Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 06/18/08

Castlevania with ninjas

Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure to play the remake of Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox, but I have heard nothing except for good things about the title. With the recent release of Ninja Gaiden II, I just had to look back on the game that started this now legendary series, and even though it borrows some elements from the widely popular Castlevania games, Ninja Gaiden introduces an original gameplay mechanic that helps it stand out.

But first, how is this game so much like Castlevania? Well, when you play it, the information at the top of the screen that tells you stuff like how many points you have and what weapons you’ve picked up is practically identical to the one found in Castlevania.

Another similarity between this game and Castlevania is the ability to pick up sub-weapons. These sub-weapons include throwing stars and flame wheels, so they are a little more imaginative than those found in Castlevania. These weapons give the game some extra legs in order to keep the gameplay a little more interesting than most platforming games released during those days that blatantly tried to rip-off Mario.

An interesting mechanic in Ninja Gaiden is the ability to hang onto walls and then jump from them. While this may sound relatively simple nowadays, back then it was a pretty cool feature. It definitely helped define the “ninja” aspect of the title.

What may turn off many gamers is that Ninja Gaiden is one of the most difficult games of all time. The enemies spawn like crazy and your platforming skills have to be practically flawless in order to traverse some of the levels found in this game. While the game doesn’t utilize a save system, it does have unlimited continues and checkpoints, so that does make the difficulty seem more bearable.

Surprisingly, Ninja Gaiden actually has some form of cut-scenes. While the story may seem like something from a poorly made Japanese action flick, it is still more entertaining and thought-out than the stories found in most games of the third generation so you have to give it credit for that. Basically, Ryu Hayabusa is a ninja whose father went off on a duel and never returned. A letter Ryu received from his father before he went on the duel stated that should he not return, Ryu was supposed to head for America and seek a man named Walter Smith. So, Ryu does, and then the story of Ninja Gaiden truly begins. I doubt you’ll find it very memorable, but it does provide some entertainment and can definitely make the game more interesting for you.

Ninja Gaiden is beautiful for a NES game. The environments feel varied as do the enemies. The bosses are interesting and the attack animations are spot-on perfect. I do have to complain about the constant spawning though because it sometimes just gets ridiculous and the game does glitch every once in a while and may cost you some cheap deaths, which, trust me, you cannot afford to have in this game. On a brighter note, there was a surprising amount of detail put into Ryu, as opposed to the walking hunk of polygons that was Simon Belmont in Castlevania.

I doubt if you’ll find the music in Ninja Gaiden very memorable. It is somewhat disappointing that a game released during the third generation doesn’t have a very memorable soundtrack like most of the games did, but that’s just something we have to deal with I guess. The sound effects are pretty nicely done, but there were some mess ups every once in a while that may be annoying to someone who pays a lot of attention to the tiny little details.

Ninja Gaiden will not be an easy game to complete. You can’t just pick it up and master it, oh no. You will have to put some serious time and effort into this title if you truly want to reap the rewards from it. Some people may not find it very enjoyable at all because it so difficult, but if it wasn’t so difficult you could beat it in about an hour and then never touch it again, and it’s not like it’s boring to go through some of the same sequences again; it’s just as fun as before! Sadly, the replayability ends there since there are virtually no other modes of play and after you complete this box of difficulty, I seriously doubt you’d want to try to do it again.

I have played a lot of games in my life, but this game definitely sticks out as one of the hardest (with games like Castlevania and Jak II ranking right up there as well). Some people will loathe the title for it being so difficult, but other gamers, like me, welcome the challenge it provides and will spend a lot of time mastering the game, which is why people play video games in the first place, isn’t it? There are many similarities between Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania, but all that means is that fans of Castlevania will find a ton of stuff to love about Ninja Gaiden and gamers who haven’t had the pleasure of playing Castlevania will be introduced to a fresh and exciting platforming experience with a ton of surprises in store. Is Ninja Gaiden worth looking for? You bet your ninja loving ass it is!

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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