The Ninja Gaiden series is quite a classic, yet you really don’t see that here. Released right before the birth of the SNES, Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom seems like it was rushed. I was, and still am, severely disappointed.
Plot: 2 out of 10
It starts out well enough. We have “Ryu Hayabusa” Killing Irene and the real Ryu determined to avenge her and clear his own name. This could have been the Fugitive of gaming. Instead, we have a story full of contradictions and and uber-convenient twists. For instance, we at one point see someone die walking through an energy field and Ryu concluding that you need a power to survive in it, leaving us to assume that Ryu has it because he survives.Graphics: 6 out of 10
The quasi-3D backgrounds from the prequels are gone. Additionally, the cutscenes have far worse graphics. What’s left isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either.
Sound: 3 out of 10
Music is very ordinary. There’s nothing memorable about it. It’s not actually bad. It’s not good either. It’s just playing on your TV.
When Ryu strikes with his sword, he makes a very annoying “hyah” sound. This becomes nerve-wrenching through the course of the game.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
If there’s one thing that didn’t take a hit, this is it. Ryu handles as well as ever. A new weapon (blades the shoot straight up and down) is in this this game and is very useful. So is a new ability to cling underneath platforms. It’s also nice that floating orbs now show the items inside. It’s too bad the Shadow Doubles are gone. That was a great thing about the second game.Challenge: 3 out of 10
This game is hard. Too hard. Actually, if you don’t count the fact that you lose energy at double the rate you would in the prequels, it’s not that hard. But a negative handicap is not so easy to overcome. Especially since you’re not knocked a good distance back. Instead, you’re knocked just a step or two back. Ergo, when facing multiple enemies, you can get hit quite a bit, quite fast, for, again, an exceptional damage rate.
Plus, you have limited continues in this game. Real smart, Tecmo. In Ninja Gaiden II, the easiest of these games, that would’ve made since. But you picked the hardest one by far. This, combined with the absurd level of difficulty, means you’ll be starting over a lot.
What’s even more frustrating is that in the Japanese version, you don’t take extra damage per hit, don’t have limited continues, and are even afforded passwords. I’m aware of communication barriers between video game companies Japanese and American divisions back in those days, but it rarely went this far.
Overall: 4 out of 10
It’s not worth a tone akin to the Angry Video Game Nerd or Irate Gamer. It’s also not worth the average rating I’ve seen some more generous reviewers give it. It’s not worth playing. A few months later, a little-known game called Ninja Gaiden Shadow was released for the Game Boy. It didn’t make much impact, but the series died and came back to life on the XBox over a decade later. That’s good, for this would’ve been a horrible way to go out.