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Ninja Gaiden Episode III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
North American boxart, NES version
Developer Tecmo
Publisher Tecmo
Platform NES, Atari Lynx, Virtual Console
Release date JP June 21, 1991
NA August 1991
Genre Action platform game
Mode Single player
Media Cartridge
For the modern title, see Ninja Gaiden 3.

Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, known in Japan as Ninja Ryūkenden III: Yomi no Hakobune, is the third installment of the trilogy for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was later ported to the Atari Lynx. Unlike the previous installments, this game was never released in Europe. It was released on the Virtual Console on Feb 18, 2008.

While not clearly established, the game takes place between the events of the original Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos. This was done in order to maintain continuity; as the development team figured it was too difficult to continue the story after Ninja Gaiden II, so they opted to set the plot sometime before the events of the events of the second game, and revolved around the first game's secondary antagonist, Foster.[1][2]


Ninja Gaiden chronology
Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Ninja Gaiden (Black/Σ/Σ+)
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
Ninja Gaiden II (Σ2/Σ2+)
Ninja Gaiden 3 (Razor's Edge)
Ninja Gaiden X
Ninja Gaiden Episode I
Ninja Gaiden Episode III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
Ninja Gaiden Episode II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Ninja Ryukenden
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

The plot explores the exploits of Ryu Hayabusa, who is thrust into a web of danger and intrigue, and must now clear his name after being framed for the murder of his girlfriend and CIA Agent, Irene Lew.

As Ryu makes his way to the last known location of Irene, a laboratory at N3-SH. There he discovers the entire facility infested with hideous bio-noids, but finds a dubious ally in Clancy, who instructs Ryu to investigate the Castle Rock Fortress. And after forging through jungle and cavern, Ryu meets a former acquaintance in Foster—director of the CIA. Confronted on the matter of Irene, Foster denies his involvement in her murder before leaving Ryu face-to-face with a doppelgänger clone. Provoked into a fight, Ryu is bested by the bio-noid copy, but discovers that this bio-noid murdered Irene when she uncovered Foster's operation. The bio-noid spares Ryu's life, as per orders from Foster, but Ryu presses on, despite this setback.

Along the way, he encounters Clancy and would finally have all of his questions answered. Apparently, Clancy and Foster were involved an experimentations as part of the "Biohazard Plan", using the energies from a trans-dimensional rift found within the ruins of Castle Rock Fortress, created when Ryu slew The Demon. Using these energies, Foster created superhuman bio-noids, including Ryu's doppelgänger.

Eventually arrives at his ultimate destination: the ruins of Castle Rock Fortress. After infiltrating the ruins, Ryu is then forced into a second altercation with his bio-noid clone just as Irene resurfaces. She had managed to survive her near-death encounter and rendezvoused with US military forces to stage a strike on Foster's stronghold. With this turn of events, Ryu contends with his bio-noid clone (this time in a transformed state) and destroys it. However, during the confusion, Clancy steps in to assume control of the ruins, much to the Foster's surprise. Clancy retreats through the trans-dimensional rift, as Foster is eviscerated in the wake of his trans-dimensional shift. Ryu follows in pursuit, leaving Irene behind despite her insistence to follow.

Within the trans-dimensional ruins, Ryu is welcomed by his doppelgänger, now trans-mutated from the brink of death into a super-being by the life energies inside the ruins. After a brief conversation, Ryu is warped to the ruins' lower levels where he contends with hordes of monstrous creatures. Coming face to face with Clancy once again, Ryu is enlightened to the true nature of the ruin, which are in fact a super-dimensional warship. Using its enormous power, Clancy intends to reshape the world and establish a new world order, starting with the genocide of humanity. Ryu enters one final confrontation with Clancy, now transformed into a superhuman monster. With each new transformation, Ryu emerges victorious and with Clancy's demise, the warship is disabled and crashes to its destruction. Safely warped back to normal dimensional space, Ryu reunites with Irene, as they meet a new day.

The Four Great Beasts[]

See also: List of Ninja Gaiden characters

These Four were created by Clancy and Foster, and are used to keep Ryu from entering Castle Rock Fortress. They are believed to have been created through the use of technology, combining living things with Life Energy, along with some Ninjutsu.

Mantis Warrior The beast commander of fire. In reality, he is a robot equipped with arm sabers and a hidden flamethrower. The fire that is released from its chest crawls along the ground and burns Ryu. Despite having sabers equipped on both arms, he has low maneuverability and lacks close combat skills, thereby making him the lowest rank of the beast commanders.

