Review by Ofisil

Reviewed: 06/19/13

Harakiri...

The 8-Bit era had a knack for a certain kind of games. Games that would make you pull your hair out because of their difficulty level. Games like Ghosts N’ Goblins, Castlevania, Contra, Adventure Island. However while some of them mostly had to do with how skilled the player was, (Contra), other had very bad overall design and felt more unfair than challenging… like this game over here.

Story & Presentation: 6.5/10

“Fantastic!”, “Magnificent!”, “The best plot ever!”. Oh, give me a break you way-too-easy-to-entertain people!!! Yeah, the “cutscenes” that you’ll get to watch after each level are well designed, with nice graphics and music but I fail to see where the great plot is. It’s decent at best and the whole cutscene thing was exciting for an hour or so. So what’s the deal here? You are Ryu, a ninja whose father was murdered by a mysterious man. You’ll have to find him, find out why he killed him and avenge your father. As you move on you realize that there are far worse things going on than your father’s death. Simple characters, simple plot, simple plot twists, above average, (for their time), cutscenes.

Gameplay: 2/10
Replay Value: -5/10

So the game is cool. It has great music and great, (for their time), cutscenes that help the plot go on, but what about the thing that really matters? What about the gameplay? Well I won’t lie to you… it is bad. So bad that I wonder why it is so popular. In Ninja Gaiden you run with Ryu while slicing enemies that appear from all directions. You can acquire various weapons ranging from shuriken to magic flames and get “ammo” for them by gathering some special power-ups that are abundant in the game. Finally your ninja can hold on to walls and other vertical surfaces in order to reach higher places. So far so good… the game offers pure and simple, fast paced platforming action and a lot of things to throw. Not something that will rock your world but it looks decent. Ninja Gaiden is pretty much like a fast paced Castlevania, but while Castlevania was irritating Ninja Gaiden is atrociously nerve breaking.

The game is surely one of the hardest ones in all of gaming history, however as you move on in the game you realize that the reason it is hard doesn’t have to do anything with your skills but with its flawed design. The controls are responsive but they feel so stiff. Controlling Ryu in the air isn’t exactly among Ninja Gaiden’s strong points, something that will give you quite a hard time dealing with the MANY flying and jumping enemies of the game. The worse thing however is the level design. After the first and very easy level the game becomes hellish. Enemies respawn in a ridiculous way. For example: if an enemy appears from your rear you make some steps backwards and kill him. Then you start walking forward again, but the moment you make a single step you are once again in the point where that enemy appeared, thus he appears again! This might seem like a small flaw, but that happens a lot and with enemies that extremely hard to avoid, like birds and bats. Furthermore the game is full of bottomless pits and whenever you get hit you will be thrown away a couple of steps, something that makes the eagle the worst enemy in the game, a lot harder than the final boss. Sure you have infinite continues but when a game is more irritating than fun what’s the use in trying to beat it? Just to say that you’ve managed to?

Graphics & Design: 6/10
Sound & Music: 7.5/10

Apart from the music which is absolutely fantastic… I’m generally not impressed. Yeah, ok, ok, the cutscenes, (which are actually images with text underneath), are well designed although the same sprites get used over and over, but what about the rest of the game? Well it doesn’t look so good. That’s always a problem with those “realistic” 8-bit games, since NES and other similar consoles where made for simple, colorful, cartoony graphics like the ones in the Mario, Zelda or Kirby games. Castlevania, Metal Gear, Ninja Gaiden and almost every superhero-based game usually look a bit ugly at times. While Ninja Gaiden isn’t an ugly game, it’s not a pretty sight either. Levels look boring, enemy design is dull, (helmet guys, boxers, soldiers and… eagles), and the colors used leave us a game with lack of contrast, with too much light gray, light brown, light yellow and light blue used.

[+]:
-Great music

[-]:
-Annoyingly hard due to flawed overall design

Also Play:
Castlevania (NES)
Castlevania: Circle Of The Moon (GBA)
Ninja Warriors (SNES)
Shadow Of The Ninja (NES)

Overall: 3.4/10

Why, why, why is this game so damn popular? Because of the word “Ninja” in the title? Because of the great-for-their-time “cutscenes”? I don’t know… I for once believe this game is one of the worst “great” ones.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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

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