Blast from the Past: Shadow of the Ninja (NES)

Retro Review


In the year 2029, two heroes have to rise up to the people’s outcry for help. The evil Emperor Garuda rules America with oppression and dictatorship. Only two ninja warriors from the Iga clan are brave enough to stand in this dictator’s way and ultimately bring his downfall.

Shadow of the Ninja begins with the player stepping into the shoes of one of two shadow warriors Hayate or Kaede and have to progress through over a dozen stages filled with traps, enemies and platforming turmoil. Players can also play as both shadow warriors in a co-op manner. Throughout the levels, players will find item boxes filled with weapons such as a katana, ninja stars or a hooked chain as well as health items to regenerate your life bar. Picking up the same weapon type multiple times will also increase that weapon’s strength and unlike many other 2D side-scrollers where the player has multiple lives, Shadow of the Ninja grants the player a large number of hit points or HP in the form of a bar to the left of the screen. If the player’s health bar is reduced to nothing, that’s game over and the player will have to start from the beginning of the level via a continue option, which is limited.

Shadow of the Ninja has no shortage of enemies. Players will be faced with not only defending against other ninjas but also soldiers heavily armed with guns and other projectile weapons. Some enemies will also charge at you and in turn push you towards the edge of ledges, trying to knock you off. There is also a wide variety of robotic enemies as well with some sweeping low to the ground with rocket boosters attached to them and others flying across the screen like drones which if hit by the player has to be hit again to dispatch since the first hit only removes their propellers. Boss battles aren’t too difficult though and learning their movements and following through with a barrage of your own attacks will usually do the trick. However, just like the enemies spread out through the levels, each boss also has their own attack forms and movements. If all else fails the player has a powerful lightning strike attack that demolishes every enemy on the screen. With great power comes great responsibility though and using this ultimate technique will leave the player with only half of their health.

All in all, Shadow of the Ninja looks and feels good. Hypothetically speaking it’s quite a short game but in reality, this 2D side-scroller took simple mechanics and turned what is actually a game that can be completed in less than an hour to over three hours. The beginning levels start off pretty easy and even taking damage doesn’t stop you in your tracks. However, from around stage 3, the resilience of enemies turned my strategy around, forcing me to stop and think before charging in. Knowing which weapons to retain and power up also makes a huge difference in dispatching enemies and in turn boss enemies. Don’t feel deterred by this though as the game still isn’t near as difficult as Ninja Gaiden. The upbeat soundtrack in the game also adds to the fast-paced action of the game. Although the characters may be ninjas there aren’t any stealth scenes so expect to hit every level and in turn every enemy in an all-out battle. If you’re a fan of Ninja Gaiden, this is a must play.


  • Fast Paced Action
  • Superb Soundtrack
  • Abundance of Enemies that all act and move differently
  • Well rendered 8-bit back-drops


  • Warning: May cause players to pull out hair and fling 3DS into a wall


Shadow of the Ninja is a must for all 2D scrolling & Ninja Gaiden fans with a superb soundtrack & co-op mode.


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