Ninja Gaiden for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – Great Video Games
Ninja Gaiden is one of the best games ever made for the NES console. Ninjas were the coolest things in the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s (and still are), so combining ninjas and video games was like an explosion of awesomeness. This game was that explosion of awesomeness incarnate.
Not only does the gameplay kick radioactive ass, but the music is also totally radical. Add to this mix some of the most memorable and heart touching music in the original Nintendo 8-bit library, and you have a game that is more than just a winner – it’s a legend.
Some kids have fond memories of this game, while other kids have nightmare. That much is certain. This was the kind of game that you ever loved intensely or really hated.
Why did some kids hate it? Simple: The enemies respawn forever. You can scroll the zone backwards, and every time you do the enemies in front respawn. Forever. The game is very unforgiving to people who don't play like a true Ninja and speed through. You were almost required to think like a Ninja in order to play.
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Coming out in 1988, Ninja Gaiden was one of the first console games to feature detailed cut scenes. Every time you beat a level, you were rewarded with more cut scenes that advanced the story. There was also an arcade version of the game, but it wasn’t very similar to the popular NES version. Anyway, the tight gameplay, excellent controls, decent graphics, and onslaught of enemies kept you coming back for more. This game was a winner.
How cool was it that you could cling to walls, too? You were required to use that technique all the time to get through levels, too. Go Ninja, go.
The plot was simple at first. Ryu Hyabusa’s father was killed, so he travels to America to avenge his father (yeah, and his father’s name is Ken). So, Ken and Ryu. Mm Hmm. Then they talk about a demon that Shinobi defeated, later. Right. Ken, Ryu, and Shinobi. It’s clear that Tecmo, the makers of Ninja Gaiden, decided to cram every famous martial arts name into this game. Ken and Ryu are from Street Fighter II, and Shinobi is a series of Ninja Games that started on Sega platforms. Anyway, the point of Ninja Gaiden is to ultimately defeat this demon again and save the world. Pretty simple, right?
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Well, the plot of this game gets detailed later. You get the CIA involved, and a love interest appears, too. Most people would have stopped playing the game at some point because of the difficulty, but the desire to see more of the storyline keeps you playing. You wanted to be able to tell your friends what happens next.
This game gets a lot of flak for being disgustingly difficult. You know, I just don’t see it that way. Sure, it’s hard, but they give you almost unlimited continues. The only place where it truly gets nasty is the final zone, where they send you back to the first stage if you lose on the final boss. And level 6-2 is pretty much the most annoying level in the entire game. So, you had to have balls of steel to beat the game, ultimately. Or an appetite for torture.
For a lot of kids, they spent a significant portion of their childhoods playing through levels 6-1, 6-2, and 6-3 just to learn the final boss's patters. There is more than one form of the final boss, so it could theoretically take you months to figure out how to ice him properly.
Man it was sweet when you finally iced the boss, though. The game then rewarded you with a whole three and a half minutes of ending cut scenes. Wow, just wow. The game was truly groundbreaking in this sense. Such a story!
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The makers obviously knew that unlimited continues would mean that us kids would make it to the final boss at some point - but the decision to force us back to 6-1 in order to keep the final boss's patterns a mystery was just... well, a good idea! Kept us playing. Hah!
My ultimate assessment of Ninja Gaiden is that it’s a perfectly crafted game through the first 5 zones. Zone 6 is just unnecessarily brutal because of the whole going back to the very beginning deal. Seriously though, if you haven’t played the original Ninja Gaiden on the NES, you’re missing out. This is still one of the great games.
I feel playing right now.
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