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Ninja Gaiden NES Online: Sneaky, Sneaky

Ninja this-a-way, ninja that-a-way, my oh my. Not much to say other than this is a ninja game by Tecmo. It’s old, it’s dated and it’s hard.

Ninja Gaiden logo

Who doesn’t like a good ninja game? That’s rhetorical as most of us do and Ninja Gaiden is one. Yeah, it’s a classic title and catapulted Tecmo into making good games eventually, but this version is awful. It’s hard to control, the gameplay is ridiculously hard and as a ninja, one expects stealth. It’s so clear I’m on my way as I kept getting stuck going up walls.

Tecmo made Mighty Bomb Jack, which I coincidently wrote about on this very site. That too was rubbish, but it’s better than Ninja Gaiden. The comparisons I can make with other ninja games and general ninja mythology is the following:

  • It has ‘ninja’ in the title
  • You play a ninja
  • Said ninja uses ninja weapons
Ninja Gaiden - a pillar of the community

In a cloud of smoke

Other than that, that’s about it. So without further ado, I’m going to talk about the ninja games that are good. First off on the Switch is Mark of the Ninja Remastered. I’ve already covered that so look at that if you will. The next title would be Tenchu. Not the later versions but the original on the PlayStation.

I remember the day I first got Tenchu. It was a Tuesday, about 2:33pm and I was walking through the streets of London when I heard a voice call my name in an alleyway. Who could this be? I wasn’t expecting anyone – nobody knows I’m here. The person never showed their face but they handed me a jewel case with the words Tenchu at the top and PlayStation at the bottom. In the time it took to read those words, the person vanished in a cloud of smoke. That’s how I remember it but I actually just bought it from a shop called MVC. Doesn’t exist anymore.

Grappling power

Tenchu was amazing. You could fire a grappling hook up onto the rooftops and scope out your enemy, the samurai. They were pretty tough head to head so the point was to use stealth and take them out one by one. It was very much like what Metal Gear aspired to be, but that game never took off. Tenchu wasn’t a platform game like Ninja Gaiden but a 3D world. Cutting Edge back in the 1600s.

It’s all very well to compare Ninja Gaiden to a superior console game a decade or so later but there was another ninja game in the arcades named Shadow Warriors. This was awesome. No need for subtlety here – simply stroll along Final Fight style, casually throwing thugs into telephone boxes. Forget stealth and black clothing – don yourself in a blue or red gi so you can tell the difference between each player. A bit like Double Dragon and also Ninja Warriors.

Ninja Gaiden isn’t the only ninja game

Let’s go back to a game release that was around the same time (ish). The Ninja on the Sega Master System. From memory, this was one of the first games that I played something like 6 hours straight with my cousin when we were kids. It’s not that the game had the same depth as Skyrim, or endless playability such as Minecraft – it’s just that we rented this game from a little known shop known as Blockbuster.

I can’t remember how old we were exactly but the cost was our pocket money. The other person had to buy sweets. I can’t remember who bought which but we had the house to ourselves and made the most of it. Living it large, I’d say.

Anyway, the reason I remember this game in particular because we found it hard and after playing it so long without adult supervision, I recall we both started to get headaches. Nothing has changed. I still don’t know my limits. Looking at the video below, the player made it look super easy and over in no time. That’s not how I remember it.

The Last Ninja

An honourable mention would be The Last Ninja on the Commodore 64. My friend had a copy but not I. The Last Ninja was tough, but for some reason I really loved it. It would be nice to post my own stuff but I don’t have the system anymore so you’ll just have to look it up on YouTube like some of the videos above.

This isn’t a concise ninja collection, but to finish where we started, the one that turned it around was Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PS3. By Tecmo again, the graphics are still pretty great and (mostly) enjoyable. It was this game that introduced me to Ninja Gaiden’s heritage. The standout for this game was the difficulty. It was one of the few games where I actually threw a controller.

I was an adult when I bought and played this game, so I should have known better. It was one of the most frustrating sections in a game I have ever played. I can’t pinpoint why I couldn’t do it – if it was the controls, the camera angle or just that rubbish at it but I just could not get past the Magma Cavern. I tried everything: tilted the controls – you know, like old folk do, stood up, shouted, cursed it – nothing worked. It was so out of character of me that I lost my cool and threw a tantrum and the controller. It worked afterwards which was a surprise. I switched it off and left it for a few days.

On my return, I managed to do it on the second or third attempt and subsequently completed the game. I didn’t replay it though. In fear of embedding numerous clips, you can watch YouTube video by NesstheGamer play it here around 34:35. Maybe you finished it and had no issue, but I seriously pulled my hair out on it and failed my ninja training.

One of the bosses in Ninja Gaiden on the NES

So there you have it. I’ve managed to talk about almost everything apart from the NES game that is Ninja Gaiden. I think I’d rather play Ninja Gaiden Sigma again than play this. Simply too frustrating and unenjoyable from my perspective. Try one of the above if you can or watch some of the videos. For the Switch though, I’d recommend Mark of the Ninja Remastered again [disappears into the shadows].

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