Game of the Month December, 2004:
Ninja Gaiden

System: NES Developer: Tecmo
Ninja Gaiden is a game that's been one of my top favorites for years and years. It became notorious for its high level of challenge and dramatic in-game cutscenes. Great platforming action combined with an Indiana Jones-style plot made for a gaming experience like no other in 1989. And the amazing thing is, Ninja Gaiden still holds up quite well after all these years. It can still get my blood pumping, especially if I've been out-of-practice with it for awhile.

Who let the dogs out??

Revenge, indeed. Admittedly, Ninja Gaiden is not quite as difficult as its reputation suggests. The first few stages are actually really easy, and several of the bosses can be defeated just by getting up really close and repeatedly striking away with your sword. But this is more a good thing than bad, because it makes the game easy to get into and learn, while dropping a bombshell of challenge on you for the final level and bosses. Level 6 of Ninja Gaiden is so meticulously constructed, with placement of enemies and pits, that there is little room for error. It is truly a marvel of videogame level design. And the greatest part is that it's completely fair: After much practice, I had gotten through the entire level without taking a single hit! And while the Jump&Slash technique can make short work of any boss, it's often difficult to get to a boss with that item in tow, so you deserve the break if you can accomplish that.

Aside from the challenge, the cutscenes are Ninja Gaiden's other big claim to fame. I won't pretend the story is "great", but it's an entertaining, swashbuckling adventure with lots of twists and turns, and even some romance between the hero Ryu and the mysterious CIA Agent, Irene Lew. There are also two really awesome cutscenes involving the "Demon Temple" where the entire second half of the game takes place: One where Ryu looks at it from atop a cliff and another of it exploding and crumbling into pieces in the end. But the story isn't everything in Ninja Gaiden and the cutscenes can (thankfully) be skipped if you want to. The game itself has lots of fast-paced action with memorization of enemy patterns and decent play control to go along with the story, unlike many games that focus only on the story and little else.

Why do eagles hate Ryu so much? Why, God, why?

It's easy to see why Ninja Gaiden has become a true NES classic. If I had to make a Top 10 list of games I feel every gamer should play, Ninja Gaiden would definitely be on it.

Ninja Gaiden Links

  • My Ninja Gaiden Review - A complete review of this fantastic game.


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