Night Diver The beast commander of the sky. Being an android equipped with a jet propulsion pack, he is able to fly freely through the sky. He attacks Ryu by showering him with glowing fireballs. He is third rank of the beast commanders.

The Great Kogane This BIO-NOID is a result of combining a lizard with life energy. He is the beast commander of water, as well as the second rank of the great beasts. Being skilled in Ninjitsu, he can split his body and uses "The Art of the Shuriken" to plague Ryu.

The Sandeater Being the beast commander of earth, he is considered the top rank of all four beast commanders. He is able to dig and move freely through the earth. As another beast commander skilled in Ninjitsu, he is able to attack Ryu using "The Art of the Fire Wheel".

The BIO NOID Project[]

See also: List of Ninja Gaiden characters


He is a BIO-NOID created with an exact likeness of Ryu, as well as similarities in abilities. He is responsible for framing Ryu, and the disappearance of Irene. He appears to be superior, as he simply harms Ryu upon first encounter. However he is no match for Ryu, for only he has the Dragon Sword.

A. Foster

A devious man who was once apart of CIA who organized the "Biohazard Plan", alongside with Clancy. He is responsible for the creations of the BIO NOIDS along with the framing of Ryu.

H.P. Clancy

A man who is introduced at the end of Act 1 when defeating the Mantis warrior. He tells Ryu to go to Castle Rock Fortress to stop Fosters plan to rule the world with the "Life Energy". But soon after he betrays Ryu and goes off to take the Life Energy for his own. Ryu catches up with the new, more powerful Clancy. Clancy offers Ryu to join him in world conquest, but Ryu refuses and battles Clancy. In the end, Clancy is no match for the young Hayabusa.


Japanese box art Ninja Ryukenden III

The game featured the same gameplay mechanics as the first two games, but with noticeable changes and additions...

  • Ryu's falling speed has been reduced, and upon taking damage, he is knocked back far less than in the previous games.
  • Ryu's jumping mechanics have altered. He jumps over a wider arc but is more difficult to control in midair.
  • Powerups can now be seen inside the spherical containers, instead of being hidden until the containers were broken.
  • The Vacuum Wave Art and Dragon Sword extensions were added. The Vacuum wave sends vertical blasts above and below Ryu. The Sword Extension increases the range of Ryu's attack for the duration of the level or until death.
  • Ryu can now grab onto horizontal surfaces, such as pipes, vines, and the bottoms of some platforms, and climb across.
  • The Ninja clone-powerup was removed.
  • The player is now able to climb to the top of a structure by scaling the side, then pressing the Directional pad in the direction of the top of the structure and pressing A. Previously, the player had to jump off of the side of a structure and reverse direction in mid-air to land successfully on top.
  • Ryu's sprite has been updated to include a scarf which flaps in the breeze. He also shouts "HA!" each time he swings the Dragon Sword.
  • Notably, the game difficulty was increased for the American release, by limiting the number of continues, increasing the damage done by enemies, adding more enemies, and removing a password feature present in the Japanese version.


Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom was designed by Masato Kato, who took over Hideo Yoshizawa's main role in the game's development from the previous two titles.[3] In an interview with Kato, he said that Ninja Gaiden III needed "to go into a new direction". The game was given more of a science-fiction motif as opposed to the Cthulhu Mythos motif in the previous two titles; the enemies changed to look more robotic than in the previous games. The original intent from the developers was to make the game easier than the previous titles, "to create a game a normal player can enjoy". However, Tecmo released the game for the NES with a much higher difficulty level than the Japanese version by doubling the amount of damage the player took from 1 health bar per hit to 2 health bars per hit. They also decided to place the events of Ninja Gaiden III between the events of the first two titles in order to maintain continuity; they figured that it was too difficult to continue the story after Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, so they developed the plot sometime before the events of Ninja Gaiden II that revolved around the game's main antagonist, Foster.




  1. Derboo. Interview with Masato Kato. Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 2010-09-18. Retrieved on 2010-05-30.
  2. Instruction Manual (NES), p. 6. "After Ryu's victorious duel with Jaquio, Ashtar returned to the bowels of darkness and bided His time. But another evil creature was already on its way as another adventure awaits the unsuspecting Ryu Hayabusa..."
  3. McLaughlin, Rus (January 28, 2008). IGN Presents The History of Ninja Gaiden.

External links[]

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