Review by jonahadkins22187

Reviewed: 11/29/04

It made us develop an unhealthy fear of birds, but by God, it's worth it!

In the Golden Age of the NES, there were three cliques in terms of action platformers. Those that seemed to be abortions that lived, those that were tolerable and, in some cases, actually enjoyable, and those that would live on in the minds of gamers for years after the console's demise. However, there is a unique, illustrious fourth group that is to separated from the other three --- the platformers that became a standard, a template for later systems to follow. The games that made you lay down the controller after playing and say "Now dammit, THAT was a good game." Ninja Gaiden was that sort of game, the Tecmo brainchild that would spawn two NES sequels, several lackluster 16-bit titles, and the recent revival of the classic on the X-Box. For such a game to remain so integral in the mindset of us gamers, something special has to be in there somewhere. I am here to tell you exactly what made it such a unique, history-changing title, and why only a man with a serious head wound may find it to be un-enjoyable in the least.

Storyline: 10/10

As a gamer, one should know exactly why you he or she is controlling the little conglomeration of pixels that make up the character as it makes its way across the screen. Ninja Gaiden pulls this off in a way that no other title had previously attempted, being the first game to feature cinemagraphic cutscenes (complete with engaging dialogue) to tell the story of Ryu Hayabusa, whose father is seemingly murdered in a duel with a mysterious ninja. Ryu discovers a letter written by his father before his death, instructing Ryu to take the legendary Dragon Sword and seek out the famed American archaeologist, Walter Smith, if he did not return. Upon arriving in America, a variety of plot twists and discoveries leads Ryu to uncover the plot of a sorcerer known only as the Jaquio, who intends to revive Jashin, a centuries-old-demon, with the power of two mysterious statues. The cutscenes blend seamlessly with the gameplay, creating a plot and playing experience that leaves one simply waiting for more.

Controls/Gameplay: 10/10

The controls of Ninja Gaiden are simple, but extremely effective. The control pad moves Ryu to the left and right and moves him up and down ladders, the A button allows him to jump, and the B button causes him to execute a sword slash. Pressing B while holding up on the control pad allows him to use a Secret Ninja Art, which is a small shuriken by default. However, more powerful Arts can be gained by collecting their icons, which are hidden inside slashable background objects, such as orbs, birds, etc. Each use an Art lowers Ryu's Ninja Power, which can be restored by collect blue and red Power icons also hidden in the background objects. Jumping into a wall causes Ryu to stick to it, allowing him to traverse vertical areas by leaping back and forth between two walls, or climbing a ladder. A status bar at the top of the screen displays the current Act and Stage, Ryu's health, the Act boss's health, time and lives remaining, Ryu's current Ninja Art, Ninja Power remaining, and your score.

Graphics: 8-10/10

For the capacity of the 8-bit NES, Ninja Gaiden's graphics are certainly respectable, but lackluster when it comes to the processing power of later systems. However, we cannot hold this in respect due to the limits of the NES. Ryu's sprite is well constructed, with enough frames of movement to deliver a scene of smooth motion throughout, all the way to his spinning jumps and slashes, which are particularly well programmed. The stages themselves deliver an astonishing diversity of habitats, all of which are adequately portrayed by their digitized counterparts. Ninja Arts have enough frames to prevent choppiness, especially with the Art of Fire Wheel. However, the cutscenes are something entirely different, feature rich colorization and shading unheard of in that age of gaming.

Sound/Music: 10/10

The music of Ninja Gaiden has become something of a cult classic, from the music of Galesburg (the first level), to the theme of the savage Bloody Malth. After a playing session, you just may find yourself humming one of the tunes, which are well suited to the levels in which they are played. The sounds are quite realistic: Ryu's sword slash, grunts of pain upon being damaged, they all sound quite fitting. Music in the cutscenes is especially well-done, truly capturing the mood of the scenes.

Difficulty: 10/10

The learning curve of Ninja Gaiden has the looked upon both with awe and hair-tearing frustration. As the game starts out, the pace of relatively slow, yet engaging. However, as one progresses deeper into the saga, the action becomes more and more intense, reaching a terrifying crescendo by the last Act, which some believe to be the most difficult gaming experience ever created. Enemy positions, movements, and attacks force one to be on his or her toes every moment of every second, a well-timed series of slashes and jumps being the only way to traverse some stretches. Treacherously small platforms make for some rage-inducing moments when attacks repeatedly knock Ryu off of them, sending him plummeting to his doom. Erratic movements on the parts of the enemies, including the legendary Birds of Death, make timing and patience essential aspects of playing Ninja. Some accomplishments are looked upon as being the marks of a true gamer: Beating Battletoads for the NES, pinning the Great Puma in Pro Wrestling. Conquering Ninja Gaiden is one of them, and one should be damn proud if they manage to pull off such a feat without the use of cheats or save states.

Overall: 10/10

Ninja Gaiden is one of the shining moments in NES platform gaming. While its two NES sequals prove to be worthwhile titles in their own right, it is the original that rises above them all. From the easily mastered controls, to expertly-sequenced music tracks, to the transfixing cutscenes and plot, this title can be called nothing short but a piece of gaming history. If I were you, I would track down this game in whatever manner possible. Ebay, any shop that sells used games, or even an emulator, be that your last resort. To experience Ninja Gaiden is to experience platform gaming in its purest, most sacred form, and I assure you, you will not be disappointed after sliding this into your NES.

Final Score:
Storyline: 10/10
Controls/Gameplay: 10/10
Graphics: 8-10/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Difficulty: 10/10

OVERALL: 10/10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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