Back in the early late 80’s and early 90’s I was obsessed with ninjas. While the top ninjas in my book were the Ninja Turtles – anything ninja caught my attention. I don’t remember when, but I certainly played Ninja Gaiden as a kid and remember being blown away by the graphics, the cut scenes, and actually feeling like I was playing as a ninja (with shurikens and all)!
In terms of story, the game follows a ninja named Ryu Hayabusa – a ninja who is looking for revenge of his father’s death! The game does a wonderful job explaining the story through amazing 8-bit cut scenes. As the story unfolds, you meet multiple characters and end up getting pulled into a plot to help save the world. While the game is fun on its own, the story and exposition make this game really stand out.
In terms of gameplay, this is a 2D action-platformer where you hack and slash your way through enemies, jumping off walls and avoiding falling to your death! The controls are tight with one button attack and the other jumping. Ryu also has access to a number of ninja powers including shurikens, fire shield, among others to help dispose of enemies!
While the first few stages are easy enough, the difficulty ramps up quickly – and it doesn’t always feel fair. Enemies often respawn quickly which keeps the action interesting when the environments are flat, but in later levels these respawns makes jumps almost impossible because enemies continue to dash at you and knock you down mid-air, which feels cheap and unfair.
The levels are usually composed of a few different parts, which I enjoyed they often changed the scenery and increased the difficulty. There are a total of 6 stages with 20 total sections. Again – I enjoyed most of the levels apart from when the enemies significantly interfered with the ability of Ryu to jump – these just felt unfair.
Occasionally at the end of each section (or at the end of a level) you get to fight a boss. I found the bosses were fun and challenging, which increasing difficulty the further you got into the game (as it should be). Most bosses had a patterns, and once learned, could be defeated fairly easily and quickly.
In terms of graphics, the game is a looker for the NES era – the game displays tons of different environments spanning from mountainous areas to metropolitan areas. The sprite are a nice size, and the bosses are often large and menacing. Occasionally flickering occurred when too many enemies were on-screen but this did not effect my enjoyment. The music and sound effects were good, but none of the tracks were significantly memorable.
In summary, Ninja Gaiden is a fun 2D action-platformer that is a blast to play for the first couple levels, but then becomes increasingly difficult with the introduction of challenging jumps and repeatedly respawning enemies. The graphics still look good for a NES era game, and is worth a recommendation for anyone who enjoys challenging games. Overall, I give this game a 7/10.
Final Score: 7/10