Review by Van Veen
Reviewed: 03/27/01 | Updated: 03/27/01
Ninja Gaiden was one of the first games to have a real plot that ran throughout the game with twists and turns that evolved as you progressed, as opposed to a poorly written blurb on the third page of the instruction manual, and it was certainly the first platform action game to do so. Right off the bat it hits you with what is easily the most impressive cutscene ever on the nes, and from then on every stage is started and ended with extremely well executed graphically and generally well written story sequences, making the experience rise above that of the generic action game. And it isn't a bad game, either.
While the normal gameplay sequences don't really deserve a 10, there's nothing wrong with them either and most look good. In fact, the stages are presented in a kind of isometric perspective, with a little of the left side of buildings and other objects shown, something not done in many other nes games. The real show stealer here is the cutscenes though. Even if the game consisted entirely of the opening sequence followed by pong, it would still get a 10 for graphics. Simply the coolest looking thing ever done on the nes. It has about the same ''wow'' factor as the opening movie of FF8.
In my review of Castlevania 3, I said it had the best music on the nes. Well, this is second place. The music used in the story sequences is brilliant, but the normal level music is just very good, so it kind of evens out to almost the best.
I hate to say it, but the low point of NG is the game itself. It isn't bad by any means, but it isn't Castlevania 3 or Mario 3 either. The general system is ripped from Castlevania, with the life bar looking exactly the same and working the same, and having a main short range weapon as well as the ability to use one of several special weapons at a time, which consume points you collect. There are two innovations however. First, Ryu(the main character that you play as) can cling to walls, and jump from them to other walls or elsewhere. This creates and interesting dynamic where you scale tall buildings by jumping back and forth between them, or sometimes just up the side of a wall by small increments and quick reflexes. Which brings me to the second innovation: fast gameplay. Sure, the mario series is fast if you choose to run, but in Ninja Gaiden you need to be fast. Enemies come from everywhere, shoot at you constantly, and you benefit from trying to blast through levels with pure skill and speed, otherwise you'll just be worn down. The levels are varied, and quite fun to go through, and the bosses are all reasonably difficult but have patterns to exploit. The only major problem with the game is cheapness. Especially in the later levels, but really everywhere, enemies appear in ways that are sometimes random and sometimes unfairly deadly, creating situations that you cannot prepare for and cannot escape from, when you take a leap and in the middle of your jump something appears and hits you into a pit. This is a genuine problem that could have been avoided with more careful enemy placement and programming, and forces you to try the same jump 25 times before continuing.
The cutscenes and story were brilliant for the time, it would have a 10 if not for ripping off Konami so blatantly.
You should play this game if:
you want to see the first cinematic videogame. This is what started to road to Metal Gear Solid. Really.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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