Saturday 7 May 2016

Shadow of the Ninja (NES review)

Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Natsume, Taito
Released: 1990

Shadow of the Ninja is an action-platformer that was released in Europe as Blue Shadow.

Your mission as ninjas of the Iga clan is to destroy Garuda and his evil empire. There's five stages (with 3-4 acts each) and the game supports two-player co-op where you can select either Hayaye or Lady Kaede. Your standard weapon is a sword but breaking item boxes allows you to pick up temporary weapons such as a Sickle and Chain, Throwing Stars and Bombs. The gameplay is a mish-mash of ideas from Mega Man (1987, NES) and Ninja Gaiden (1989, NES) and it's just as hard to boot! Learning enemy patterns is crucial to succeeding rather than getting into the flow and reacting to what's going on around you. The A.I. is aggressive and at times you'll take damage from a projectile that rapidly appears even though the enemy is off screen; this means there's lots of trial and error that can test your patience. I found the action to be uninspiring and functional at best, and there's a severe lack of interesting level design. There's also some control quirks as there's a slight delay between pressing the attack button a second time and your character performing it; this leads to many cheap hits due to the animation winding up again. Another common issue is that if you're too close to an enemy your weapon will fire straight through and do no damage whatsoever! Despite the difficulty you only have five continues with just a single life each! The bosses do show moments of inspiration, especially the giant tank where you need to hit a certain spot on its roof and then quickly duck under its front spikes to avoid bomb blasts. The co-op ability is great but both playable characters are indestinguishable from each other.

Shadow of the Ninja is a poor-man's Ninja Gaiden without the awesome gameplay, fluid controls and innovative focus on storytelling. Patient gamers who like a serious challenge might find something to love but for me the action was more frustrating than it was fun.
Random trivia: The game has been re-released several times on Nintendo's esShop including the Wii (2010), Wii U and 3DS (both 2015).

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