STORY / GAMEPLAY
Armakuni (the Last Ninja) is now over 1000 years old! All his friends have been murdered, and he twice tried to assassinate the evil Shogun Kunitoki (in Last Ninja I and II), finding himself at the end of the line. But the evil Kunitoki went back in time and seized an ancient Ninja Temple and if he's not stopped in time, this sacrilegious assault will destroy ninjas forever (including Armakuni).
The temple contains different chambers like the earth, wind, water, fire void and limbo, representing the essential spirit of almost about everything. Like every good ninja, our hero has finally come to that ultimate battle and sets up to stop the evil Shogun. Each level, that differs based on the difficulty of the foes, challenges your ninja with puzzles that must be solved in order to be completed. These puzzles generally involve finding a scroll or an item that gives the key to the next level and it may be clearly visible but never easily accessible!
Fighting against armed and unarmed foes is not an easy task like in all previous installments of the Last Ninja series, and the fighting logic (i.e. the controls) has been improved. The new controls are extremely straight forward (i.e. you push your joystick towards the direction you want).
The puzzles are not as easy as you would imagine and are of the type that seem blindingly obvious once they are solved. Of course, the isometric design is littered with fatal traps that punish sloppy joystick work.
Note that when your Bushido Power (depicted as a dragon at the bottom panel) is completely green, it will give you maximum potential, making it easier to fight. Killing a fist fighter with your sword is easy but lacks honor which is a critical factor as Busihido Power will turn red at this point! the opposite happens when fighting an armed foe with your sword, and so on.
The difficulty level swiftly escalates after the first (trainer) level, but the game is not impossible to beat!
GRAPHICS / SOUND
Lasta Ninja 3 on the Atari ST looks pretty slick (not ground-breaking though), with interesting depth effects but rather "dry" backgrounds. All screens offer up to 16 simultaneous colors and, compared to the previous Last Ninja games, it offers bigger and better animated sprites that make the game more playable. Last Ninja 3 keeps the same psudo-3D, isometric perspective while both the sprites and backgrounds are significantly better than any previous Ninja outing. Sprite detection is also improved so there's no need for this frustrating pixel perfection position in order to pick up something from the ground.
The game's sound gives further gloss to the experience, adding both to the atmosphere and gameplay, with each level including its own (nicely composed) tune(s).