Review by RadicalMGuy

Reviewed: 01/14/08

Back in the NES days...

It was 1987, and titles such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Contra, Castlevania and Metroid were dominating the NES market. Tecmo was looking for a way to ride the "Sales Boat" so after some thought, their development team gathered together and created the first game in the popular Ninja Gaiden trilogy. This game, based on an arcade fighter of the same name, hit the shelves on December 8th, 1988. The world was surprised and it was reviewed favorably as sales rivaled those of Contra and Castlevania. You want to know why this game was so popular? Well, read on!

STORY - 9/10

Ninja Gaiden was probably the first NES game to have a fully developed movie-styled storyline and cutscenes. The cutscenes, which played between every level, featured stunning art and animation, complete with well-written dialogue and cliffhangers. The story in this game starts with Ryu Hayabusa receiving a letter from his father that tells him he was leaving to America to have a duel with another warrior. The letter told him that if he did not return, he was to go to America and find a man named Walter Smith. Honoring his father's wishes, he goes to America where everything spins out of control! A legacy involving an ancient demon, two age-old statues, and a mysterious man named Jaquio is revealed as you cycle through the stunning cutscenes of this game. You'd be hard pressed to find a better storyline out there from a game of that time.


In this side-scrolling platform game, you control a ninja named Ryu and have to guide him through countless levels and boss battles. Pressing the 1 Button will make Ryu slash his sword, and pressing the 2 Button will make him jump. Destroying scenery will cause power-ups such as Shruiken (Ninja Stars) or Fire to appear, and grabbing them will give you the corresponding special attack. This special attack can be used by pressing Up + 1 Button simultaneously, but has limited ammunition. Jumping toward a wall in this game will make Ryu grab the wall. From that position, he can attack airborne enemies or jump to a parallel wall. Using the Wall Jump back and forth is required in some parts of the levels to scale to higher places. The thing that lacks most are the early enemies (the first few levels), which are boring and slow. In the later levels, however, the enemies become challenging and smart. In boss battles, the boss' health meter appears below your's. In boss battles, you are usually in a small room where you and the boss fight. The boss battles are very disappointing, except for the final boss, which surprised me with it's quality. The gameplay in this game is very innovative, and even though people criticize it for being to similar to Castlevania, I think that the gameplay is a lot better. Airborne control, although not as good as Super Mario Bros., feels very smooth, unlike most platformer's of the time, which had airborne control that sucked. The power-ups are creative, and very unique, adding a strategical aspect to this game. For a game of the time, it had very good gameplay factors.


The graphics in this game are probably some of the best you will find in the 80's. The in-game graphics are well put together, the color of them are nice and easy on the eyes, and each act has it's own set of graphics, unlike most NES games, where graphics remained the same through most of the game, with a color changes to make them look different. The cutscene graphics however, show the true potential of the NES, and I don't think there is any NES game with art that comes close to this game's. (Besides the rest of the Ninja Gaiden trilogy) The music is high quality, even though there is nothing very memorable. The sound effects work well and are high quality compared to many sound effects for other games.


Although this game has a high Replay Value, the levels get a little boring after a few times of going through them. The boss battles, when played again, are boring, as nothing changes from the first time you do them. Besides that though, you will find yourself playing this game again from time to time to get to the awesome final act (I love the final act).


This game is very easy near the beginning, but the end of the game is extremely hard. If you want a game that isn't unfairly hard, but is challenging due to design and skill, this game or Metroid are great choices. The game gives you infinite continues, so it isn't too hard to get to the end, even though a no death run of this game is very difficult, and I have never managed to get past the third-last boss without dying.


This game is a groundbreaking title, and is definitely worth the money. It will keep you busy for a long time, and is a good title to own.

I recommend this game to anyone, at any age, as it is definitely a good NES game. I also recommend the sequel, which I will be reviewing soon.


Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Ninja Gaiden (US, 03/31/89)

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