setting songs for the cut scenes. Plus, you get the old dying music, and the old boss theme from the first two. The sound effect havenít gone through any sort of change, except that now, instead of a sword-swinging noise when you swing your sword, you get to hear Ryu yell ďHa!Ē and when you use a special weapon, he makes some sort of grunting noise. Still, sound in general is decent.

Ultimately, though, the storywriters ran out of juice when it came to making this game. Instead, they opted to make it just like an action movie so that itís entertaining as long as you remember to turn off your brain. Still, it is fun to play. I just wish they hadnít screwed up the plot.

Best Cheats: None

Game Play: 9
Graphics: 9
Music/Sound: 10
Originality: 8
Overall Rating: 9

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