Review by superbobhead
A slash from the past!
Ninja Gaiden is one of those few perfect platformers that holds up to the test of time. The graphics may not rival any of the games that have comes its way since then, but it's definitely one of those games that anyone can pick up and play and have fun with, at least until a controller or two is smashed, but that's beside the point!
There are two types of old-school gamers; those that loved difficulty and those that hated it. For the former, Ninja Gaiden is the perfect culmination of gameplay, graphics, design, and so much more. The game itself is incredibly difficult, truly testing a gamers skill with its complicated fighting system, conservation of the sparse power-ups, mastering the incredibly hard platforming sections, all occurring as you tried to finish the level before the ticking clock at the top of the screen expired. Fortunately, even though the game design is challenging, the basic mechanics it's built around are completely solid, which means that if you invest the time, you will walk away from platformers and retro games with a new appreciation for what they can do.
The game takes place in several fantastically varied stages that take you through a myriad of environment that include a city, jungle, mountain, caves, and into the heart of an ancient temple for your final battle. Just to make sure that you have plenty to keep you busy, Tecmo included a diverse number of enemies that all attempt to foil you in your quest to save the world. Dogs, Tigers, countless thugs, mercenaries, bats, and many more have their mind set to stop you in your traps, and on top of that, you have the elaborate bosses at the end of each stage. Luckily, there are plenty of well-balanced power-ups to be found to help you in your quest, so all is not lost!
This is the area that Tecmo still shines in to this day. The textures and sprites featured in the game are varied and everything fits into its locale flawlessly. Many NES games were plagued by flicker that would occur as too much happened on the screen at the same time, but somehow this developer found a way around that. As I mentioned previously, there are a wide variety of locations, and each area you travel through also has sub-levels built into it that refresh the landscape. One shining example of the variety you can expect to find is that one level has you blazing across a mountainous landscape with a serene lake in your background. As you delve farther into the level, you eventually arrive at the next subsection, which are perilous snow-peaked ledges, and the end of this level takes place in a cave, all with new textures, backgrounds, and even creative enemies that fit the location, such as wildcats and eagles that are exclusive to this segment of the game. Let's not forget the thing that makes the game stand out from anything else before it, which are the incredible cutscenes that showcase just what an NES could do.
Once again, Tecmo managed to do something incredibly creative in an area that many other games stumbled. The storyline was told through cinematic cutscenes that were full of dialogue that actually helped you to latch onto the characters for more than just a sprite with a sword, you were compelled to see where everything was going to lead. The levels that followed the cutscenes were completely logical in context of the story, but if you skipped through, you MIGHT be confused on why you go from a mountain to a jungle to a cave, but everything works together in such a great way that it's an extra incentive to finish the game.
THIS is by far my favorite aspect of the game. The controls were very tight, which generally meant that if you died, it was actually due to lack of skill instead of fighting with the controls. One of the innovative features that the game had was the ability to cling to walls by jumping into them, and then scale yourself up the object my jumping off and pushing yourself back towards it. In writing, it sounds like a simple thing to due, but this is one of those things that took a lot of skill to perfect and even encouraged imitators, such as the phenomenal Megaman X many years later.
Ninja Gaiden is one of those games that everyone needs to experience at least once, regardless of when you started gaming. I still find myself playing through this game at least a few times every year and every single time, it feels as though my time was well invested in a fantastic experience. The sound, graphics, story, and gameplay all hold up to this day and challenge even the most hardcore gamer. All in all, this game deserves a solid
The game is, in one word, Fun. It's a challenge to many gamers and if you manage to make it through the game, you will have a lot of fun, however that difficulty is the one reason why this isn't a game for everyone. The graphics easily rival anything from that time period and helps to prove that 8-bit games were capable all while being wrapped up in a fantastic overall game.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Ninja Gaiden (US, 03/31/89)
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