Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Ninja Gaiden (NES review)

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Released: 1988

Ninja Gaiden is an action-platformer with very different gameplay to the Arcade game of the same name.


There's six stages (with 2-4 acts each) and your quest is to avenge the death of your Father who was killed by an unknown assailant. The B button slashes your sword, the A button jumps and you can also use the scenery to wall jump onto higher platforms. Special weapons are available including Throwing Stars and Fire Wheels but you must collect Spiritual Strength icons to use them. One of the first things you'll notice is the immersive cut-scenes that tie the story together; they're very cinematic and look really impressive for an 8-bit system. The action is fast-paced with a constant stream of enemies and it's exhilarating when you get into a rhythm as the game flows smoothly. The first four stages are enjoyable and while parts require memorisation you usually have plenty of time to react and plan your attack. Stage 5 is where things get troublesome as enemy respawning is far too frequent and they tend to bombard you from all angles while littering the screen with projectiles. It can be frustrating but it is possible to succeed if you use long-range weapons wisely. Things fall apart in Stage 6 though; the game expects you to perform some tricky platforming but you're seriously outnumbered and the enemy placement and respawning makes things a nightmare to play. What's worse is that if you die during the final boss you continue at Stage 6-1 instead of on the last act you played. The music is of the highest quality though and arguably has the best soundtrack on the NES. The tracks are kick-drum heavy and have an amazing snare sound that doesn't sound puny like many other games of its time.

Ninja Gaiden has an unprecedented level of presentation, fantastic gameplay and an amazing soundtrack to round out the package. The last two stages are too cheap for my liking and while it does dampen the experience slightly the majority of the game is well balanced and an absolute joy to play.



Random trivia: Two sequels were released on the NES called Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (1990) and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (1991).

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