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ups: Tight gameplay, controls are still awesome, intuitive, Parallax Scrolling, Tough game...
downs: Might be too tough, Ryo and enemy sprites are simple, no enemy intelligence, Story is poorly translated

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That Retro Review: Ninja Gaiden III
game: Ninja Gaiden III: the Ancient Ship of Doom
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Tecmo
developer: Tecmo
date posted: 06:19 PM Fri Sep 22nd, 2006
last revision: 01:30 PM Sun Sep 24th, 2006

Click to read.Game Stats:

Released: June 21, 1991 (Japan), August 1991 (US)

System: NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). A version was also released for the Lynx, the first color handheld, from Epyx and distributed by Atari.

Created By: Team Ninja

Story- Runmal and M. Akawa
Director- Runmal
Music Composer- Miya
Music Composer- K. Nakabai
Music Composer- L. Shigeno
Sound Effect- Miya

The game in a nutshell:

So, you\'re this ninja named Ryo Hayabusa and you stumble across someone named Irene who was sent to investigate a secret facility. Or did you? you corner her on a cliff and she falls to her apparent death. Suddenly, the real Ryo appears and vows to find the person who killed Irene and framed him.

So you seek out the facility and begin fighting a bunch of pasty rejects from the movie Aliens and ninjas who don\'t turn around to attack you and some odd-looking floating things that you don\'t want to touch with a ten-foot-pole. That\'s cool though, Ryo can find ninja magic and sword extensions (even then, people were falling for the old \"extend your sword\" spam-mail).

Eventually, you fight your way through a boss that looks like a lobster, and meet Clancy. Clancy tells you to go look for the \"Castle Rock Fortress\" a bunch of ruins where your \"enemy\" has set traps for you. I really can\'t follow the story, so here\'s the skinny straight from Wikipedia.com, \"When Ryu defeated the Demon in Ninja Gaiden, the creature\'s destruction created an open seam between dimensions that was leaking a continuous supply of this energy, which Foster was harvesting as an energy source, after building Castle Rock Fortress on the ruins of the temple Jaquio used as his stronghold. Foster was infusing the Life Energy into humans, creating super-beings called BIO-NOIDs.\" Sure. So you find this BIO-NIOD who is your doppleganger and likely killed Irene. You fight, win, and strew his remains in the pile of slaughtered foes. Now on to the big daddy, Foster. Foster\'s the bad guy: you have to stop the bad guy.

Back to Wikipedia: \"Foster instead states his intentions of having Ryu studied, to unlock the secrets of his Dragon Clan power. Ryu\'s clone enters, and just before the battle can begin, a woman enters and attacks Foster and the double with a sub-machine gun. The woman turns out to be, suprisingly, Irene Lew.\"

You find Irene who had apparently faked her own death and, convenient for you, already discovered Foster\'s plan. Clancy reveals that he used Ryo to get the ruins back and, furthermore, jumps into the life seam. He mutates a bit and then turns on our heroes. Eventually, Ryo is successful at killing Clancy and then, in the obligatory moral, Ryo and Irene remark how freaking lame it is that someone could want to be so evil all the way up until their death. Indeed it is lame, but he was a bastard, so he had to die.

What\'s the big deal?

Ninja Gaiden III was one of the few games on the NES that featured Parallax Scrolling. This is a technique that allows layers of backgrounds to scroll at slower paces, giving depth to the background. It was most effective - calling to mind an old favorite - in Shinobi III on the SEGA Genesis, a similar game to Ninja Gaiden (both featured ninja main characters), but obviously with different story lines. Parallax Scrolling gave a more immersive feel to the game, like you were actually moving through the world and not a sprite moving across a stagnant picture. The effect was rather cool, and duplicated in many SNES and Genesis games until these consoles were supplanted by the next generation.

Ninja Gaiden III was one of my favorites (sparing the story) because of the sword extensions and the more fluid movement in controling Ryo. The game was difficult, very, very freaking difficult. And just for the record, I HATE the BIO-NOID. While the final boss of the game was mostly a push-over, it is the challenging level design that makes Ninja Gaiden so good.

Ninja Gaiden III, like it\'s predecessors, featured the ability to wall-jump, a cool gameplay mechanic that allowed Ryo to reach higher platforms that would otherwise be out of reach. The ninja magic also gave the ability to fire upwards, downwards, or create a shield of fire for a limited time. Mainly, the game just fits together so well technically, that, after playing it again, it\'s easy to see why the series has such a following.

Though it\'s difficult to follow, the story in Ninja Gaiden III: the Ancient Ship of Doom actually takes place prior to the events of Ninja Gaiden II. At the end of II the Dragon Sword had actually vanished but in Ninja Gaiden III Ryo has it. Neat little bit of trivia.

How has it aged?

Well, aside from the fact that the game is from the NES years (that\'s 11 years ago), it\'s actually pretty nice. Playing it again, I was taken aback by the progress games have made over the years. The difference between this game and, say, Earthworm Jim from the SNES days is just astronomical, not to mention if we compare it to things like the contemporary Viewtiful Joe.

Still, the gameplay is old school greatness. Jump, slash, and ninja magic: that\'s pretty much it. But the game is still very difficult, not as difficult as Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, but pretty damn close. There\'s even a level that you cannot beat with the time limit given; you actually are forced to die before you finish the level. Now that\'s hardcore.

The story, as I mentioned, is just horrible. Here\'s a part of the write-up from the endgame:

Ryo: \"?!\"

Irene: \"!!\"

Ryo: \"This is the end of Clancy and Foster and their sinister plans.\"

Irene: \"I\'ll never understand why people make and pursue evil plans until they\'re dead.\"

Ryo: \"Humans are always striving to achieve. All of creatures living on earth, in all worlds, can never be just a part of someone\'s plans. Fortunately, mankind is never foolish enough to wipe itself out to achieve some ambition.\"

Irene: \"Being with you again like this, makes me want to thank all the living beings in this world.\"

Okay, I\'ll stop there. When she said she wanted to thank all the living beings in the world I think I had a small heart attack. This is coupled with incorrect grammar \"All of creatures living...\" and comma splices like \"being with you again like this, makes me...\" If anyone EVER complains about the writing in Max Payne or Oblivion, play this game (or better yet, Zero Wing) and be thankful for the progress games have made.

Where can I get it?

Lesse, MobyGames has it for sale on both the NES and Lynx.

You can find it on Ebay.

Or if you\'re lucky, you might be able to find a rom floating around on the net, though it\'s probably better to go the high road and actually buy the game.

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