RELEASED: December 1988
AVAILABLE ON: NES, PC Engine, Wii Virtual Console
PUBLISHER(S): Tecmo, Hudson Soft (PC Engine)
In early 1988 Tecmo, previously most known for the arcade classics Bomb Jack and Rygar, published an arcade beat 'em up called Ninja Gaiden. In less than a year, Tecmo made an 8-bit "version" of the game, which actually shared only its name and promotional art with the arcade game. Ninja Gaiden for the Nintendo Entertainment System was lauded for being perhaps the most cinematically enthralling video game of that time. Ninja Gaiden is often considered an overlooked 80's gem, which was way ahead of its time from nearly every possible angle, as well as one of the most difficult games to ever break out of the Japanese market. It is indeed a classic - a game that just won't die. But you will. Countless times.
Don't stop 'til you die dead enough
|"I will... but first..." "WHAT THE...?" BLAM! |
OK, so when I was a kid, I knew this game by the very boring name of Shadow Warriors, which it was given in Europe due to the word "ninja" being somewhat taboo, and foreign, as in non-familiar; in case you didn't know, even the TMNT were known as the Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles around these parts, at that time. Even the box art was different than that of the other versions, it featured Ryu without his ninja mask although he wore it in the game. No matter what the game was called or what it looked like from the outside, it ruled. It was one of my favourite rentals, and one of my favourite games on the NES - I just never got around to buying it, probably 'cause my bro hated it for some reason. Probably for being too difficult.
|Please let me land on the platform this time.|
|You're lookin' kinda pale, Walter.|
|The time has come to seek out Yoda for guidance.|
I have brought up Castlevania a few times for an actual reason, that being Ninja Gaiden's strange familiarity. It's reminiscent of Castlevania in numerous ways, but it has its own thing, too, besides the outspoken cutscenes - this thing can't really be compared to anything that came before. First off, Ryu was one of the coolest playable characters to emerge in those times - he felt more like a living person than most protagonists due to many factors, those being his relatively realistic movement and the dramatic events that carry the character-driven story forward. The fact that Ninja Gaiden is a story- and character-driven 8-bit platformer made as early as 1988 already separates it from every other game.
Besides his blade, Ryu can use a variety of secondary ninja weapons such as different types of shurikens and a flame bomb, or something like that. These weapons are usually used by pressing Up + B, just like in Castlevania, but one of the weapons directly powers up Ryu's somersaults, which means he can destroy or damage anything he jumps at as long as he has "Ninja Power" left. Since this is an 8-bit platformer above everything else, there's also an invincibility item that guarantees Ryu safe, destructive passage for a time.
|It's Jason Voorhees' video game debut.|
If you don't see it before, I'm betting you will see it once Act 2 begins; more wall-related fun, that is. The enemies in the game have a ridiculous respawning rate. Move away from an enemy you just killed by half a pixel, just to dodge his still live projectile attack, for example - or get hit, which leads to the aforementioned jump backwards - and there he is again. In Act 2, there's some sort of a hooded figure who throws shit at you, waiting on the other side of the chasm. There are walls beneath to supposedly save you from death - it's just that if you happen to cling on to the wall beneath that dude, there's no chance in hell for you to get back up, and back on track. The only real benefit that "save" has in store for you is the chance to study everything going on above, then intentionally jump to your death and try again, (none the) wiser. Seriously, surviving a lot of individual stipulations in Ninja Gaiden is up to luck, as well as the right kind of power-ups. There are instances you simply won't survive without invincibility, for example.
|The humping monkeys from Castlevania have |
gotten big. And much easier to off.
I'm yet to have beaten this game, but I will surely keep trying - just because Ninja Gaiden is so damn cool and exciting, a timeless action game. Playing it in 2012 beats the living shit out of playing many more recent games, even popular ones. You can't honestly say that about many games of the time.
+ A rare, elaborate story
+ Great graphics and unparalleled 8-bit cinematics
+ The soundtrack shifts between good and ultra-awesome
+ Core gameplay which is influenced by many, but has influenced many in its own right
+ Fast tempo
+ The game's extremely challenging, but also extremely compensating
+ The game is of what I would call perfect length, for a difficult 8-bit game without a password or save feature
- Like I said, no password or save feature
- The wall clinging mechanics are far from perfect
- Even though the game compensates for most of its high difficulty, trial and error is never fun - not even in small doses
- (Most of) the bosses are way too easy opposed to the rest of the game
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