Having never played Ninja Gaiden before I was quite excited to find this on the Nintendo eShop for the Virtual Console. Ninja Gaiden was released originally on the Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan in 1988 and only received a PAL release in 1991. The game has since also been ported to PC, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and mobile. This 2D action platformer does not hold back in any way and gives the player a story filled with courage, love, sacrifice, betrayal, reunion and fear. Players take on the role of Ryu Hayabusa, a Ninja on a journey in search of his father’s killer. Along his journey Ryu is given a demon statue called the shadow statue. Paired with a statue of light, Ryu discovers that these statues are in fact destined to bring upon the rebirth of an evil demon set to rule the world in destruction. Further into his journey however Ryu learns that not all is as it seems and that there is another known as “the Jaquio” that intends to gain statues for himself in order to control the demon.
The game is split into six different acts with around twenty levels. The level design in Ninja Gaiden is pretty simple but still well designed when looking at aspects such as platform placements. Walls and pillars appear to be placed strategically for Ryu to pounce from pillar to post. Yes, Ryu can climb just about anything – he’s a ninja afterall. The platforming bit of the game holds no challenge… it’s instead the enemy on these platforms waiting to annoy the living daylights out of the player. I found myself frustrated in many situations struggling to reach a platform due to an enemy knocking me back to my death. Although in all honesty I have to admit that patience is well rewarded in this game, timing can be the breaking point between frustration and pure satisfaction.
This game does not hold back in terms of enemies, and rarely gives you a chance to breathe. What I found most unusual is that even though most of the levels are filled with enemies, the enemies themselves don’t seem to make sense. Enemies such as Ninja’s, Samurai demon-looking enemies, thugs, wild animals, soldiers with machine guns and bazooka’s, as well as an enemy that seems to throw a stick at you but resembles piccolo from Dragon Ball Z, are all thrown into the same levels coming at you at the same time. It is an interesting mechanic as each enemy has different moves and abilities that in return makes it tricky for the player to successfully complete the level without taking a hit a few times. Ryu is not without aid though. Equipped with a katana as his primary weapon and secondary weapons, that can be picked up during each level, players can work their way through any tough scenarios.
The boss battles in Ninja Gaiden start off simple, a mere dodge and a few slashes and the boss is easily defeated. The later level boss battles do become a tad bit more challenging but yet again patience and timing pay off. The true challenge however is experienced in the final two boss battles where timing, patience and skill have to be combined to avoid throwing your console against the wall. My console somehow survived that happening to it… just.
This 2D side-scrolling action-packed title is filled with everything you would have wanted in the 90’s and still holds up quite well today. A superb soundtrack filled with a story of love, betrayal and despair that’s combined with hordes of enemies. I mean, really, who doesn’t love Ninja’s with jetpacks