Having been enjoying our NES Classic Mini a great deal, we were surprised by Ninja Gaiden—it’s awesome! It’s also one difficult SOB.
Tecmo’s game launched in 1988 in the arcades and on the NES. In Japan, it’s called Ninja Ryūkenden (忍者龍剣伝—”Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword”).
It was highly innovative at the time. Boasting cut scenes (which still look effing awesome to this day) and a story.
The narrative is pretty standard revenge stuff. But one of the great things about retro gaming is you don’t get any of the excessive story crap.
Everything is nice and concise in the opening. And then you’re straight into the action.
It’s one of those NES era games that simply stops you in your tracks with the level of the challenge you have to overcome.
The type of game that makes you stop for a second after another death and wonder what Temco was playing at.
NES gaming is about perfecting your approach and Ninja Gaiden demands that big time—you’ll have to really master each level to get through it and use everything available to you.
With badly positioned pits positioned all around you, there’s often an unfortunate plunge to your doom.
Factor in a strict time limit for each level and this means you don’t really have time to dawdle—it’s simply a game of skill. You’ve either got it in you, or you’re going to be Numpty Gaiden (see what we did there?!).
Due to this difficulty, plus the game’s undoubted excellence, it’s become a hit in the gaming speedrunning community.
Now, amongst all the insanely difficult NES era games, this is one we’re happy to claim we’re pretty good at.
It’s all about timing. And occasionally a lot of luck. As the player, the player must use perfect timing and the ninja’s abilities to traverse levels.
This is where the fun kicks in, as you can jump from wall to wall, pick up power ups, and massacre your way to the end boss.
It’s very satisfying when you manage to complete a level.
Of course, along the way you’re up against baddies who often respawn instantaneously after you’ve defeated them.
It’s not uncommon in many games to defeat some bad guys, return to an area after a short while, and find them back milling around again.
For them to respawn right before your eyes, over and over, however, is really quite something. Insulting, in fact, as this makes some jumps later in the game mind-bendingly difficult. NES era gaming, eh?
This is an awesome game. Its difficulty isn’t up there with Ghosts ‘N Goblins, so you should be able to make your way quite deep into what, for the time, was an innovative title.
But the fancy graphics and cutscenes more than make it a memorable journey. It’s one that really stands the test of time, in terms of gameplay.
So! If you’ve got your NES Mini, or you’re about to pick it up, here’s another title to give a whirl.
Give yourself some time to get to grips with it, but after this you should be away and, by Jove, it’ll be marvellous!