Ninja Gaiden on the NES has become legendary for two reasons. Firstly, because it is one of the best games in the NES library. The second is the difficulty, the game is legendary for being very hard to complete. This beast was released by Tecmo in 1989 and has taken the world by storm.I had read and heard about the difficulty of this game and I decided to give the game a try.
To be honest, I love Ninja’s. They are one of the coolest things ever and the mythology that follows them is equally as impressive. I also enjoy a good challenge, so how could I lose? I picked this game up at a local store, popped it in my NES and fell in love immediately.
When I started the game, I was shown a cutscene laying out the games plot. Another reason why this game was huge is because of the cutscenes it employed. There are several throughout and they are rich in detail and, in some cases, action packed. The story overall is very good with a few twists and turns throughout. It follows Ryu Hayabusa as he travels to America. Here he meets an archeologist named Dr. Smith. Dr. Smith reveals that a cult is trying to unite two statues, and if united, a demon will destroy the world. Yeah, its rather cheesy but I found that I became invested in the characters and really wanted to see what would happen next, and trust me, its awesome!
Now we move into the gameplay itself. First of, you will notice that the control is very responsive. It is very easy to perform difficult jumps. But this game isn’t your typical side scroller, its very action packed and has several differant weapons that you can use. It also has an ability to jump back and forth between walls. You might think that this would be difficult but Ryu sticks to the walls just waiting for you to jump somewhere else. You will need to master his wall stick technique if you want to get past some of the later level’s challenges. Another thing to note is that the game moves very quickly and requires sharp reflexes. You honestly feel like a ninja while playing this game, and it feels sooo good.
This game does something different with items and power ups as well. Instead of being in crates or just sitting there, you have to destroy things that are specific to each level. For example, in New York, you need to destroy lights to reveal items. Another example of this are birds in the Wilderness level. It always changes and sometimes these specific things blend into the background which can be annoying as it will seem like you aren’t getting power ups only to realize that you have been passing them by this whole time. Also, the special weapons are activated by pressing up and B. I guess it works but its annoying to try and figure it out when you don’t own a game manual.
On the subject of annoying, we must talk about the enemies. There are many different ones such as soldiers with guns, street thugs, other ninjas and even robots. All of these can be killed with the sword or a basic item. With your typical enemy they are killed with a single hit…and when i say killed, its more like they explode, which is cool. Now, they may be easy to kill but they are relentless in their attack. You will find yourself getting beat on by small time enemies often. They also respawn very quickly unless you don’t move the screen all the way to their respawn point. It sounds strange but that’s the way the game works. But that isn’t the worst of your problems, as you have a lot of health and they all die in 1 hit. No, the worst of your problems is the fact that you get knocked back every time an enemy hits you. That is where you will die the most, because you will jump over a gap only to get knocked over the edge by an enemy that you cannot see. Once you manage to make it through a level, you get to fight a boss. To be honest, the bosses really aren’t that tricky. Its all about memorizing patterns. And the game is fairly forgiving in the continues….until the last level.
The final level is where the game becomes the hardest. You have finally fought your way to the boss only to get slapped in the face. When you die on the bosses you are transported to the beginning of the level. Yep all the way back to 6-1…and the bosses are on 6-4. So you have to be absolutely perfect to complete it. Its a stupid design decision that makes the game extremely frustrating. Thankfully, after surviving the game you are treated to a good ending.
Another thing that isn’t frustrating, is the graphics themselves. They are pretty dang good, they aren’t as good as Astyanax but it doesn’t have the constant screen flicker either. I’d rather have worse graphics and a stable experience than a game with good graphics that freaks out to the point of giving you a seizure any day. It is also nice that the game has lots of detail in the backgrounds, sure some of it is kind of bad but it is a limitation of the NES in general. I like having all the detail as the eye never gets bored. And the cutscenes look phenomenal, and feature some neat animations.
Overall, this game is very smooth playing but is difficult. However, it isn’t so difficult as to keep you from playing it. On the contrary, this game is hard but it plays so well that you want to keep coming back for more punishment. I personally loved this game, however, I give this warning. If you are just starting to get into retro gaming, do not start with Ninja Gaiden, grow some skills and then give it a shot as its a lot of fun.
9/10 – would be a 10 if it wasn’t so freaking difficult!!