Ninja Gaiden

Reviewed by mdaniels26

Written 3/3/02

Castlevania with ninjas.

Ninja Gaiden copied Castlevania. The life bar is the same. The enemy life bar is the same. The whip has been replaced with a sword. The candles have been replaced with lanterns. Both games have a time limit. Both are quote "action platformers".

The difference? Ninja Gaiden has ninjas. And has a better story.

Oh yeah, and it's perfect too.

Gaiden begins with a first in video games. It's an action game that has a story that changes as one progresses through the levels. This is no "save the princess" or "save the president" plotline however; Ninja Gaiden's story is unexpected and revealed through endearing, mysterious cut scenes featuring beautiful music that heightens the experience. In brief, your father, a ninja just like you, has disappeared, and apparently died. His closing wish reveals that he wants you to take a sword to America. Setting forth, the courageous Ryu Hayabusa must find the bottom of the situation, and get revenge on the man who killed his dad.

Ryu is not very skilled with his sword, be it he is probably a young ninja, however his reflexes are in their prime. He's quick to draw his sword and quicker to take one slash at his challenger, slicing most of them into dust in one triumphant swing. While easily executed, his foes often times come flying out of nowhere, or even worse, are standing guard along a ledge making it nay impossible to advance until you discover their tendencies. They'll chuck foreign, not to mention pointy, objects at you in attempts to cut down on your life, charge at you in a mad dash from off the screen as you leap into the air and even float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, sometimes catching you in a never ending spree of punches Joe Frazier style.

Levels are made up of difficult, dangerous jumps to go along with the fierce enemy competition. Every now and then a leap of faith will have to be made, where only fate decides whether you make it across, while at other times you'll have to jump back and forth between walls, sticking to them ninja style as you dare your way to the top. Attentiveness is also a necessary resource, as the ladders and doorways that take you to the next section of the stage often times blend in with the backgrounds, which are colorful and detailed. While the settings and enemies don't flow together into a constant theme, it assures that one won't expect what is still to come, whether it be a nondescript bluish-black blob swiftly hopping at you like a frog or a gun toting military sergeant.

Ninja Gaiden's music is composed of some of the more brilliant pieces to be heard on the NES. The cut scene music is original and atmospheric while the action is made all the more intense by the lush pieces heard in the background as one hacks away at a sloth-footed, machete-wielding boss. It's at par with the NES Castlevanias, and while it may be a bold statement, I believe it to be better.

Amongst stiff competition, Ninja Gaiden is one of the best games the NES library offers. While one of the most frustrating and challenging games to grace the system, Ninja Gaiden is addictive to play and there's tremendous variety from stage to stage, causing the game not to age when one at last reaches the later levels. Gaiden improved upon Castlevania, and Konami may not have ever caught up had it not been for this game's lackluster sequels, which ultimately added few new ideas to the series and in the end ruined it. But there will always be the gem that started things off, and you can't take that away from Tecmo.

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