Review by Zylo the wolf
Even with a final boss from hell this game is still worth your time.
Many game series which are still around even to this day began on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Mario, Link and Mega Man are just a few of all the characters that have managed to keep us entertained for over 20 years. While most of these characters stayed on the Nintendo systems Ryu Hayabusa took a few more interesting turns. Not only did he appear on Sega's Master System and Game Gear, he even fought ladies with huge boobies in the Dead or Alive series and then managed to become one of the most important characters for Microsoft's Xbox with the reboot of the Ninja Gaiden franchise. But lets talk about the first game on the Nes for now.
The game does feature one for it's time very impressive opening where we two ninjas in a middle of a duel. It turns out that the ninja who losses the duel is Ryu Hayabusa's father Ken Hayabusa. The next day Ryu finds a letter in his fathers room which says that if he doesn't return, then Ryu has to take the family's sword and travel to America to find someone named Walter Smith. Ryu takes the sword and begins his journey for what he think will lead him to be able to revenge his dead father, but it will be so much more than just revenge..
Ninja Gaiden is played like most other action platformers at the time. Ryu Hayabusa got a katana blade which he can attack his enemies with and most of them dies with only one hit. He can also pick up different items which he can use against enemies as long as he got enough hearts, um I mean japanese letters. Yeah I guess you all figured it out what I was meant to say, this game is almost a Castlevania game where you play as ninja instead of a vampire hunter. The big difference between Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden is that Ryu can grab some walls and then jump from them to reach higher places. Hayabusa's really weakness is that he's not so good with fighting while he's jumping, so keep that in mind and try to defeat the enemies while you got both feet on the ground.
But the most impressive about Ninja Gaiden were the cut-scenes in this game. With large faces and text, Tecmo managed to tell a really interesting story that still made me want to play through the whole game. I can't think of another game made in the 80's that actually made it feel like I was reading an interesting book. I'm also not a person who usually says that an 8-bit game got excellent music because it's usually more nostalgia than actually value in those statements, but the guy who made the music here managed to do an excellent job with getting the perfect feeling in every scene.
If you have ever heard of the Ninja Gaiden series, then there's a good chance that you also heard of it's high difficulty. I'm going to be completely fair and say that this game isn't actually that hard except for the final stages. The birds might be the worst enemies you will ever face in a 8-bit game because they will follow you until you have either killed them or somehow got them away from the screen. Just like most of the other enemies they cause to much damage on you, but Hayabusa falls back a little every time he gets hit, and there are a lot of dangerous pits in this game.
That's the big challenge in this game. Some enemies can respawn right away after you have killed them if you are unlucky and most of them will do their best to push you down to a pit. I think there even are some places where you have to get hit no matter what you do and then you just have to be lucky that you don't fall down into a pit. Get used to the tune you hear when you die because you will hear it a lot. But you got unlimited of continues so you don't have to worry to much.
Except when it comes to the final stage. This stage is divided in four different parts just like the previous stage and the last part is the boss fight. Every boss fight so far is actually really easy and shouldn't be to much trouble, but the final boss fight really takes a lot of practice if you don't look up on the Internet how you are supposed to do. This wouldn't have been a problem if the game didn't send you back to 6-1 again if you die on the final boss. Considering how difficult 6-2 is it will take you some time to reach the boss again, so it's really difficult to figure out a strategy.
To make thing even worse you really only got one shot at the final boss if you have won over it's first form. You don't have to fight it the next time you reach the boss and start right away one the next form. The main problem is that the game doesn't refill your health now when you reach the boss, and since you will almost be half dead since the room before the boss is next to impossible to go through without taking many hits the game now demands total perfection from you on a boss that's at least 10 times tougher than all the previous ones. You only other option is to reset the game and hope that you will be able to beat the other forms on your first try this time..
Maybe some think that I'm overreacting over this, but I guess it's something you have to see with your own eyes to truly understand how unfair the programmers actually were. Unless you really are a master on this game it will take you about 20 to 30 minutes to go from stage 6-1 to 6-4 since it's that difficult. You will then get killed by a boss after thirty seconds and then you have to start all over again. I strongly recommend that you use an emulator if you want to beat this game so you can use a savestate right before the final boss, or you might go insane if you try to beat the game without any "cheating".
This doesn't mean that Ninja Gaiden is not a good game. As I already said before it got an interesting story that will make you want to try again and again just to find out how the story progress. Except for the last stage the game isn't that unfair as some say either. It's just like how many other games were back in the day, you had to try again and again and again until you finally managed to beat a tough stage. And even if it may seem a little tougher than say the Mega Man series, at least you now get rewarded with some of the finest cut-scenes a Nes could ever produce. Maybe the game isn't one of the systems absolute biggest masterpieces, but it's one of those games that really feels rewarding to get further in.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Ninja Gaiden (US, 03/31/89)
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